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Implementation guidance

In this article, we take a look at the Education Endowment Foundation's guide to implementation of new initiatives.
© Education Endowment Foundation

In this article, we take a look at the Education Endowment Foundation’s Guide, ‘Putting Evidence to Work – A School’s Guide to Implementation.’

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.

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.

These first two steps are the foundations for good implementation:

1. Treat implementation as a process, not an event; plan and execute it in stages.

Allow enough time for effective implementation, particularly in the preparation stage; prioritise appropriately.

2. Create a leadership environment and school climate that is conducive to good implementation.

  • Set the stage for implementation through school policies, routines, and practices.
  • Identify and cultivate leaders of implementation throughout the school.
  • Build leadership capacity through implementation teams.

3. Explore: Define the problem you want to solve and identify appropriate programmes or practices to implement.

  • Specify a tight area of focus for improvement that is amenable to change.
  • Determine a programme of activity based on existing evidence of what has – and hasn’t – worked before.
  • Examine the fit and feasibility of possible interventions to the school context.
  • Make an adoption decision.

4. Prepare: Create a clear implementation plan, judge the readiness of the school to deliver that plan, then prepare staff and resources.

Develop a clear, logical, and well-specified implementation plan:

  • Specify the active ingredients of the intervention clearly: know where to be ‘tight’ and where to be ‘loose’.
  • Develop a targeted, yet multi-stranded, package of implementation strategies.
  • Define clear implementation outcomes and monitor them using robust and pragmatic measures.
  • 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:

  • Create a shared understanding of the implementation process and provide appropriate support and incentives.
  • Introduce new skills, knowledge, and strategies with explicit up-front training.
  • Prepare the implementation infrastructure.

5. Deliver: Support staff, monitor progress, solve problems, and adapt strategies as the approach is used for the first time.

  • Adopt a flexible and motivating leadership approach during the initial attempts at implementation.
  • Reinforce initial training with follow-on coaching within the school.
  • Use highly skilled coaches.
  • Complement expert coaching and mentoring with structured peer-to-peer collaboration.
  • Use implementation data to actively tailor and improve the approach.
  • Make thoughtful adaptations only when the active ingredients are securely understood and implemented.

6. Sustain: Plan for sustaining and scaling an intervention from the outset and continually acknowledge and nurture its use.

  • Plan for sustaining and scaling an innovation from the outset.
  • Treat scale-up as a new implementation process.
  • Ensure the implementation data remains fit for purpose.
  • Continually acknowledge, support, and reward good implementation practices.

Thank you to the Education Endowment Foundation for providing us with permission to use this content. Read and download their implementation guidance in full

When you’re ready, click the ‘Mark as complete’ button below and then select ‘Effective implementation of a strategy’ to consider the practical elements of strategy implementation.
© Education Endowment Foundation
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