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Creating an Outstanding School - Some of our case studies that showcase the power of coaching:-

Featherstone High School - Coaching Case Study

Featherstone High School continue to run a successful coaching programme. Emma Harvey who has driven this process from the beginning has updated us on the new and innovative strategies that have been added to the coaching model over the past few months.

Coaching is the primary foundation for staff development across school in many ways.

We now have in place:

  • a 7 strong team of 'Expert Coaches', all of whom have had extensive externally led "coaching supervision" sessions about recent strategies they've used with their coaches. The 'Expert Coaches' are a team that all school staff can call upon at any point in the year to have one-off, or ongoing, confidential coaching sessions with. A large number, and a wide range of staff from SLT, to teaching staff, to members of the admin team, have pro-actively opted in throughout the year. These coaches are developed by an internal coaching supervisor throughout the year to ensure they're development is ongoing.
  • A system whereby staff, who are highlighted during observations by school leaders as needing support, are given a coach to work with them confidentially until progress is maintained.
  • Confidentiality contracts are in place for all participants of a coaching conversation, which are also signed by the Senior Leadership team; the school trusts in the value of coaching without the need to monitor individual conversations in any way.
  • A 'Coaching Toolkit' has been created and provided to all those involved in coaching, and e-copies are on our school's interactive internet site.
  • Coaching self-assessment systems, used termly by all Lead Coaches (who lead the departmental Peer Coaching programme).
  • All staff who conduct any form of feedback are trained and directed to use a coaching approach wherever possible.
  • A CPD group of 5 opt in staff who are developing their own research and development project on using coaching strategies with staff and / or pupils.
  • A resource bank for teachers called 'Coaching in the Classroom'.

"Together we achieve" is the motto of Featherstone High School and this message is integral to the vision of a highly effective whole school coaching programme that ensures all staff are working towards a shared vision of outstanding learning and teaching in all subjects and outside the classroom.

The history of the coaching programme for Featherstone High School is documented below:-

Initially Emma and two members of her team attended the Learning Cultures' 'Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning' one day event where they were introduced to the basic principles of coaching as a tool for educational change and continuing professional development.

Emma and her colleague Claire Haynes then attended a second Learning Cultures training day Advanced Coaching to further develop and hone their coaching skills in order that they could use their learning to begin to take the coaching model back into school.

They were rewarded with an Outstanding OFSTED grade in February of last year. OFSTED cited the coaching programme in their report.


"Subject leaders manage the extensive and effective coaching programme in all subjects well. The impact is that teachers are outstanding practitioners and enable students to achieve their best"

The coaching programme was launched in September 2015 with a team of 24 coaches from across all departments who were chosen to lead the process. Their training was in association with middle leadership training with an emphasis on coaching. The training was led by Emma and her team using the messages, materials and resources from the Learning Cultures' training sessions.

This led to the formulation of a plan to take forward the coaching as a tool for improving teaching and learning through ongoing coaching sessions and use of professional dialogue that highlighted good and outstanding practice and allowed individuals to reflect on their own practice and how they could improve and support others to develop.

This was undertaken within departments where the initial team of 24 worked closely with their colleagues to support them through coaching in order to facilitate reflection and self-improvement and to support coaches to further develop their coaching skills.

Learning Cultures provided a further half days training in-house for the initial 24 coaches providing them with the opportunity to reflect on their progress so far and have the opportunity for some further coaching skills practice and reflection.

We also provided an introduction to coaching for a further group of staff within the school who want to be the next group of teachers and managers to develop their coaching skills thus beginning the process of rippling the coaching out across the whole school.

Emma and her small team have continued to co-ordinate on-going support and time for triads to work together to continue to develop as coaches and to provide support for their teams.

As part of the programme Emma and her team have introduced to following:-
  • Peer to peer observation
  • Triads to develop coaching skills
  • A regular coaching bulletin
  • Further twilight training
  • Pupil peer coaching
  • Continuing coaching conversations
  • Ongoing leadership and coaching support
  • A staff guide for coaching and teaching and learning
  • A bespoke set of monitoring, reflection and evaluation tools

Emma and her team have put together an impressive programme that continues to develop and is having a significant impact on how the school is maintaining its outstanding status and creating real opportunities for staff to grow and develop in their roles as leaders, managers and teachers.


Marjorie McClure Special School, Chislehurst Kent

Marjorie McClure Special School is a 3 – 18 state special school for pupils with physical and medical needs or for children who have multiple to moderate learning difficulties. The school was last inspected by OFSTED in September 2014 and was judged to be a good school overall. Before the inspection Learning Cultures trained the whole staff including teaching assistants and support staff in the principles and skills of coaching. We worked closely with the management team to advise them on how they could introduce a whole school coaching programme as part of the vision to improve the impact of performance management strategies in the school.

The Headteacher and senior leadership team wanted to create a less top down performance management process where the focus was on what works well and how teachers and their support staff could work together to learn from each other, share good practice and reflect on how their own teaching, intervention or support impacts on learning over time.

The purpose of lesson observation was an essential part of the review process.

It was necessary to change the perception that observing a lesson was about giving a grade and finding out what was weak or unsatisfactory to a process where the teacher is part of the process and learns from the feedback given what they need to do to improve or grow to further improve their teaching and the impact their teaching has on learning.


Over time lesson observation has changed and is now a fundamental part of the school’s strategy for ensuring a sustainable and successful continuing professional development (CPD) programme where teachers choose the lessons that .they would like a line manager or senior leader to come to see is not one that they feel comfortable with but one where the expertise of a more experienced practitioner or leader may help the teacher to try out new approaches, use different pedagogy and be innovative. Lesson observation and its related feedback is now seen as a very positive part of a culture where professional dialogue and the use of reflective feedback and coaching improves teaching and learning. This also creates a much more trusting relationship between line managers and the professionals they manage.

Kirsty and her team of coaches continue to work closely with our own coaching team.  We have recently run a coaching session focusing on how to use coaching to support a more supportive dialogue with parents especially when the conversation may be difficult.  This was a lively session and everyon gained a lot from it.  We have also recently spent a Saturday in school working with a team of volunteer support staff developing their coaching skills so that they can become Coaching Ambassadors for the school.


The Catholic School at Gergory the Great, Cheltenham

St Gregory the Great school is a large urban primary school in Gloucestershire. The senior leadership team's plan was to develop a coaching model to improve teaching and learning. However, the first positive and significant impact they have observed since adopting some of the coaching principles has been seen through the development of cross-phase professional relationships.  Through the use of coaching, they are raising the social capital of the organisation. The Headteacher wanted the coaching model to be introduced through the tier of middle leadership.  In this way the focus is on the development of a much more collaborative approach across year groups and subject disciplines.  Opportunities to share what works well, build a culture where teachers from across the school focus on their strengths and what they do well has given staff much more ownership of their own learning and the way they teach in the classroom

The programme is now in it's third year and is a significant part of the plan for whole school improvement.  All staff have been involved in the process of reflection where every member of the school plays a part in regular monitoring and review. Inevitably, it has not always gone to plan but the Headteacher feels that all staff do have ownership of the process and value the impact it has on their own professional development.  The model they have now is very different to the model they expected to have at the outset and this is purely because any feedback from staff on what works well for them and what doesn't has been taken on board.

In year 1 the staff moved from paired coaching sessions to the TRIAD approach (working in threes with an observer who can feed back as to the value of the coaching session).  Practise and time were essential to the process and in year 2 more specific time was allocated  - this included staff meeting time and some time to shadow each other in lesson time.  In year 3 all school staff, including teaching partners, will be trained.


There is also a designated one and a half hours given to the coaching TRIADs each term- these sessions are conducted offsite, away from school so that staff feel they can really focus on what is important to them without being disturbed.

There is an on-going review of the skills staff are using linked to coaching, teaching and learning and the softer skills with pupils.  Initially, this has been the sharing and reviewing of good coaching practice.  One key ingredient that has been seen as positive for all staff is the live action coaching sessions (led by an expert from the Governing Body) - members of  SLT put themselves forward to be coached and this has helped to build a sense of trust and equity amongst those involved.

The coaching process has to date been a trusted and confidential part of the school's work. Nothing more than a individual's ultimate goals were shared to monitor personal outcomes.  As the staff do become more confident with the process the Headteacher believes that this will successfully feed into performance management but is happy that this journey is already reaping significant improvements in staff morale, overall performance development and the sharing and cascading of good and outstanding practice.


Linwood Teaching Schools Alliance

Linwood Teaching Schools Alliance have embraced the coaching model as part of their school improvement plan to improve collaboration across the schools in the alliance, tap good and outstanding practice and build a CPD strategy for the TSA. 

The model we adopted for the alliance was to firstly train the senior leaders from each of the schools. We focused on the principles of coaching and their efficacy in supporting a sustainable and cost-effective approach to professional learning for each individual school and the alliance as a whole.  Leaders met three times for half day sessions to share their successes and learn from each other as a coaching culture developed across a group of very different schools.

The SLT from each school decided who would be the coaching ambassadors who could take the programme forward.  These individuals were either chosen by SLT or they asked for volunteers from across their staff.  Most schools chose to ask for volunteers with some control so that the right team would lead this programme.

The ambassadors then attended three full day coaching training sessions over the three terms of the last academic year.  These were a mixture of learning and reflecting on how the programme was progressing in each of their respective schools.


Without exception the ambassadors felt that the opportunity to develop their coaching skills and work with their colleagues back in school to use coaching as a powerful tool for staff development as well as improving classroom practice was invaluable. 

All those who took part in the training felt that it has had a positive impact on their own professional work especially using their coaching skills in the classroom and as part of sharing and cascading good and outstanding practice with their peers.

We also ran a separate training session for NQT mentors to learn how to give positive feedback to their mentees.  This session was extremely well received and those who attended have used coaching extensively in supporting new teachers at the beginning of their journey.

For all those involved from senior leaders to NQT mentors the positive impact of better collaboration has been significant.  The development of coaching skills has also helped them to grow in their own role and have the confidence to try out new techniques and ideas in the classroom and beyond.


Stowford School, Ivybridge Devon

We went into Stowford school in Devon late last year to work with the senior leadership team (SLT) and some guest leaders from a nearby school to work with them to focus on how the SLT could work together to develop a whole school coaching programme that would contribute to strengthening an already positive attitude to the sharing and cascading of good and outstanding practice. Click here to download the powerpoint presentation that documents their journey so far and gives an insight into some of the other coaching programmes we have developed with primary schools. Stowford have used a model where the senior leadership team are learning how to coach in order that the team can then work closely with individuals in school to support them in focusing on an issue or area of improvement.


So far it is going very well. One of the simple successes is that they have given every one who is either coaching or being coached a leather bound notebook to keep a log of their coaching and reflections that come from it.

This has provided all those who are involved with a diary of their journey so far and a visual record of how they are progressing and how the process they are undertaking is impacting on their own professional learning and the quality of their practice in the classroom.


St Cecilia’s School, Southfields, London

Victoria Gallagher from St Cecilia’s School in Southfields, London is leading the coaching programme in her school. She started her journey by going on a coaching course herself hosted by the Coaching Academy, this is an organisation that is not essentially for educators but non-the-less valuable as a starting point. Victoria has since attended our Leading a Coaching School training course which is aimed at senior leaders who are looking to embed coaching.

Since then she has been very busy establishing coaching within the school. The focus as a starting point has been to develop the skills of a group of nine Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) who have been trained in how to use the GROW model with SEND children and with the teachers they support. They are going to partner this group of LSAs with the Educational Psychology service so that there is a process of positive and professional dialogue for those pupils in need or at risk.

The second strand to establishing the beginnings of a coaching culture has been to establish a group of four volunteer teachers who are working with the current NQTs within the school. These teachers are seen as the coaching champions who will continue to develop their coaching skills and then they will be given the role of training all of the middle leaders across the schools. The vision is to see this as an integral part of a whole school cost effective and sustainable CPD strategy.


The training has been in house and has benefited from the resources and materials that Victoria has used as part of her training with us and with the Coaching Academy. There has been opportunities for training ‘on the job’ ensuring that the team who are learning how to coach are secure in the use of the GROW model. They are being given support from Victoria who is using a set of core competences to measure their progress.

One of the barriers that she has identified so far is ensuring the coaches acknowledge the limiting beliefs of the NQTs in their own ability where some may be feeling that they are not good enough. There is a clear understanding that it is ok to move back into mentoring when the NQT is feeling vulnerable.

Another aspect of the programme is for is the use of coaching as part of establishing activities linked to ‘Growth Mindset’ theory with members of the sixth form. This is designed to develop their emotional resilience. This is being rolled out as a series of twilight tutorial sessions. There is a clear link between the theory of Growth Mindsets and coaching and Victoria sees this as an integral part of creating a coaching culture.