6 Paths of the Leader to Champion Educational Change

6 June, 2019


As a leader you always have options. When a new Leader starts, it is now generally regarded that they have 100 days to evoke successful change.

Once that time has elapsed, inheritance will claim their time and space to manoeuvre. It’s not deliberate and some will get a little longer. But ultimately events will take over.

Below we explore 6 ways to make change happen. Which one suits your style and expertise?

Complex Problem Solving

The human brain seems to be naturally disposed to problem solving. Schools are fast-moving and packed with personalities. Variables and scale make this a complex business. Easy solutions all too frequently, can see positive gains drowned out by backwash effects.

Professor Viviane Robinson is one of the champions of this approach. She urges, ‘go slow to go fast.’ Establish a thorough and quick baseline based on objective evidence rather than gut instinct or mere canvas of opinion.

A combination of mapping, research and consulting allows a fuller consideration of the factors involved. There may be multiple solutions and each should be considered carefully.

Compelling Dream

Martin Luther King did not stand and say “I have a vision“. He certainly did not write out a vision statement.

He knew that to take the world forward, this required passion and emotion. And by pulling on people’s heartstrings, he could change what he saw as grossly unjust.

What is your compelling dream?

When you wake up each morning is it the first thing you think about?

In each meeting do you elucidate what it is and how it can be achieved?

Energy makes the motion

Inertia and Inheritance are the key opponents of change ‘because we have always done it that way’ makes it easy and the human brain loves easy. We have plenty of complexity in our lives without having to change our focus and process, especially when we can not see the point.

Worse still the research suggests (Tallis 2012) that most (85%) teachers in mature education systems lack the incentive to change!

Inheritance is the protocols and unwritten rules around the way we do things and what is acceptable.

To overcome set ways, the focus can be just to overcome them. I have known leaders to develop new rules just to break existing tracks, make people start working differently. They didn’t know quite what the solution was, but they knew they needed things to change.

Motion leads to emotion

Once the inheritance is broken the pathways can sometimes become clearer, a vacuum is created. Even if the first move proves wrong, it is relatively easy to hold your hand up and move to a new position. You could even reverse but never need to go back to the same position.


One of the toughest things to do in education is to achieve consensus. Imposing one is very different.

Teachers by nature like to talk, 89% of the time according to classroom research. Against this backdrop, they have opinions, reasons and want positive affirmation that what they are already doing is right.

Achieving consensus against this backdrop, where issues have been fully deliberated, priorities agreed, measurements of outcome set and timescales for action collectively signed up to is time-consuming. It requires rigorous underpinning process and often skilled facilitating. Do not feel that you need to be the facilitator just because you are the leader.


Follow me and keep up is the mantra of the go-ahead leader.

More often than not, they will be working to a blueprint. That may have been decided at a higher level or through past experience.

In this model, decision making is relatively easy. Collateral may be high but staying the course is a proven solution and the end justifies the means. Where inheritance is poor and/or weak leadership and management has been the norm, the journey can be the required solution.

Always remember that whilst this may get you from problem to competency, this is not the full journey to excellence.

Tiger team

Establishing a dream team can be a great way to get change underway. It allows trialling, pilots and for beta testing.

There is a tendency to appoint usual suspects to such a team for their energy, drive and proven performance. Kotter suggests this may be a mistake as teams may already be overloaded. His analysis of leading organisations suggests that volunteering should be used to ensure spare capacity is utilised to enable success without a cost to workload or business as usual.

Top teams are also capable of implementing poorly leveraged change which may benefit few at much cost. The success of a more representative team may be more indicative of the potential of the initiative for both impact and implementation.


Whichever way you chose to go, remember that you have plenty of choices.

Robinson adds that it is improvement that matters and not just change.

Osiris Educational is the UK’s leading independent training provider for teachers.We work at the forefront of innovation in education providing pioneering, challenging and effective training solutions in teaching. We use the best and most renowned trainers to help teachers improve their ways of thinking and approaches to teaching.

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