Change Engagement Comparative Study: Final Report

Tami McCrone, David Teeman, Gill Featherstone, Peter Rudd, Sophie Ahmad, Hilary Thompson

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


The education sector has experienced significant changes in recent years, for example, workforce remodelling, the move towards academies and the development of extended services through the Every Child Matters agenda. In this context the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) commissioned a research study into how schools engage with change and how the schools sector compares with the health, local government and police sectors with regard to managing change. The research was carried out by a team at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), in collaboration with the Office for Public Management (OPM).
The central aim of the research was to inform the TDA¿s programme of strategic performance assessment in the key area of supporting modernisation. It included two main objectives which were to investigate how schools engaged with change, including detail on the full spectrum of engagement with change management across schools in England, and how this differed between different subsets of schools, and to analyse change management in other sectors to provide an understanding of how the schools sector compares to other sectors in managing change.
The main research methods used were:
A concise literature review which focused on change management in each of the four sectors: a small number of strategic level interviews in each sector; a large scale school survey of schools leaders, teachers and support staff; fifty qualitative telephone interviews with school leaders; and telephone interviews with 129 senior managers in the health, local government and police sectors.
Key messages from the research
1. School staff generally have positive attitudes towards change and are confident about their (and their school¿s) capacity for change, suggesting a high degree of receptivity to change.
2. Staff involvement is a critical success factor in implementing and sustaining change. Involving staff, beyond the school leadership team (SLT), is also a way of releasing additional capacity to manage change effectively.
3. Monitoring and review of change initiatives and celebrating success are also critical aspects of the change process. There is evidence of some positive practice in these areas, but these remain priorities for improvement in future.
Executive summary
4. School leaders (and managers in other sectors) were aware of a variety of change models and tools, though regular use of these does not seem to be common. Awareness of the TDA¿s change management tools and models was generally low, though this might be partly explained by the way in which these were delivered to schools via local authorities.
5. School (and other public sector) leaders seem to have an increasingly sophisticated understanding of change and thought now needs to be given as to how to develop the next level of change support.
6. This study suggests awareness that „change is everybody¿s job now¿ and highlights a need for greater levels of understanding of change at all levels within organisations.
7. Different types of schools face different challenges. It appears that many schools would benefit from a more „bespoke¿, differentiated, and mainly face-to-face, approach to change management.
8. Networking between schools (and other organisations) in similar contexts, facing similar challenges, remains a critically important mechanism for reflecting on practice and learning about change.
9. School leaders have more of a perception of „control¿ over change than leaders in other sectors, and this presents opportunities for schools, especially those that have a strong sense of purpose and direction and are already high performing.
10. There is a considerable degree of similarity in change challenges and priorities across the different sectors, despite clear differences in terms of function, degree of autonomy of local organisations, and roles.
11. Despite the similarities, managers in comparative sectors report having made more progress in some areas, particularly in working with partners to achieve major change. Although partnership working clearly takes place between schools, working with other services may be a growing change driver for schools, and an area in which schools could learn from other sectors.
12. Managers in comparative sectors are experiencing considerable pressure to deliver efficiencies; this may be another area where schools could face further challenges in the future and could learn from other sectors.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSlough
PublisherNational Foundation for Educational Research
Number of pages165
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008


  • Change management, public sector, professional development, teachers, professionalism, school leaders, police, social care, social services, change engagement

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