Unpacking a School’s Guide to Implementation Part 5: Sustainability

25 March 2018

Over the last few weeks, we have been exploring the various stages of successful implementation, as outlined in the EEF guidance report Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation. Now we are going to look at Recommendation 6: Plan for sustaining and scaling an intervention from the outset and continuously acknowledge and nurture its use.

In case you missed them, you might want to check out our previous blogs on this report:

Like most stages of successful implementation, the original plan is key. If we are bringing in something that we hope is successful, we obviously want any success to last, but it won’t necessarily happen, even after some success. Most of the pitfalls involve changes that we can’t control but we can anticipate. Here are some potential hurdles to sustainability that we can give consideration to from the beginning, not just when they manifest.

Changing staff

Many successful implementations are spearheaded by someone in a position to deliver it. When they leave, they take the expertise, contacts, drive and materials with them. Sometimes a zombie version of what once happened continues, but it can often fizzle out. A good plan for implementation will acknowledge staff leaving not as a rare event but actually as a common feature of working and schools. We should plan for the who and the what.

The Who? We need to consider which members of staff are capable of continuing this intervention as prescribed and whether they require any additional training for this. The what? We need to make sure that the active ingredients are defined, the specific non-negotiables about a program make it what it is, without which it loses its fidelity. These parts can be carefully predicted from the outset.

We must also remember that the leadership of an intervention might not change, but we will have new staff who have not been there for the start of a process. Without all the front-loaded training, the initial discussions and novelty, will they fully understand the implementation? Active Ingredients here are key, together with suitable induction training.

Changing landscape

Staff won’t be the only change in a school. We should understand that the data that led to the implementation is not the data now. As they say in the report, “new cohorts of students may have different learning needs, changing policy agendas may have led to new reporting requirements, or decreased capacity within the school made collecting data challenging.” In fact, the only thing we can be certain for, and account for in the plan, will be that things will change, so we need to always consider which data to collect and review this data regularly. Decisions can then be made about what needs to change or even whether the implementation is still necessary.

Just because an intervention is established, does not mean that it doesn’t still need that leadership support so crucial in getting things started. It still needs to be acknowledged, championed and its use rewarded.

Changing scale

If something has worked on a small scale, there is no guarantee that it will be as successful when scaled-up. Whether taking it from a class teacher to a department, from a department to a school, from a school to a MAT, scaling up should be treated as a new implementation process, albeit one which starts in a healthier position than those started from scratch.

Here are the checklist questions from this section of the report:

  • Do we have a stable use of the intervention, as intended?
  • Is it achieving the desired outcomes?
  • Have we created contingency plans for any changes across the school that may disrupt successful implementation?
  • Is it appropriate to extend the use of the approach to additional staff? What is required to achieve this?
  • How can the existing capacity and resources be best used to support scale-up?
Posted on 25 March 2018
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