Monday, 25 September 2017

We're going through changes...

Only 54% of all change initiatives are successful? (1).

What do those that are have in common? My research project this year was heavily influenced by research on the next steps for my career path. To NPQH or not NPQH...

I wanted to further understand how change can be managed effectively in school. I have the privilege of working in a two form entry school, full of experienced and fresh faced staff alike. It is a melting pot of creativity, experience, sarcasm, challenge, positive critique and new ideas. But like many establishments not all changes are successful. The nature of evolution means there has to be failure, it's what we learn from them that counts, and as a research based school we do learn from our failures. But are we being smart about it?

It is ironic that I am researching about change management in a year when I have moved year groups, Key Stage and management roles.

It is very easy to fall into the trap to assume that all changes should be led by the leader of the establishment, this can at times be true. However, different circumstances require different management styles, "good leaders do not have a single leadership style. You adapt to suit the situation."(2) It would be ill conceived to develop and refine school curriculum and policy in the same way as one would act in an emergency. Such an approach, while perhaps enabling short term gain by change through submission and subservience, would not enable those implementing changes to have ownership, would not build future resilience, and would hamper creativity and independence in staff.

Schools are continually in a stage of flux and change, whether a new curriculum initiative is being implemented or a there is new change of policy. However, where change is effective there is reflection and involvement from the wider school community upon whom the change will impact. How these people think, believe, act and feel must not be taken for granted, these are the brakes that will stop a movement of change from being adopted. 

Fullan states, "the person who will apply an innovation, together with a change in an environment of school or classroom is definitely a teacher. An attempt which is not adopted by the teacher or whose innovation is not believed by the teacher might fail beforehand." (2001)

Communication and clarity are key, if a change is being implemented there must be effective communication through stages of, planning, implementation, review and analysis. "Communication travels along many paths, not just from the top down." (3) Where we, as an establishment, and those that I have researched and visited, have been successful, change has been carried out collectively, often managed by a team rather than one person.

A clear outcome and action plan are required to facilitate creativity from the collaborative group, within a time frame for a change or project to be fulfilled. The PDSA model for effective change management gives a clear structure for each stage.

There have been several changes that have been implemented, and that have had to occur this year within our school. One was an overhaul of curriculum coverage. During visits to other schools it was clear that they had total buy in from staff on their learning model and curriculum, this was evident in learning walks, drop ins, displays and discussions with staff. They had been part of the change, consulted and involved from initial stages of change through to implementation. As we strive to further refine and develop our learning model; feedback policy and practices; and curriculum; we have to ensure that all teachers and staff feel involved as a co-leader of change not a victim of it.

Reviewing change and gauging impact is a key part of our research based ethos at school. One key area of development this year, that for me has been most powerful, is the use of pupil voice as an evaluation tool. We as teachers may think we know what the children think, but one of my highlights this year was the opportunity to sit and talk to children about their learning and the changes implemented in Mathematics, English teaching and feedback. We have to learn from this and roll it out with our subject leaders and thematic leadership groups.

So where does this leave me? How am I managing my next change?

To NPQH or not NPQH?

I have a plan.

Looking ahead my next adventure is EYFS, I want a full working, experience based, holistic view of the primary school child. I'm lucky to be taking on the role of EYFS team leader, but that to me isn't enough. I still want to be learning 'at the coalface' with the children. And then I'll be ready...

1, Sara Coene,  Is engagement the sine qua non of innovation?
2, John Dunford, Ten Things Learned On My Leadership Journey,  From: A Practical Guide: National Standards of Excellence for Headteachers.
3, Arial Sacks,  Educational Leadership

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