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“Hi everyone, I’ve been asked to consider the question where do I start when it comes to whole school change? And the first thing I’d say is - start with yourself!

Your Worldview

What are your beliefs about the world? What are your beliefs about education? What politics do you bring to bear? Do you see yourself as a person who's going to fix it or do you see yourself as a person that likes mastering the troops to address a war? How do you view the world and how do you see your place in it?

Once you work that out, then you will really address the notion of whole-school change in a much more aware state.

The reason why you need to do that is because if you have political leanings, if you have a particular view or a philosophical standpoint, for example on pedagogy, that is not being upheld by the people that you're working with in terms of what I call ‘the tribes’, which all organisations have.

But some of the tribes within your organisation may not agree with your standpoint, so you need to be ready for that, you need to be ready not to fight but to debate to argue and have a keen awareness of what you stand for, so that's the first thing.

Stages of Evolution

The second thing - don't go bouldering in with your viewpoints without first really, really thinking about the stage of evolution your organization is at, your school is at.

So, if you are, for example, in survival mode where you might have a diminishing demographic, you might have real financial problems then just be very aware of that.

Or you might be further down the road and finances might be fine, but there are issues around teaching and learning - you might be in an outstanding organization but that can hamper innovation.

So, you want to be able to tackle that so, it’s very important to be aware of the stage of evolution that your school is at before you begin any whole school change.

Trust Your Gut

Now once you've worked out what you stand for and you're aware of the evolution of your school then what I’d say is trust your gut - trust your intuition.

You know if something isn't quite right.

Now, one health check on that when I say ‘trust your intuition’. That doesn't mean that you go headlong into making radical changes without doing some research first, because your intuition can sometimes just be a sense that ‘Yeah this this isn't right’ and your intuition could be saying ‘Well, yeah it doesn't feel right, but actually I need to go and gather some more data and find some more stuff out. I need to talk to a few more people. I need to get some comparisons and look elsewhere’.

Trusting your intuition doesn't mean just going off on a whim!

But go to it if there's a feeling - there's a gut feeling that something isn't quite right and if you go down a particular route it will improve your school.

But just tune into it - do I need to find out more information first?.

Speak to the Tribes

Then, what's really important before you launch on this change is that all the tribes in your school, from the senior team to the cleaners, to the English department, to the Math department, to French, humanities - whatever it might be, it’s really important that you develop a shared common understanding for the start point of change with the different tribes that make up your school!

So, if you understand the ‘why’ by understanding why you're going to change something and you've got tribal coherence around that, then then you're on to a winner!

Making Sense

Michael Fullan wrote a fantastic book on leading and change and, he talks about the leader of change being a ‘coherence maker’.

So, your job is to make coherence out of all the disparate needs and desires and, we all know about Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

All of the tribes in your school will want different things.

And then, of course there's fear of change and a huge fear of uncertainty as much as people say that they're not - change can disrupt and that's fine.

‘Equilibrium Is Death’

Disrupting is good and there's a great phrase which I nicked from somewhere, sorry whoever said this originally, but ‘equilibrium is death’.

So, when your school has reached a state of equilibrium, rather like a mill pond that starts to die beneath it because there's no churn in the water, then you're not innovating, you're not developing and, you're not serving your community in the best way.

So, embrace tribalism, embrace dissonance as long as you know what you stand for and that you understand the school's journey and where it's come from and where you want it to go and, you have cohered your tribes around a shared understanding of the start point for change.

There's so much more to be said about change management, but communication through all of this is the underbelly, the bedrock of key change management processes so, I hope that's helped and I wish you all the best!”

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About the author

Gill Kelly

Gill Kelly

Gill Kelly is a long-time Independent Thinking Associate, former school leader, the author of Where Do I Do My Pineapples?, a book about school change and a successful international leadership coach.

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