Research School Network: People, who need people, are the luckiest people’, when it comes to effective implementation Sonia Thompson, shares the new EEF guidance highlighting the need for unity and engagement for lasting change


People, who need people, are the luckiest people’, when it comes to effective implementation

Sonia Thompson, shares the new EEF guidance highlighting the need for unity and engagement for lasting change

Sonia Thompson is the Head Teacher of a primary school in Nechells, Birmingham. She is also the Director of St Matthew’s Research School. Sonia shares the new EEF Implementation Guidance Report and focuses in on the need to engage and unite people, in order for effective and sustained change to happen.

People, who need people are the luckiest people’, when it comes to good implementation

I know it’s a bit niche but I love a good Barbara Streisand ballad. When she sings people who need people…,’ it hits you right there and as I accidently’ listened to it on the radio, I immediately thought of the new EEF guidance report A Schools Guide to Implementation’. Sitting within the three recommendations, is the recognition that people must matter throughout any change process, if it is to have any sustainable impact.

Of course, we know that people have to be at the heart of any changes we make within our school setting. It’s obvious…isn’t it? So, why it is that all too often change is implemented and the people that matter are often the last to know the why? Is it because it is hard! Probably…but the new guidance reports outlines the potential benefits of getting this people-centred focus right from the very start and throughout the process.

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Engage and Unite people

The report emphasises that implementation is fundamentally a collaborative and social process driven by how people think, behave, and interact. It shows that much can be achieved by improving how people work together during implementation’. In the new report, the familiar process of good implementation – Explore, Prepare, Develop and Sustain – is iterated. Then, within the three recommendations – which all work together – recommendation 1 – Adopt the behaviours that drive effective implementation – states:

• Engage people
so they can shape what happens while also providing overall direction.
• Unite people
around what is being implemented, how it will be implemented, and why it matters.

The report uses the wonderful graphic below, to enable the reader to visualize the interconnectedness of the social processes, which are enacted within our school settings everyday.

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The complexity of this interconnectedness, calls for leaders to take actions, on various levels, in order to ensure that our staff are fully aligned with any changes we need to make. Recommendation 1 begins with a call to:

• Engage people so they have the potential to influence change
• Engage people in collaborative processes
• Engage people through clear communication and active guidance

Recommendation 2 builds on this when it states Unite people around what is being implemented, how it will be implemented, and why it matters’.

• Unite views and values
• Unite knowledge and understanding
• Unite skills and techniques
• Unite implementation processes

The report states that these behaviours are at the heart of what drives effective implementation… While the terms engage’, reflect’, and unite’ may be familiar to schools — and sound like common sense — they can be difficult to get right’. So, what are the key drivers for change?

Making time and taking time to reflect

Good implementation means making time – putting it in the plan and the diary – but also taking that time – if possible, not letting anything else distract you (easier said than done) – to reflect, evaluate and adjust, as required. The report states that individual members of staff should adopt a reflective outlook in which they review and refine their own practice.’. This will require schools to have what the report outlines, as a good implementation climate. Before I go into that, let’s go back to people.

People, who enable people to make changes happen

Recommendation 2, requires us to Attend to the contextual factors that influence implementation’. The report focuses in on the factors that influence whether people will support implementation. These include the degree to which:

• They have the knowledge, skills, and expertise to help implement the intervention;
• They feel empowered to act and can empower others; and
• They have agency—choice over actions — within their remit.

In my experience, as a senior leader and current Head Teacher, if staff have had previous experience of change being implemented well, they will be more open and aligned to the processes that are needed. But what if staff’s experiences are not so positive?

Control your implementation climate

The report sets out how to cultivate the right environment for successful implementation to happen

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It calls for Leaders to pause and reflect and as it states visibly attend to challenges and act on what has been learnt. As positive outcomes emerge, embrace them and celebrate success together’.

The guidance iterates the EEF message, that schools must endeavour to do fewer things better’. In doing so, they can take a step closer to ensuring that all pupils, regardless of their background or circumstances, have access to high-quality, evidence-informed education. Effective implementation, with people, who need people at the very heart of the process, has a critical role to play in this. Particularly, if we are mission-driven to break the link between family income and education outcomes, for our most disadvantaged students.

Further Reading:

1. Download additional Tools
The guides accompanying resources – are designed to help you make sure new approaches or practices have the biggest possible impact on children and young people’s outcomes.

2. The EEF’s new and updated guide to effective implementation: what’s changed?
Prof. Jonathan Sharples, Jon Eaton, and Jamila Boughelaf introduce the new edition of our guidance report on effective implementation, and explain what’s changed, and what it means for you.

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