EEF Implementing Effective Change in Schools
This post is taken from a reflection for my NPQH course. School leaders are constantly seeking ways to improve their schools and enhance student outcomes. However, implementing meaningful change is challenging and many school improvement efforts fail to lead to sustained improvements. The Education Endowment Foundation, an independent charity dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement, has studied how to implement effective change in schools.
School Improvement: Key lessons for school leaders
Have a clear rationale and vision. For any change to be effective and long-lasting, there must be a clear rationale for why it is being implemented and a vision for how it will impact the school and students. This needs to be clearly communicated to all staff. Without a clear vision, staff may perceive the new thing as a “fad of the month” and it will not gain traction. Staff may pay lip service to it to tick a box but it won’t embed. The identified change should align with existing systems, processes and school values.
Focus on a few key priorities. Don’t try to make too many changes at once. Select two or three high-impact, high-priority areas of improvement and focus on implementing them well. If too many new initiatives are introduced together, none are likely to be successful. It’s better to have a few strategic priorities that can be thoroughly and successfully implemented. These need to be identified using the best data you have available, not based on a hunch.
Provide professional development. For change to take root, teachers and staff need training, guidance, and support. Professional development should provide not only initial training on the rationale and key features of the change, but also ongoing mentoring and coaching. Teachers should have the opportunity to see the change in action, reflect on it, and collaborate with colleagues. We use IRIS connect to share ideas and knowledge which can create opportunities for reflection and discussion.
Gain staff buy-in. Change efforts are unlikely to be successful without the support and buy-in of staff. Involve staff in discussions about the change, gather their input and feedback, and incorporate their ideas into the implementation plan. When staff feel included in the process, they will be more supportive. Address any concerns or objections upfront before moving forward.
Monitor and evaluate. For ongoing change and improvement, regular monitoring and evaluation is essential. Collect data to see if the changes are having the desired effect. Make adjustments as needed to improve the changes or address any issues. Monitoring also helps sustain momentum and allows you to celebrate successes, which keeps staff engaged and motivated.
Implementing meaningful change is challenging but critical for continuous school improvement. By following guidance from organisations like the EEF, school leaders can develop a strategic approach to change that is more likely to lead to sustained success. With a clear vision, focus, professional development, staff buy-in, and regular monitoring, change efforts are more likely to become ingrained in the school culture and positively impact students.