There are countless books, blogs and theories to help us, but there really are no shortcuts here – the team have to go through the process together, and that takes team time, dedicated time. A good argument for change is not sufficient fuel to sustain what is often a messy journey with uncertainty, attachment and loss prior to being able to re-imagine a future.
At Prestolee Primary Academy, Mike Tonge and Rebecca Dunne identified the challenge and the need to act. They recognised the time needed for self-reflection, questioning assumptions and automatic narratives, and the challenge needed to re-imagine the future. They also recognised that external facilitators being less attached to the issues were better placed to design and lead the process. Through dialogue and exploration with Mike and Rebecca, we developed the Multi Academy Trust Transition Programme for the leadership team at Prestolee. The programme consists of workshops, 1:1 coaching support and commitment to planning and action. The bespoke nature of the programme is enabling us to adapt the workshops and content as understanding and issues emerge.
As facilitators of this process our role:
‘…requires listening to and validating many voices, synthesizing diverse ideas on the spot and being sensitive to group dynamics. It is the responsibility of the facilitator to push the group to think longer term, surface blind spots and consider broad range of uncertainties...`
Fulton and Scearce (2004)
The 1:1 coaching provides support for staff to work individually on change, focus on what to stop, what to start, and reflect on progress and impact.
A few weeks into the programme the staff team are energised and enthusiastic. What’s clear so far is the importance of the interaction rather than conclusion. Being part of the process builds commitment, confidence and competence. The team need time to build the capacity required to critically assess new ideas and proposals, and selectively prioritise with the goals and vision in mind. This is a contact sport; it needs team time if there is to be a real chance to change.
By Helen Woodward