An examination of the approaches and effectiveness of internal and external change agents in building the capacity to implement a national improvement strategy in different schools

  • Sid Freeman

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This research arose out of a desire to improve understanding of the consultancy process and associated skills as they relate to national reform strategies. A review of literature on school improvement, change agents, capacity and capacity building led to the thesis that internal and external change agents may use similar skills, but capacity building would vary in different schools.

Evidence was gained from data gathered during an independent evaluation of the implementation of the Key Stage 3 Strategy Pilot (KS3). This national strategy was designed to 'transform' education for English secondary pupils aged 11-14, which was an early example of 'tri-level development', seeking to integrate accountability and capacity building through co-ordinated action at c1assroom/school, LEA and national levels. The research explored:

how change agents build capacity to implement an innovation;to what extent internal and external change agents work differently;whether change agents work differently in high and low capacity situations.

Evidence was gathered from four case study schools in two pilot local authorities; primarily through semi-structured interviews with school subject leaders and senior staff, KS3 consultants and line managers. The findings suggest that implementation was affected by senior and middle leaders; the emergence of new leadership patterns; and recruitment, retention and capacity of subject leaders. It was also influenced by LEA size, effectiveness and interpretation of their roles and responsibilities. The study identifies activities which helped and hindered capacity building and suggests that internal and external change agents adapt their approach to different contexts. Identification of very effective consultants also provided evidence that school and LEA expectations of support required to implement this Strategy exceeded those of the Government. A differentiated model of change agent intervention is proposed.

Date of Award10 Oct 2007
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorLouise Stoll (Supervisor) & Susan Martin (Supervisor)

Cite this