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Designing approaches that sustain change

Designing approaches that sustain change

Research suggests that approaches are more likely to be sustained in the longer-term if mechanisms to embed the change have been established at multiple levels of the system (Coburn, 2003; Fullan, 2007, 2011). You can start putting these mechanisms in place or planning right at the start of a new focus. 

Table 2 shows the factors that school leaders considered were likely to support longer-term sustainability of approaches. Many similar factors are mentioned in literature about leadership and sustainability of approaches.

Table 2: Processes and structures that influence longer-term sustainability

Processes and structures that influence longer-term sustainability


Sustainability is supported when … 

Schools have Health and PE leaders at a whole school and syndicate level 

Schools have: 

  • buy in from the principal who actively champions approaches 
  • a champion in the leadership team who allocates resources 
  • a Health and PE or play leadership team, so if people leave, others can take on their role 
  • a lead teacher in each syndicate who can support other teachers to keep building their practice  

New approaches align with the overall direction and goals of the school, so staff want to continue them 

  • School leaders and teachers can clearly see how new approaches contribute to wider school goals about wellbeing or learning 
  • New approaches are clearly connected to school self-review processes and goals in the school charter, strategic plan, or action plan  

New approaches are embedded in school processes  

New approaches are embedded in collaborative Health and PE, or integrated, planning processes and templates 

The school makes connections between new approaches and other ongoing or new PLD 

  • Schools make clear connections between new PE and physical activity approaches and other existing PLD (e.g., culturally responsive practices, wellbeing or Kāhui Ako aims) 
  • Messages about how new PE and physical activity approaches could support new PLD focuses are clearly communicated  

Schools resources staff to continue building practice 

  • School funding has been allocated for a lead teacher to be released to mentor peers or support connections between schools  
  • There is a plan to build new staff leaders who could mentor others in new approaches 

Revised PE approaches are built into teacher capacity building processes 

Goals related to revised PE approaches are built into  

  • a long term PLD plan for teachers 
  • teacher inquiry or appraisal systems  

Student leadership processes are valued 

  • Schools have formal processes for consulting students and fostering student physical activity leaders 

Schools seek input from their community to identify new needs and ideas 

Schools have formal processes for 

  • consulting whānau, students, and teachers about new needs and ideas 
  • embedding new ideas and needs within curriculum planning 

Schools have processes for inducting new leaders or teachers into new approaches 

  • Processes enable new leaders to hear about the benefits of new approaches from teachers at their school or peers at local schools 
  • Schools have systems to support new teachers to understand new approaches (e.g., a buddy system or shared curriculum planning sessions or templates) 

An exit strategy or down-sizing of PLD and support is planned 

  • School and any PLD partners have a planned exit strategy for decreasing PLD support and passing ownership to the school 
  • Schools feel confident they have most of the structures in place they need 

School staff have ongoing access to networks or resources that provide new ideas or resolve tensions 

School leaders and teachers have ongoing access to new ideas connected to new approaches: 

  • peers at local schools 
  • conferences such as PENZ 
  • cluster or Kāhui Ako networks 
  • online resources they can use or adapt (e.g., a Facebook page)  

Ongoing support is offered to schools that need it  

Schools can access ongoing support from a range of community partners or local networks or schools 

It is often assumed that change processes follow a linear trajectory over time until the new approaches are fully implemented. Evidence suggests that, instead, schools journey through a series of growth phases and plateaus (Fullan, 2004). Schools are more likely to keep moving forward if they continue to build approaches and access new ideas. Dips (a return to old practices) are likely if schools get stuck on a new challenge and do not have access to resources that assist them to move to a new growth phase. Dips can be caused by schools turning their attention to new PLD that does not align well with the existing initiative or multiple changes in staff.  

Below are two examples of how schools were working to ensure they continued to move to new growth phases.

Next year the plan is to get all teachers onboard. We have a new AP role. In this role [a lead mentor teacher] will sit with each syndicate to do planning … We have some new staff … but we have some strong teachers in each syndicate … It is important to choose your leaders carefully so they can lead practice at your school.

(School leader)

Our new [ related] strategies are now in our appraisal system. Every teacher has a goal which involves an inquiry into an aspect of the changes we have made in the strategic plan. Teachers meet with me once a term and we work together and highlight progress at the end of year. We have a good system of surveying and getting data each year [for review and needs-analysis] including parent surveys.

(School leader)

Change in Action

These examples of good practice show the impact that can be made if changes are made by schools to their physical activity and physical education approaches. School leaders, teachers and kaiako can use these ideas to encourage and support similar approaches in their schools.

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