Whole School Change: A Literature Review

Author: Pat Thomson

Institution: University of Nottingham

Full reference: Thomson, P. (2010) Whole School Change: A Literature Review. 2nd ed. Newcastle: Creativity, Culture and Education

Summary of key findings

This literature review teases out some of the issues that sit beneath the term ‘whole school change’. It is not a comprehensive review of the ‘evidence’, but a focused synthesis of material judged to be relevant to all those involved and interested in the Creative Partnerships programme and its approach. The review begins from the premise that English schools have been engaged in a serious and intensive school improvement programme for quite some time.

This review surveys both the reasons why people engage in school change and the main processes describing how such change occurs. The author questions
assumptions about the purpose of change as well as getting us to think about
how we evaluate change and demonstrate its permanence.

The report offers a serious and robust review of change theory, which should be of use to all practitioners and educators who have ambitions to effect structural and systemic change. It concludes that whole school change is a complex and somewhat unstable notion. However, it finds widespread agreement that:

  • there is no single recipe for change;
  • it requires action at the local level, but also support from outside; and
  • it takes time, usually longer than is anticipated.


Literature Review

Read the review.