Step 4: Implementing the action plan

Step 4: Key points about taking action

  • Consider who will lead the process
  • Plan for the long term
  • Implement new approaches as they are intended
  • Involve all staff, students, and the community in supporting change
  • Allocate extra resources to support new approaches
  • Offer all staff, students, and the community adequate learning opportunities
  • Monitor progress and use formative feedback.

Information for Step 4

Step 4 is about putting your plan into action. During Step 4 schools allocate resources, start to make changes, offer learning opportunities, and monitor actions.

Implementing the action plan

Once you have developed an action plan (See Using W@S reports to develop an action plan: info for Step 3 and the W@S Action plan template), the next step is to implement this plan.

Research shows that the processes schools use to implement change are a key factor in determining the success of these changes. Using a team-based approach to manage change and involving the whole school community are ways of encouraging understanding and commitment to new approaches. These and other factors that can support successful implementation are discussed below.


Leading change

Effective leadership of new approaches is vital. The principal and other school leaders need to be actively behind any new approaches in your action plan. One way of supporting longer-term sustainability is through having more than one school leader or staff member actively supporting and promoting the changes. These people are likely to be core members of your school self-review team.

Planning for the long term

It can take a while for new approaches to become an everyday part of school life. Therefore it is important to have a longer-term view. Research suggests that the “start up” phase, during which a school decides on new approaches and starts to put them in place, can take at least 1-2 years. It can then take 3-5 years to fully embed new approaches. After a year or two, a change process can reach a plateau and start to lose momentum as other newer activities start to become the focus.

Research suggests that if momentum is not maintained, schools which are initially successful in creating a safer school climate can see a return to previous behaviours. Therefore, it is important to plan ways to keep the momentum going.

One way to do this is for the school self-review team to continue to manage and monitor action plan activities. Tasks can be shared and so if one key team member leaves, activities are more likely to continue. Another way is to make sure the whole school community are informed and involved. A further way to keep an ongoing focus on actions is by making your action plan goals part of the school’s planning and reporting cycle.

Implementing new approaches as they are intended

Studies show that how new approaches are implemented and supported makes a key difference. As part of your action plan, your school may decide to adopt an external programme or approach that has evidence of success (see the examples in the W@S modules). It is important to implement all parts of this new approach in the way they were intended, and to make sure that all those involved have adequate information and learning opportunities.

It is also important to ensure that any approach you are using is developmentally appropriate for the students at your school. Some programmes or activities are designed specifically for students of a certain age group and may not be effective for older or younger students.

Before starting new approaches it is helpful to collect some form of baseline data, so that you know what school practice was like before the new approach. You can then compare this baseline to data that is collected later. Data from the W@S tools can be used to establish a baseline (see Using the W@S tools to review progress: info for Step 5). There may also be other sources of data that you might want to record and track (e.g., behaviour incident reports – see Using the W@S tools to collect data: info for Step 2).


Involving all staff, students, and the community in the process

Change is more likely to happen if the whole school community is on board. Enabling all members of the school community (staff, students, and parents and whānau) opportunities to lead or contribute to the activities in your action plan is one way of making change happen. Students can be involved in running activities for their peers, parents and whānau can co-ordinate community responses, and staff members can be responsible for different activities. Having a team approach supports new approaches to become embedded in school life.

Allocating extra resources

Consider how you will resource the actions in your plan. It can be difficult for teachers to fit extra responsibilities into their busy workloads without having extra time allocated. Consider:

  • Do review team members or leaders need to be given release or management time to plan, manage, and monitor new activities?
  • Does extra professional learning time need to be allocated for staff and planned into your school’s professional learning programme?
  • Do time and resources need to be allocated for community sessions?

Offering adequate learning opportunities

In the reports from evaluations of new education initiatives it is common to see phrases such as “in order to fully understand and implement the changes, all teachers would have benefitted from more PD”. Sometimes only a lead teacher is able to attend a course or professional learning sessions. It is important for these learnings to be shared more widely with all staff, and to provide adequate learning opportunities for all others involved (students, non-teaching staff, parents and whānau).

For example, if your school has decided to adopt a restorative approach, all staff will need professional learning time to discuss and debate the philosophy of restorative practices and learn strategies they can use (see the ideas about effective professional learning in the W@S modules). Likewise, you will need to plan how you will provide students with information about the new approach, how students will be taught strategies for dialoguing with each other, and how you will collect feedback from them about how it is working.

Research suggests that school approaches to health and wellbeing are more successful if parents and whānau are fully informed, and the school and the wider community work together. Consider:

  • How to share new approaches with parents and whānau to get their support and feedback (What are the successful strategies your school has used in the past? Some schools find home-school partnership sessions, which actively involve students are very effective. Students can model new approaches to parents and whānau which can then be used at home.)
  • How non-teaching staff can support school approaches to health and wellbeing (Administration personnel, nurses, bus drivers, and caretakers often have helpful insights into school culture. How will these staff be involved? Will they be included in professional learning sessions?)
  • How to work with local groups to spread change throughout the community (Are there local marae, churches, community groups, or sports clubs you could work with?)

What next?: Monitoring progress and using formative feedback

Like curriculum design and review, making changes to school approaches to health and wellbeing is best viewed as a cyclic process. This process also involves monitoring and making ongoing adjustments if necessary. This idea of making adjustments could be seen to be in tension with the need to implement new approaches as they were intended (discussed above). However, it should be possible to make minor changes to better suit the context of your school without altering the intent of a programme.

We suggest that you undertake a formative review of how you are tracking in relation to activities in your action plan at least every year or second year. As part of this process you could collect feedback from students, staff, parents and whānau.

For a formative review, it is important to explore perceptions and improve the effectiveness of the processes you are using. The sorts of questions that could be asked are:

  • Have we been able to start all planned activities? Did we allocate enough resources?
  • What is going well, and are there things that could be improved?
  • How engaged are people with the new approaches? Is everyone doing them?
  • To what extent does everybody have a shared understanding of what we are trying to achieve?
  • To what extent has everybody been able to access learning opportunities, and were these effective?
  • As well as feedback from those most involved in the process, it can be important to collect other data to assess the impact of the new approaches in your action plan.

The action plan template encourages you to think about what data you could collect. Repeating the W@S Student and Teacher Surveys, and the SSRT is one form of data.

A more formal review and revision of the action plan can occur every 3-5 years. For more information see Using the W@S tools to review progress - info for step 5.