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How to manage and communicate change
School leaders must share their vision and get staff on board to make proposed changes work. Use these strategies for change management in your setting
Change can be daunting but, if it’s in the right direction and for the right reasons to make positive improvements, change is vital in any organisation.
The first and most important step in managing and communicating change is to explain the reasons it is important for the change to occur and the intended benefits. Be as clear as possible, answer questions and provide ongoing opportunities for all those affected to contribute thoughts.
People will react differently at different times; not everyone will get on board with change at once, if at all. Respect everyone's right to have their own reactions and give people time to work through them to process changes.
Remember, you’ve already worked through the changes at your own pace before sharing them with your team. Give everyone the same chance and offer plenty of opportunities for questions and feedback.
The more opportunity and encouragement people are given to have some input, the more ownership encouraged, the more control they will feel and the more ‘buy in’ will occur.
There are various change management models that can be adapted to a school setting and they all share common elements:
- defining your vision
- identifying your change team
- identifying the skills in your team.
Make change part of your school culture by creating an environment that embraces it. Celebrate change when things go well. Reflect on what doesn't go well and learn from setbacks.
Develop a road map of tasks that need to be worked through and break them down into smaller, manageable chunks with timeframes to help make change easier to visualise.
Change allows for continuous improvement and avoids stagnation. When managing change, there is no one size fits all model or solution, but using a change management model can help you clearly plan each stage of your proposed approach.
- Use a change management model.
- Have a measured plan in place – don’t do it all at once.
- Hold meetings with staff and ask for their input.
- Reiterate your vision at every opportunity (e.g. team meetings, regular progress updates etc).
- Audit your team’s skills, knowledge and expertise.
- Identify training needs and ensure they are met.
- Delegate to get the right people in the right jobs.
- Align your change plan to school priorities: make it clear how change will enhance provision for all children.
Transparency is the key in communicating change with the school’s stakeholders. Provide clear expectations of what the school is trying to achieve, why and by when.
Communicate change with empathy but don't sugar coat the truth – be honest. If you're making a change that will negatively impact people state the facts, acknowledge that it's a difficult time and make yourself available to answer questions.
Give staff clear expectations of what the school is trying to do, why and by when. Provide a road map of tasks that need to be achieved and break it down into milestones with tasks and owners.
If there are changes to communicate to pupils, decide the best way to do it. Formal communication methods may include key stage or year group assemblies, subject-led assemblies or letters to pupils.
Other ways to inform pupils might be through posters or Q&A sessions.
The membership of a governing body changes from year to year, so different governors may be aware of varying developments.
Explain the big picture and the impact of changes and share your road map with the governors.
Explain what the school is doing, what the impact will be on pupils and decide the best way to communicate.
- Formal communications through parents evenings, letters, newsletters etc.
- Less formal means such as social media, posters on display etc.
Whatever the change, the first thought of an individual will be, ‘What does this change mean for me?’ As a leader, be prepared for a possible dip in productivity as individuals process the changes.
There's no point in asking for feedback if you're going to hear it but not listen to it
Give staff the chance to ask any questions. This should happen throughout the process of change, as each stage will produce different reactions and likely more questions.
Show that you are open to compromise and willing to be flexible. There's no point in asking for feedback if you're going to hear it but not listen to it. You may find you make changes to your proposed approach or adjust your time scales based on useful feedback.
Be available to spend time working one-on-one with individuals, small groups, year groups, key stage teams and the whole school community to get them on board with the changes.
Tips for communicating change
- Be honest about what is non-negotiable.
- Explain why changes must happen and make the benefits clear.
- Use every chance to get feedback and build engagement from team members.
- Take account of genuine staff concerns.
- Accommodate them in your strategy.
- Be prepared to have lots of conversations with lots of people.
- Be a strong presence around your school corridors during times of change.
- Ensure that the rationale is clearly debated.
Change management in schools isn’t simply about the creation of new policies, procedures or structures. It’s about how change is introduced, implemented and received; the culture of a school in reacting to change.
Last Updated:07 Oct 2019