A Reflection On Managing Change In A Catholic School

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A reflection on managing change from the point of view of someone who has both studied it and been through it. This article is sensitive to the particular approach of a Catholic school leader as well as summarising some very relevant and sensible academic views.


  • 1. A Reflection OnManaging Change In A Catholic School Perhaps one of the obstacles to creating rapid development in any schoolis the anticipated sea-change it might involve in a school community. For this reason, the school leader would be wise to be cognisant of how people experience and anticipate change. Change from an old state to a new one inevitably involves stress, and the amount of stress involved will probably relate to what extent the change was expected and desired (Garrett, 1997, 96-97). The following points are fairly generic to the management of the effects of change and are integral to good leadership and management. Firstly, school leaders should not underestimate the effects of change and or presume explanation of the change is sufficient. When those who have the power to manipulate changes act as if they have only to explain, and, when their explanations are not at once accepted, shrug off opposition as ignorance or prejudice, they express a profound contempt for the meaning of lives other than their own. (Garrett, 1997, 99) Secondly, leaders of change must provide opportunities for colleagues to talk and reflect on the possible impact of the changes to in their departmental or faculty teams. This will allow opportunities for colleagues to become conversant with and interrogate the vision the changes and, in turn, to adopt it as something they can contribute to. Good practice in the management of change provides for staff involvement in decision-making (Riley &MacBeath, 1998, 148) becausecolleagues must be involved if change is to become fully operational (Garrett, 1997, 102). Starting from this premise, Garrett employs Fullans work on change to argue in favour of an evolutionary model for managing change as opposed to a systematic one. In this context, change evolves [sic] from a felt need (Garrett, 1997, 106 and 104). Ideally, therefore, colleagues should be empowered to identify the need for change themselves. One example of starting point might be to encourage reflection on the purpose of the curriculum in the Catholic school. Parameters for the discussion might be set by posing the argument that a curriculum which promotes awe and wonder is more likely to stimulate childrens minds, reduce behaviour issues and disaffection, improve attainment and achievement and foster maturity and commitment to the ethos of the school. This would be in contrast to a value-neutral approach which abdicates responsibility to comment on what is true, operates on the level of education being a means to a mundane end and driven solely by the imperative to meet targets set by the state which affect funding. The advantage of this is that the stress of change is diminished as it is both expected and desired. In practice the school leader could assist the community by identifying these gaps in the schools provision in such a way that the need for change is not only expected and desired but, if properly introduced, imperative to the success of the educational enterprise. Thirdly, successful implementation will be more likely if the leader is attentive to the style of leadership that people are going to be most comfortable with and most likely to be effective in response to (Dean, 1993, 4). In this way, some staff bodies might be sensitive to change without significant consultation, others might prefer to work very closely with senior teachers and prefer leadership from the middle.School leaders need to manifest a dynamic that enables them to adapt their leadership style. In respect of leading on curriculum development it might be useful to combine a visionary style of leadership for articulating mission but manage people by coaching them (Goleman 2002, 53-63). Finally, once the process of significant change is underway the leader may have to support colleagues as they experience fluctuations in confidence and self-esteem (Garrett, 1997, 96- 99). Green advises that the second stage of change can be chaotic, when people experience low morale and often pull in different directions. At this stage the leader needs to be attentive to the pitfalls and celebrate milestones reached. Perhaps the hardest challenge can be the need in some cases to recognise that the process embarked on isnt working and, in order to avoid resentment, a new strategy for achieving the same goal may need to

2. be employed (Green, 2000, 94). On the other hand, non-immediate acceptance of the process may not be an indication of its failure (Garrett, 1997, 99, Sergiovanni, 2001, 55) and what appears to be disillusionment may only be advance warning that communication of progress needs to be accelerated (Sergiovanni, 2001, 111). Peter Eccles, Ex Headeacher, St Bonifaces Catholic College, Plymouth CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION (1977) Catholic Schools Costello, 1982 CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION (1982) Lay Catholics In Schools: Witnesses to Faith Costello, 1982 CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION (1998) The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third MillenniumVeritas 2002 CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION (1988) The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School CALDWELL, B. & SPINKS, J. Leading the Self-Managing School London: Falmer, 1992 DEAN, J. Managing the Secondary School London: Routledge, 1993 CATHOLIC EDUCATION SERVICE (1999)Evaluating the Distinctive Nature of a Catholic School [online]. Available World-Wide-Web:http://www.cesew.org.uk/publications/main.htm [7 April 2004] GARRETT, V. School Leadership for the 21st Century A Competency and Knowledge ApproachLondon: Routledge, 1997 GRACE. G. Leadership in Catholic SchoolsThe Contemporary Catholic School pp. 70-88 8London: Falmer, 1996. MACBEATH, J. (Ed.) Effective School Leadership Responding to ChangeLondon: Chapman, 1998 SERGIOVANNI, Leadership Whats in it for Schools? New York: Routledge /Falmer, 2001


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