Six recommendations for improving social and emotional learning in primary schools
A guide to implementation applicable to any school improvement decision
Schools are learning organisations. They continuously strive to do better for the children and young people in their charge. In doing so, they try new things, seek to learn from those experiences, and work to adopt and embed the practices that work best.
Implementation is a key aspect of what schools do to improve, and yet it is a domain of school practice that rarely receives sufficient attention. In our collective haste to do better for pupils, new ideas are often introduced with too little consideration for how the changes will be managed and what steps are needed to maximise the chances of success. Too often the who, why, where, when, and how are overlooked, meaning implementation risks becoming an ‘add on’ task expected to be tackled on top of the day-to-day work. As a result, projects initiated with the best of intentions can fade away as schools struggle to manage these competing priorities.
One of the characteristics that distinguishes effective and less-effective schools, in addition to what they implement, is how they put those new approaches into practice. Often, individuals and schools that implement well tend do so by instinct, or what might be called common sense. Unfortunately, good implementation occupies a rarefied space of ‘uncommon common sense’, with too few explicit discussions of the characteristics and qualities that make it effective.
The purpose of this guidance is to begin to describe and demystify the professional practice of implementation – to document our knowledge of the steps that effective schools take to manage change well.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how great an educational idea or intervention is in principle; what really matters is how it manifests itself in the day-to-day work of people in schools.
Allow enough time for effective implementation, particularly in the preparation stage; prioritise appropriately.
Develop a clear, logical, and well-specified implementation plan:
Thoroughly assess the degree to which the school is ready to implement the innovation.
Once ready to implement an intervention, practically prepare for its use: