Changing Value Propositions and Cultures: Hidden Opportunity of Moving SA’s Year 7s to High School
Making the most of change.
South Australian schools are moving to a model where year 6 marks the end of primary school. This is already the case interstate and for some R-12 schools in SA, this has been in place for a while. For other schools it’s a brave new world. For these schools there are things that shouldn’t be overlooked - the transition isn’t just about teacher numbers and room allocations, but rather it’s an opportunity to also reflect on the value proposition of the school. Does it need to change?
The Hidden Opportunity
To fully leverage the opportunities that the shift of year 7 students to high school represents, both primary and high school leadership teams need to understand the impact of the change on their individual circumstances – context is everything!
Underpinning this context is understanding – school leadership teams must involve their school community to help ensure not only the seamless implementation of the impending changes – but the subsequent embracing by their key stakeholders of what these changes mean. The changes will affect the school’s operations and strategies.
The reality is that a school’s value proposition and ultimately the school’s culture may need to be modified to reflect the change and what it means for its stakeholders. Some schools may also choose to use the move of year 7 students to high school as an impetus or segue to introduce change to the school in terms of the type and nature of the services offered (which ultimately may also need to be reflected in the school’s value proposition and culture).
Ensuring that the school’s key stakeholders understand and feel a part of the change process will help to ensure that change (and the flow on effects) are not only accepted but embraced and accurately reflected in the school’s value proposition.
The Stakeholder Outreach Program
The overall objective of a ‘Stakeholder Outreach Program’ is to help provide a framework to help the school leadership take their key stakeholders on the journey and make them feel part of the impending change and the implications of the change for the school’s values and culture. This will help to maximise acceptance of the change and its implications. This means an iterative process of communicating and connecting with your stakeholders that will extend beyond term 1 of 2022, when all SA year 7 students will be taught in high schools.
Communicate with your stakeholders.
Ensure your stakeholders are aware that the change is occurring and from when the change is effective. This is often based on simple but tailored communications to each of the stakeholder groups.
Connect with your stakeholders.
Connecting with each stakeholder group and encouraging engagement and ‘ownership’ of the change is pivotal in ensuring that:
The change is not only understood but ‘owned’ and embraced by the different stakeholders
That the school understands what the change means for the different stakeholders.
This will help to minimise the challenges of implementation and maximises the opportunities for the school created by the move of the year 7s from primary school to high school.
This phase relies on ‘talking’ to the different stakeholders and listening to their concerns, thoughts and feedback about different options and implications resulting directly or indirectly from the change. This should be organised and structured engagement with a clear purpose that is relevant to the proposed change. Remember, the impending change can also present opportunities to explore new ideas e.g., introduction of an Early Learning Centre to make up for the ‘lost’ year 7s.
‘Talking’ can take different forms (e.g., workshops, surveys, interviews), and this will depend on the stakeholder group and the specific purpose of the engagement. However, there should always be an overall ‘connection’ plan that ensures meaningful outcomes of engagement with each of the different stakeholder groups that ties into the school’s overall operational and/or strategic direction.
Communicate with your stakeholders
Educate the stakeholders about what the change will mean for them and more widely, the school’s community. This may include an updated value proposition. This communication should reflect and acknowledge the results of the school’s engagement with them.
The ‘communicate and connect’ approach should be iterative and span the length of the transition of year 7 students. Importantly, it should also underpin the relationship between a school’s key stakeholders and the school’s leadership team.
So, Who Are Your Stakeholders?
Key stakeholders will vary for each school, but in general they can be broadly categorised as internal and external stakeholders and typically include the following groups.
A Friendly Reminder: Strategic Leadership Versus Operational Management
Losing year 7 in the case of primary schools and gaining them in the case of high schools can create a more intense focus by school leadership teams on operational management as opposed to strategic management and educational excellence – more akin to the leaders of a new school (see figure below). Maintaining the balance between strategic leadership, operational management and educational excellence will be pivotal as schools manage the transition of the year 7 cohort.
Figure: Leadership Shift (Dunford, Hill et al. 2013 p5)*
This article is a friendly reminder to those schools who will be impacted by the impending move of year 7 students from primary school to high school. Beyond the logistical challenges of such a change lies an opportunity to strengthen these schools’ relationships with their stakeholders and potentially refresh their positioning and culture. Businesses like Complete the Picture Consulting are more than happy to work with school leadership teams to help them in this endeavour.
*Dunford, J., R. Hill, N. Parish and L. Sandals (2013). Establishing and leading new types of school: challenges and opportunities for leaders and leadership. National College for School Leadership.