Three types of transition that local systems have experienced

When writing our evolving education system “temperature check” research report, we reflected on the different types of transitions that the local systems had made and were still making in response to the changing education landscape.

In the report, we concluded that changes in the make-up of school types within local systems largely reflected how effectively the transition to a more autonomous, schools-led local education system had been led. In other words, the make-up of school types was not the sole cause of change in the local system, but was actually one of the effects of the way in which change had been approached and led.

We found that there were four main factors that shaped the transition:

  • perceived quality of local authority education services and access to alternatives;

  • strength of connections among schools, and between schools, the local authority and other local partners;

  • past performance of the system; and

  • leadership of change.

Based on the way these factors featured in the local systems, we identified three types of transition of a local education system.

  • Timely adapters – systems in which local authority services are highly regarded by schools, with a history of encouraging partnership-working, that are mostly high-performing systems, and in which change to a schools-led system was already underway and/or has been led pro-actively, with local authorities and schools working together to create the space and conditions for schools to lead the transition.

  • Slow movers – systems with historically higher levels of intervention in schools, in which local authority services are seen by schools as weak or variable in quality, that are mostly lower-performing systems, and that have been slower in adapting to change or where the leadership of change has been ineffective.

  • Sudden reactors – systems with different starting points, but the same end goal in mind: namely that local authority services should diminish, regardless of quality, and that school partnerships should lead, regardless of their maturity. Change has been dictated and driven quickly, with pace outweighing precision in planning and engagement with school leaders, and without creating the conditions for schools to lead a successful transition.


No local system can be pigeon-holed into type of transition. Indeed, many straddle the boundaries of two transitions, and different aspects within one system may be experiencing different types of transition.

Do these descriptions capture the key aspects of the transition your local education system has experienced or is experiencing? Which aspects of your local system match which of these three types of transition? Tweet us @IsosPartnership.

Leigh Sandals