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Communication / Stakeholder Engagement for School Leaders

Stakeholder engagement is the process by which a school or organisation involves, consults or informs people who may be affected by decisions taken, or can influence the implementations and therefore success of those decisions and resulting change.

Stakeholders in education refers to anyone who an interest in the success and future direction of a school. Stakeholders can be individuals, groups or organisations that are directly impacted by the success of a school, such as its pupils, parents and staff, or might be indirectly impacted, such as the local community, employers or outside agencies. All stakeholders are impacted in some form and to varying degrees by the decisions taken by school leaders, so building stakeholder stakeholder engagement into decision making and change management is vital to maximise the conditions for effective and sustainable change.

The National Professional Qualification for Senior Leaders and the National Professional Qualification for Head Teachers both require a stakeholder engagement or communications plan to support the school improvement project. Knowing where to start with this process can be a challenge, but a methodical approach will ensure that this document is purposeful and feeds directly into the success of the project. It must start with focusing on who the stakeholders are, in the context of the project, and the level of interest in and impact on its success.

The process of identifying stakeholders and evaluating their importance to a specific change project is known as stakeholder mapping. and is a well-known and well-used technique in both the private and public sector. The under-pinning philosophy of stakeholder engagement is that stakeholders or interested parties will work more harmoniously in the interests of the organisation if they feel valued and included in the planning or decision making process. The extent to which school leaders consult or include relevant stakeholders will depend on the extent to which they are impacted by, or have impact on the decision making and resulting change. The process of deciding who, what and how to consult and/or inform starts with stakeholder mapping and includes identification, analysis, prioritisation and engagement.

At WGLA, we encourage participants on our NPQ programmes to use an ‘Influence-Interest Matrix’ as the first step in creating their communications/engagement strategy.

‘Influence-Interest Matrix’

‘Influence-Interest Matrix’

Step one of the process is to identify who the relevant stakeholders are in the context of the project. It is often helpful to think about this in terms of who are the internal/external stakeholders, or who are those who contribute to or who are affected by the project.

Step two is the analysis. This step is important because it recognises that different stakeholders pose a different level of threat or opportunity to the success of your project or initiative. This is where the matrix comes in useful as leaders are encouraged to think carefully about how much interest each stakeholder has in the project, versus how much influence they have over its success.

Step three is to use the completed matrix to prioritise your stakeholders and decide how to manage your communications with them. Your wouldn’t want to, or be able to manage all stakeholders closely, so the matrix helps school leaders to differentiate their method, message and frequency of communication strategically.

The final step is the engagement or communication plan. Your communication plan provides a documented strategy based on your stakeholder mapping (identification, analysis and prioritisation). Your communications / engagement strategy should clearly set out who you intend to communicate with/ engage (stakeholder or stakeholder group), your objectives in communicating (to keep informed, to gain support, to consult etc), the message content, method and timing.

If you are interested in completing your NPQML, SL or H through South Bromsgrove High Teaching School, please visit the WGLA website here