Why was Leadership Edge established?
I have been coaching since 2004 when I took a 12 month part time Post Graduate Certificate in Coaching. At this time coaching was unheard of in the teaching profession and stayed much that way until in 2010 Rachel Lofthouse (Leeds Becket University) shared her thinking in a National College of School Leadership Publication. The following decade has seen an emergence in the popularity of coaching in school and many leaders have the word coaching in their job descriptions. Surprisingly some fifteen+ years on, we still have no regulated coaching system and literally anyone can call themselves a coach…and many do!
Training for school coaches can vary from a half day, to may be two days of training, with no follow up or supervision. I continue to find many teachers/leaders who find it a challenge to differentiate between coaching, mentoring , challenge and support and professional dialogue.
For several years I led a half termly twilight session over a school year of coaching skills, who attended? Support staff or admin staff, for whom little professional development existed at the time, some early career teachers, no leaders! They had their own suite of leadership development programmes. The evaluations were frustrating, the essence being “Loved the sessions, no one in school is very interested in talking to me about them!” I stopped the delivery!
As my frustrations with the quality of school-centred coach training grew, taking action became a matter of now or never. The now came in 2018!
I had wonderful opportunities in 2009 through NPQH and then in 2017 SSIF (The Strategic School Improvement Fund) to deliver 1-1 leadership coaching, but coaching needed a structure for leaders to build upon.
The What and the How
From my Learning Community days (2002-2006) I had coached an emergent and subsequently a designated head teacher, Hayley Guest, through her first headship. In mid autumn term 2015 there was a game changer as Hayley took her second headship of a three form primary school that was in the process of becoming an academy (she called in Ofsted as soon as she took up post in her ‘good school!”) In February 2016, just weeks after taking up post in January 2016, Ofsted came and the (unsurprising) special measures journey began. As a coaching advocate, Hayley continued to use her monthly coaching sessions to unpick and re-create East Park Primary in Wolverhampton.
What emerged was a system of training coaches, starting with SLT and then middle leaders, with built in supervision and ongoing learning. As the school went through its transformation, a coaching culture emerged that became significant in the process of rebuilding a broken school.
Substantive staff were empowered through in school systems such as lesson study and MAT moderation sessions, through participation in a spectrum of leadership programmes from “First Steps” to NPQH. Trained in school coaches held weekly 30 minute sessions for those new staff or emergent leaders and in September 2018, coaching was opened up to all staff at East Park who wanted to participate.
With a team of 8 trained in school coaches, 27 staff volunteered to participate in coaching, both teaching and support staff. It was important that coaching was seen as inclusive “The way we do things round here.” The system we had created at East Park, was such that to be a coach you have to have a coach. This wasn’t going to change! We talent spotted leaders to step up their training and what emerged became the coach training system that became the Leadership Edge 3 tier programme, that we now offer to schools who want to create their own structured and sustainable coaching culture.
In December 2018, East Park Academy was awarded Coaching Mark Gold, this was, in my opinion, well deserved. Then in June 2019, Ofsted returned and East Park was formally recognised as outstanding with coaching at the heart of their mantra of “Growing hearts and minds.”
There was a challenge in the school workplace, instructional coaching (a directive coaching model) was being used to raise attainment. Leadership Edge purpose was to provide a non-directive model of coaching, one that values both people and results. We now refer to our model as PURE coaching. Each Leadership Edge coaching session, is purely the agenda of the coachee.
Creating the Leadership Edge Associate Team
In 2018 with the East Park journey well underway and results now speaking for themselves, others were becoming curious as to how this progress was enabled.
With the support of my own coach and co-founder Hugh Todd, and with the knowledge passion and skills of a small team of school colleagues who were equally frustrated and committed to the value of establishing a sustainable coaching culture. These hand picked leaders were invited to become associates alongside Hayley and myself. The criteria was that all associates would have or have had a senior school leadership role and that those without a formal coaching qualification from a recognised body, would first undergo our own 3 tier accreditation programme, that had emerged from the East Park journey.
Since September 2018, thirty-five schools have joined us on our journey, over one hundred people have now gained Foundation Coach status, a further fifty nine have or are currently working towards Practitioner Coach and twenty one people at or working towards Master Coach.
The journey continues, we are happy to have conversation with you and explore if our mission resonates with you.