Change Management In A Time Of Covid

Change management is about a clear vision for the future, and a process that makes it happen. Sarah Morgan and Sally Lanni describe how they deeply embedded Edtech, and transformed teaching and learning in the process, in their once under-achieving Midlands school

Talking to schools as part of the DfE EdTech Demonstrator Programme, it is now clear that school staff spent hours upon hours during that first lockdown self-learning how to use tech in a way many hadn’t before. Suddenly Teams, Zoom, Google Classroom and Microsoft OneNote became the language of all teachers – alongside ‘you are on mute’, ‘turn your camera on’ and ‘can you see my shared screen’.

The support Pheasey Park Farm Primary has given to other schools has fallen into two brackets – acting as a critical friend for those who already had an established EdTech use with the teaching and learning in  the school, and the ‘holding hands’ approach, with schools who felt they were fighting the fire of using EdTech to provide children with the quality home-learning opportunities they deserved.

As we now move out of Lockdown 3, there has been a clear shift in the outcomes that schools want!. No longer fighting fires, Heads, Leaders of schools are now eager to harness the skill development shown by children and staff over the last 12 months.

Most would like to continue and use the momentum built to embed core values that EdTech has brought to support the ‘quality first’ teaching that every teacher wants to provide for their pupils. But  to ensure a successful implementation for long term EdTech usage, effective change management is vital to ensuring  that all stakeholders of the school support the journey. What we have learned at Pheasey about change management is now central to the training we are giving other schools

Pheasey’s story of change management

Six years ago Pheasey Park Farm Primary School was in a category of ‘Requires Improvement’.  Teaching was dusty and learning was passive.  Absence levels for pupils and staff were high and outcomes were below national standards.

The Governing Body appointed a new Head Teacher.Mrs Lanni, who completed an audit of current provision which clearly identified strengths and areas for improvement. Working closely with all stakeholders-children, staff, parents and governors,  a vision was created which would move the school on and meet our  aspirations to become a Centre of Excellence.

It entailed powering  school improvement and high standards via the integrated use of EdTech –  Ed Tech had been used very successfully at Mrs Lanni’s previous school which had been graded as ‘Outstanding’ on 3 consecutive occasions. The vision was to create one family of schools, staff, pupils and parents working together on one common safe and secure system. In the vision, all learners would become equipped for 21st Century citizenship – and to do so  Mrs Lanni aspired for equity in digital access for all teachers and families .

By enabling  consistency of working, teaching and learning across the whole Trust, it would be possible for best practices to be shared across all schools. The intention was to use EdTech to deliver the “Heavy Lifting” for staff, reduce workload, increase efficiency and deliver economies of scale.

Resistance?  There was some!  Initially, it  was due to a lack of understanding of the potential of EdTech by longstanding teachers who had never had the opportunity to access EdTech resources. These staff had not benefited from investment in resources or training which would help them to keep up to date with new and innovative ways of teaching.

Peer-to-peer support

Mrs Lanni involved all individuals in the change consultation process, very much including them in the decision making at every stage. Strategies were trialled by staff who showed a particular interest and it was these staff who then delivered the peer to peer support which brought the more resistant staff on board. A very carefully planned and structured programme of professional development, tailored to the specific needs of individuals, further complemented the strategy and led to the huge successes achieve

It was agreed, eventually,  that technology was to be used as the catalyst to improve the quality of teaching and learning.  A key thing to notice here is the planned change of focus – initially it was on the quality of teaching – the flip was that now  the focus would become the learning.

All the stakeholders went on to  agree a detailed vision about the quality of experience that was desired for the children in the classrooms. But delivering the vision was a different matter! The school had some excellent teachers but without the proper tools and skills for the job, how could they enact the vision and perform to their highest level?

One of the immediate initiatives was to appoint an EdTech Leader to assess the school’s use of technology.  This person completed a robust audit of provision including an overview of strengths and improvement areas.  This too was completed in consultation with staff and children.

The Ed Tech Leader created a timed and costed change management programme. This included robust professional development for staff at all levels. He  then also created a Team of Digital Leaders-staff and children.  This team worked with the leader to offer peer-to-peer support as changes were implemented. This is a key point – he used the power of teacher-to -eacher support positively to help change management.

Governors worked with leaders to ensure financial planning allowed for relevant expenditure of identified resources.  This included a 3 year replacement plan. Leaders worked together to audit staff skills and organise bespoke training according to staff stages of development.

Minimum expectations were agreed for classroom practice.A programme of monitoring was put in place to work hand in hand with the training plans so that specific individual needs and whole school needs could be identified and supported, by  coaching or training .This led to a continuous cycle of improvement placing the school at the heart of successful change and innovation.

At the beginning the school had benchmarked its performance using a review framework and, shockingly,  discovered it was on the lowest level of that framework.  A subsequent review of the benchmarking demonstrated clearly the progress that had been made and the impact measures and results were shared with Governors.

‘We wanted to ensure that all our pupils get the very best teaching and learning in the UK. I believe that the role of the teacher is to help guide learning without taking away the pupil’s creativity.  Teaching should encourage a child’s natural curiosity to learn and help them to develop social and critical thinking skills that they will need throughout their lives’ said Mrs Lanni.

This innovation in pedagogy has promoted team working, problem solving, learning with global partners and helped to develop resilient, creative and collaborative learners.  Supported by the development of high quality professional development observations have identified the outstanding capacity of the technology for teaching and learning.

These developments have also transitioned further with the school’s move to a single learning platform, a cloud-based approach and the escalation of remote learning during lockdown and beyond.

The School’s attendance is now above national, there is very little staff absence and outcomes at all phases are above national standards.

So what are Pheasey’s top tips for Change Management?

In order to implement and manage change, leaders must:

  • Understand the importance of developing a change management strategy
  • Create a school culture that supports positive change and school improvement
  • Prepare for the types of questions or concerns that staff may ask
  • Consider potential barriers and be prepared
  • Define, manage and address the concerns that teachers may experience
  • Use strengths from within the school – if a teacher has a passion or high knowledge based in the area of change then bring them aboard earlier
  • Use the power of teacher-to-teacher support

What first?A possible timeline

  • Consider the planned change.  Identify the background, vision, rationale and links to strategic goals.
  • Identify a project leader and a team around that person. The project lead will be accountable for ensuring the change plan are implemented but the team will work together to enable this to happen. There is no ‘hero’ teacher in change management.
  • Provide details of what the change process will achieve [e.g. information sharing, engagement, input into system changes, improvements to outcomes]
  • Explain principles that underpin the change plan [e.g. inclusiveness/consultation,   

         timeliness, efficiency]

  • Consider ethical issues that need to be considered and how will the change plan address them.
  • What are the main elements in the change plan? [e.g. people/culture, systems/technology, documentation, positions/roles, process, skills]
  • List the drivers and constraints for change.  What are the risks for the change process?
  • Identify the key stakeholders [consider staff, parents, pupils, community, governors, unions and others]
  • Analyse their response to the change [e.g. what will be their main concerns/fear, where is there likely to be support for the change]
  • Identify their needs in terms of change management and consider the style of communication required [language style & level]
  • Identify the preferred media for communicating and consulting with them about

          the change [e.g. sessions involving dialogue about the changes, newsletters,

          briefings from project team members, memos, frequently asked questions].

  • Comment on the status of the change so far [e.g. is there a high level strategy in place that stakeholders are already aware of and committed to that provides a framework for the change]
  • What elements might support the change [e.g. dissatisfaction with current processes; a workplace culture that supports change and innovation].
  • Is there strong senior support for the change?  How will senior leaders support?

Pheasey found that the collaborative learning became a by product of the technology use – thereby putting the learners back into the driving seat of their own learning. Maintaining staff and pupil positivity and a growth mindset for all stakeholders was key throughout. 

Change can be daunting for all, especially in a profession like teaching when teachers are measured and monitored relentlessly.  Carefully planned change management to embed new approaches helped staff feel less alone as it was very much a team approach and staff felt fully part of the process. By taking time to explain the rationale behind the bigger picture and the approach being taken, staff were helped to develop a positive mindset to change and be prepared to grow with the project.

Providing time for staff to raise their confidence levels was also critical.  By ensuring they were given time to play with the new technology prior to them being expected to use it with the children – staff meeting time and professional development became (and still remains) a core value for when any changes are implemented. This shows the staff the value that is being place on the project but also on them as the leaders in their classrooms.

The significance of review, evaluate and reflect through any change plan cannot be underestimated and it is vital to make modifications as the project evolves.

Layere system of support

Change management works well when a layered system of support is put into place starting with the senior leadership team, moving into the middle management team which included working party groups.  For Pheasey this included the Ed Tech Team. The team drove forward changes and improvements working with class teachers and teaching assistants and of course the children. The are now driving technological change to a broader and deeper level  as they accelerate their own skill development.

In order to create a positive culture for school improvement it is essential for leaders to manage change carefully. The success of any new initiative can often be down to the way that individuals respond to it and how well they are supported by their leaders. The ‘unlocking mechanism’  is to create a positive school culture where teachers are supported in making improvements to teaching and learning, and feel empowered to do so.  

Due to the successful change management programme, driving forward standards through the improving quality of teaching has now become a culture within the school. Teaching assistants and teachers themselves are now enquiring how technology can help facilitate learning and be used to raise standards further. All staff, including admin and finance teams. look towards technology to help them in their roles, many making much needed efficiencies across the school.

Pheasey Park Farm Primary School is now an Ed Tech Demonstrator School and is looking to build a Centre of Excellence in the area of Ed Tech.

 If you are interested in receiving training or would like more information about the school’s plans to partner with additional schools, please contact the school via training@pheasey.org.uk Follow us on Twitter @PheaseyTraining

Sarah Morgan and Sally Lanni who are leading on the Ed Tech Demonstrator Programme.

Pheasey Park Farm Primary School, Walsall, West Midlands.

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