Research School Network: Implementation matters: leadership learning on NPQ programmes and putting evidence into practice in schools Key reflections from EEF’s guidance report


Implementation matters: leadership learning on NPQ programmes and putting evidence into practice in schools

Key reflections from EEF’s guidance report

Two young leaders from Unity Schools Partnership reflect on how key learning drawn from studying the EEF implementation guidance within NPQs is impacting on their leadership practices in their school context.

Implementation is what schools do to improve: to change and be more effective – so it’s essential that leaders develop ever greater awareness, understanding and experience of how to approach it.

It’s hardly surprising that implementation is central to leadership development programmes, such as the Department for Education’s National Professional Qualifications (NPQ) framework.

Implementation is what brings our school improvement priorities to life; helping us to focus on how” changes to practice will look in actual classrooms. As such, it represents great opportunity and a significant challenge to school leaders, as they work to action what they evidence recommends in terms of supporting pupil learning.

Fortunately, the research is on hand to help us navigate implementation – so that we can think about how we manage change in our schools effectively, and embed positive new practices that improve outcomes.

Shabnam Ahmed, Head of Faculty (English and Media), County High School, Suffolk.
Specialist NPQ: Leading Teacher Development (NPQLTD) via Unity Teaching School Hub

As a new Head of Faculty, my NPQLTD programme provided me a valuable opportunity to consider the process of change in a way that I hadn’t previously. In prior roles in middle leadership, I hadn’t ever considered how important it was to explore, ask questions and really slow down the pace in order to support colleagues through change in practice. For me, the most significant take away was the implementation process itself.

Figure 2 process cycle explore prepare deliver sustain

Teaching is demanding – it can be somewhat of a hamster wheel, and often we just jump on and get going, then evaluate after. How we approach putting new practices or interventions in place can all too often be an afterthought. Slowing down, exploring and sense-making has made me realise that doing fewer, smaller things and doing them well, is likely to improve the likelihood of securing better impact than implementing too much, too fast.

A specific example of putting this learning into practice is the implementation of subject specific professional development within my team. I led the faculty team to look at writing our students had produced so we could:

  • accurately identify need (rather than assuming): Key Stage 4 writing lacked concision and precision
  • explore evidence-informed approaches we might utilise to address this
  • consider which approaches would be appropriate to pilot in our school, for our children
  • establish ways to up-skill ourselves in necessary techniques (e.g. live modelling)
  • identify opportunities to monitor and evaluate new approaches

This has become a very intentional, specific and unifying thread for us. We aren’t moving on until we’ve nailed this, reflecting on evaluative milestones to inform our next steps.”

Toby Gooch, Deputy Headteacher, Westfield Primary Academy, Suffolk
Leadership NPQ: Senior Leadership (NPQSL) via Unity Teaching School Hub

The EEF’s guidance on implementation has played a pivotal role in my leadership development, especially in conjunction with my NPQSL course.

Most recently, within my new role as Deputy Headteacher, I have led on the development a new behaviour strategy for our school. Informed by my growing knowledge and understanding of the implementation process cycle we:

  • clearly identified need
  • systematically explored a range of potential strategies
  • used a number of resources from the guidance report (e.g. identifying need, considering fit and feasibility) as well as additional tools including the master checklist and example implementation plans, to consider fit and feasibility.

This led us to prioritise positive behaviours and providing teachable moments for misbehaviour, with a focus on consistent application.

We developed our implementation plan and as part of assessing the readiness to deliver’, consulted staff on how this could be developed further, ironing out any creases’ before we began delivery.

So far, staff feel well prepared and supported, we are monitoring early progress and will continue to, as we seek to embed and secure sustainability in our new strategy.

My deeper knowledge of implementation with the trusted recommendations for improving behaviour is helping our whole school team deliver an evidence-informed approach to behaviour management. The process of implementation is not a stand-alone event, and we are living’ a continuous cycle of assessment, reflection, and refinement. Implementation is proving to be an empowering and highly significant pillar in my leadership development and practice.”


Consider your own implementation practices in the context of your leadership responsibilities.

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