The importance of buy-in: the push versus the pull

The difference between being dragged or pulled and being pushed is not just a semantic one. We all know and have worked with people who need one or the other, it isn’t often that you meet an individual who needs both. The same can’t be said of organisations or leadership teams where to sell your worth or project you need to be equally adept at doing both. When it comes to Careers and all the work that has been done to raise it’s importance, we shouldn’t really need to still have to do this. Why is it still the case that one of the main barriers to successfully implement change is getting buy-in with a leadership team? The more concerning but possibly understandable barrier is getting buy-in from staff…one thing is for sure here though, one comes after the other.

One of things that I found most frustrating about getting staff on board was the feeling that I needed to sell the importance of Careers education. That somehow providing young people with all the required information to better inform their choices was seen, at best as an extra curricular activity. At worst it was seen as an extravagance that we had little time for. As much as staff wouldn’t necessarily be turning cartwheels about the introduction of a new pedological approach, the whole concept of learning and teaching wasn’t needed to be sold to them. It feels at times that Careers Leaders/Co-ordinators need to be constantly reselling the importance of the work they do.

I can see three reasons for this:

  1. Their own personal experience or a lack of it from their times in school
  2. The experience of educational ‘fads’ (PLTs, learning styles, etc)*
  3. Leadership team/School culture

*the odd thing about these are that they are T&L approaches not pastoral. I can only imagine that the weariness developed because of these has a knock on effect

The truth is that breaking through to staff is made significantly easier if your leadership team and in turn school culture is in the right place, they are on board. The best schools/colleges and Careers programmes that I’ve come across are the ones where the leadership team are fully invested in the Careers and the transformational power of it. Schools like The Bourne Academy in Bournemouth, led by Principal Mark Avoth and Head of Careers & Aspirations Vicky Woodings. The Bourne Academy have years held firm in their belief in the power of Careers Education, when many schools were pulling back on their provision stood their ground. The school’s ASPIRE programme is the embodiment of their commitment to creating well rounded students who are well prepared for their futures. The ASPIRE model and it’s dovetailing with Careers are engrained in the school vision. They are of course not the only example, there are many schools out there who have this connection in place.

It is understandable, how ever misplaced, for a school leadership team to believe that putting all their eggs in the GCSE buckets is the most important thing for a school to do. Those who subscribe to the ideas that the cultural, foundation or pastoral aspects of education pale into significance to academic result. However, it’s true to say that the best schools find a way of balancing these things effectively. Those schools find ways of answering the question, ‘why are we learning this?‘ by offering young people a bridge from the present to the future – careers education is the Brunelian structure between learning and employment.

The symbiotic relationship between the academic and pastoral; the connection between the present and the future are fundamental to the success of both. There is an acknowledgement that greater success and achievement comes when staff and student have a deep understanding of academic, educational and employment pathways – how the present effects the future.

Now this might seem very grand for a Friday afternoon but I hold these principles at at my core. If you can get the most senior positions in your school to buy-in into this then that permeates through to staff.

There is so much more that needs to happen to make an impact with this. You can have all vision and ideas but without a comprehensive strategy for change and the operational support to implement it, you’ll be pushing without rewards or impact. However, setting the change and the need for change at the very top makes things significantly easier. You might find that the push comes back to you, people pushing for more information, for more support, for more celebration of success. The truth is that by getting people on board through them buying into your vision for change the busier you’re likely to be…for the time being at least.

The push is a better force for change than the pull. You push people to exceed their self imposed limitations. You push young people to believe they can achieve more than they thought they were able. You push people to believe in themselves.

2 thoughts on “The importance of buy-in: the push versus the pull

  1. Mike, I totally concur, there has to be buy-in from SLT for all staff get on board. Without this it is a daily relentless battle and just makes the job so much harder.


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