Coaching impacts schools profoundly, transforming the culture and empowering the staff.
Our flagship coaching school East Park Academy in Wolverhampton has been named in the DfE top 100 most improved schools.
Hayley Guest, the Head Teacher and Leadership Edge Master coach writes about their journey from Special Measure to Outstanding and the role of coaching in her response back to the DfE:
“As a long standing advocate of coaching, I began to develop a coaching approach that enabled leaders, in the first instance, to be the best that they could be.
The Strategic team began to coach each member of the senior leadership team, providing them with a safe, confidential thinking space where they could explore whatever they wanted to explore, we describe this as ‘pure coaching’. This could be directly associated with their leadership role but could also be used to tackle personal challenges too.
The impact of this was felt immediately as we began to see leaders lead! By exploring their ideas and strategies, through coaching, they were able to act independently and were empowered to follow through with their considered strategies.
The voice of East Park was incredibly important throughout our journey, the voice of the children, the staff and our families. It sounds obvious but we talk to them all the time! In written form this is carried out at least once every half term. By actively engaging with everyone and actively listening, we were able to shape our school using our whole community and our coaching approach started to spread!"
How do I see coaching?
If coaching means anything, it needs to deliver positive change. I have personally found that coaching creates a structured opportunity for professional dialogue to play out where new solutions can be found in the safe haven of a thinking space whilst built on trust, relationship, openness and honesty. It is this golden thread that makes coaching so powerful in the development and empowerment of people, their thinking and their capacity.
I believe that when a school signs up and embraces the core principles of coaching thoughtful and committed relationships are forged with trust, respect, sensitivity to the emotions involved, then the culture of coaching can breed.
As part of the coaching journey ignited this year, I feel that coaching at Manor Primary is not just a ‘Buzz’ word but is now slowly beginning to be part of the culture in the ‘way we do things round here’ and ‘what staff talk about’. As part of the coaching this year, I can see the growth of staff who would have in the past, ‘passed on their monkey to senior leaders’ and now are growing in self-direction, taking increasing responsibility for their own choices with the skill and confidence to execute those choices to drive their own development. From this, a learning environment is created that has opened new doors to innovation, risk taking and positive change.
Through experience on both sides of the fence, I have found out that empowering staff through coaching rather than mentoring (telling them what to do) counselling or teaching, gives staff clarity of mind and pathways to grow through a ‘future focussed’ approach. This is instrumental in creating an environment where autonomy and ownership can significantly impact on school improvement.
I truly feel that coaching (at all levels) has the potential to bring about both significant improvements in performance and to unlock very positive and profound changes in ourselves and in others.
Master Coach at Manor Primary
We went from RI to Good!
Empowering others I feel is my favourite part of the coaching process. Seeing my colleagues grow in confidence and self-belief as they talk things through and realise that actually they aren’t as far away from their goals as they thought, or that they now have a clear plan or pathway to achieve their goal - I find really satisfying.
Empowering others so that they rely on their own skills and knowledge and not become passive learners has been critical.
I have to be honest and say that in some sessions I found myself offering ideas/advice and had to stop myself as I look at the image on the front of my file – ‘It’s not my monkey!’ J
It was also the realisation that actually I don’t know best and my coachees were all capable of coming up with their own ideas, plans or suggestions. I have gained so much information about each of the coachees and can honestly say in all cases my working relationships have improved as a result of honest conversation and a build-up of trust.
I would be very proud to gain Master level accreditation in the next academic year. I am aware that there is a commitment to share ideas and practices regularly and I feel this would be so valuable for myself personally and for our school.
Practitioner Coach at Abbey Primary School
Coaching in a school that Requires Improvement
Coaching above all has given me confidence. As a leader, I doubted my ability to create change. I had a number of important goals, goals I had had for a while but couldn’t see a way forward. I believe I had the leadership skills and knew what I wanted to achieve but at times couldn’t decide upon the best course of action. This resulted in me ignoring these issues rather than meeting them directly.
Being able to talk without judgment and in a confidential environment, meant that I could see a way forward. It made me realise that the task ahead was manageable and by breaking it up into sizable chunks meant that week on week I was able to achieve my goal. Each session built my confidence further allowing me to reflect upon what I had achieved already giving me a sense of achievement.
Each time I felt like giving up, I could hear my coach inside my head. I started thinking about what they would say to encourage. What questions would I be asked to help me reflect?
Change is beginning to occur within our school setting and I feel excited that I have been instrumental in that, but the biggest change has been within myself; I have developed the right mindset in order to have impact.
You need to approach the sessions with an open mind because until you take part, you do not appreciate how powerful they can be. I also found the first few sessions exhausting and emotionally draining. I felt this was because I was challenged and I found that following the sessions I continued to reflect and search within myself for the answers. I would advise them to be prepared for challenge, but be prepared for how empowered you will feel!
Foundation Stage Coach