How do leaders and managers foster an ethos where influential professional learning conversations lead to positive and highly visible change? The answer is to create a coaching culture where each individual knows the part he or she can play in achieving the vision, intent and rationale for curriculum innovation and pedagogical improvement.
“Coaching is empowering people by facilitating self-directed learning, personal growth and improved performance”
Coaching is about building trust where staff can use their imagination, channel their energies and share ideas. The coaching conversation provides an opportunity for two or more individuals to work together to find solutions and build strategies that lead to positive change. Coaching is non-judgemental and non-directive so that all staff are able feel empowered in taking the initiative and the responsibility for achieving their own clearly articulated goals and targets.
“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them”
When individuals learn how to coach, they change their approach to professional interaction with others and begin to have much more control over the outcomes and impact of the strategies that are planned and implemented. This is so powerful in education. Individual staff are emboldened to want to find the solution and not to dwell on the problem.
“Telling or asking a closed question saves people from having to think. Asking open questions causes them to think for themselves”
The power lies in the learning. Learning how to listen actively and incisively. Learning how to ask open and deeply rich questions linked to what is being said or inferred. Learning how to be patient and sometimes silent in the quest for collective ownership and the successful solving and resolving of issues and problems. Learning how to challenge but be objective and fair. Learning how to focus on the positives and find strengths in self and others.
“If I give you my advice and it fails, you will blame me. I have traded my advice for your responsibility and that is seldom a good deal”
Developing a coaching approach builds a learning culture where collaboration ultimately leads to the sharing and cascading of ideas, of good practice and of innovation and achievement. All staff are able to communicate through motivational dialogue the part they play in achieving the stated vision. They articulate and celebrate their successes and don’t dwell on when things go wrong but focus on how they can learn from the situation and move forward. Every school or college has a wealth of potential to achieve great things. Untap the talent that is within every individual that has chosen to belong to an education community by giving them a chance to learn how to be a coach.
The coaching courses Learning Cultures offer are designed as a CPD journey. For leaders to plan a strategy, for middle leaders to implement a coaching culture, for teachers who can learn together and use coaching as a powerful pedagogy in the classroom; for Teaching Assistants and support staff who can learn how to nurture and challenge using coaching; for Cover Supervisors to help them have the presence to be more confident when the teacher is not present.
Quotes are attributable to John Whitmore and Bresser and Wilson. All our courses are built on extensive sector led research. We have created an approach that ensures those who attend can take all the resources back to their colleagues to share and cascade their learning.
Coaching in education is a powerful pedagogy. Creating the right culture for change is far easier to manage where coaching principles are a part of the process. Coaching is solutions focused, builds on what already works well and highlights the positive.
The current imperative to look closely at the curriculum and how it is designed and delivered has many elements that all need expert leadership and careful management. Research from OFSTED is helping to explain some of the drivers for change but does not necessarily provide the answers to how that change might be implemented effectively across all phases, year groups and subjects. Learning how to coach can provide all staff with the skills, self-belief and self-awareness that will help them to have the confidence to innovate and give them the tools and skills to shape a new future together with their teams, their colleagues and their pupils.
“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them”
It is clear from reports and experiences from those who have recently been visited by OFSTED that inspectors are not spending much time interviewing the head or the senior leadership team, they are heading into the classroom, talking to teachers and to pupils, reviewing how the curriculum content is determined, sequenced and assessed and looking closely at the quality of output from pupils. They want to see the expertise of leadership as a part of the learning process and how that leadership translates into a high quality, deep and rich curriculum delivered by highly trained and well-informed practitioners.
Where coaching is the driver for change there are superb opportunities for professional dialogue where individuals can share their planning, look for cross-curricular opportunities and collaborate about pedagogy, progression and learning. Where teachers learn how to coach, they also have a repertoire of skills including deep and rich questioning strategies, influencing techniques and active listening skills that will reap outstanding opportunities for progression and deeper learning in the classroom.
Create a learning culture through coaching and be safe in the knowledge that there is outstanding learning emerging from a deep and rich curriculum and through a shared dialogue and commitment to continuous improvement. We have designed a coaching culture with a series of coaching courses for all staff working in education.
My overarching message is for all schools to realise the value of strategic thinking that ensures that it is the curriculum and how it is delivered that creates outstanding teaching and learning. There is an imperative for all schools to pull together the strands that weave a seamless and sequenced curriculum. The principles are the same for every phase of education, once those principles are defined the content can be woven to ensure progression and deep learning lead to successful outcomes for all learners.
The phrase ‘deep dive’ is well used by advisors, OFSTED inspectors and inevitably by trainers like ourselves. What do they actually mean and what do they actually achieve? Read my news-post Preparing for Subject Specific Deep Dive Conversations and Observations and our latest newsletter, where we have looked in some detail at the implications of these activities. We have taken the research and developed a suite of highly successful and practical courses and opportunities for INSET. They have been extremely well-received.
We want to stress in our capacity as advisors and coaches to the education profession that this isn’t about OFSTED or any other inspectorate. It is an opportunity to review your curriculum, focus on the rationale for what is to be included and have a clear perspective on what pupils already know and will learn in order that they thrive in the future. It is essential that we see change as a powerful opportunity to empower all staff to focus on how they influence learning. The key focus has to be on highly- effective and well-structured CPD for everyone who has a part to play in planning and delivering the curriculum.
There are three parts to ensuring that leaders, managers, teachers and support staff all have the training to ensure they can create depth, breadth and a continuum of learning linked to their own detailed and profoundly well thought through curriculum vision and rationale and these are,
We have training for senior leaders that sets out the strategy for change and provides a wealth of practical tools to use with senior teams.
We have an outstanding course for subject leaders, Heads of Department or curriculum managers that will prepare all those who attend with the tools and knowledge to ensure any spotlight will reveal the implementation of high quality curriculum outputs.
We have courses that focus on primary and secondary assessment and that look closely at how to develop a culture where quality assurance is every member of staff’s responsibility.
Reviews following on from our training rate the quality of the materials and the resources we provide as outstanding. We publish reviews alongside the relevant courses on our website. Work with us, we are the experts and we can help you to create a culture of positive change.
Lead powerful change by creating a team of skilled coaching and curriculum ambassadors or champions using Learning Cultures’ Certification Programme.
The current imperative is to ensure that the curriculum is consistently delivered to mirror the leadership’s clearly defined rationale and ambition. This needs a clarity of purpose across all subjects, year groups, phases and stages. Developing a coaching culture for your school or college is without doubt the most powerful way to cascade positive and consistent improvements in pedagogy, pupil outcomes and team delivery. Coaches develop a range of skills that motivate others, encourage self-reflection and that focus on the positive. It is through these qualities that coaches can support others to begin to use the professional and motivational dialogue that will create measurable and tangible results for all staff and all pupils.
Sustaining a culture of change through coaching has been the guiding principle that has led us to develop this coaching programme for schools and colleges to use. We will train a group of individuals over an academic year, ideally a group of six or nine, who will have the opportunity to be a part of three training sessions, a series of self-directed twilight sessions and a commitment to undertake 30 hours coaching with colleagues. This will lead to certification endorsed by the Association for Coaching. Those who embark on a coaching journey won’t turn back, coaches inspire ambition, encourage challenge and foster innovation.
Choose the first group of Coaching Ambassadors who want to develop as coaches and begin your journey towards ensuring a high-quality learning experience for all. Have a look at the programme in detail below.
The Certificate in Coaching Competence – A journey in coaching
We have a whole range of other coaching courses providing something for all staff. All our training is designed so that it can be disseminated to others after the event. Training is never a stand-alone experience, where it is shared it has far more impact on the individual, the learner, teams and the whole school.
Taking a look at the most recent OFSTED reports where inspectors have been into schools this term makes interesting reading. There are several entries where schools have been judged inadequate or requiring improvement who were previously outstanding or good. The change of emphasis to a much deeper dive into the way the curriculum is planned, sequenced and assessed is clear in the improvement strategies these schools are invited to address. I have listed here several quotes that are typical of what is deemed to be missing,
“The school’s curriculum is not sufficiently sequenced and coherent. The breadth of the National Curriculum is not covered in all subjects.”
“Leaders need to make sure that the curriculum is planned so that teachers can build pupils’ knowledge sequentially, over time, allowing them the learn more and remember more.”
“The curriculum is poorly planned and taught. Pupils do not gain enough skills and knowledge of subjects outside reading, writing and mathematics.”
“Improve the effectiveness of leadership by ensuring that learning in the wider curriculum is carefully sequenced so that pupils make good progress within topics and year on year.”
“Improvements should be made by developing the curriculum, in both the core and the wider curriculum subjects, so that it is well planned, builds on prior knowledge and understanding, meets the needs and interests of all pupils and enables them to achieve well.”
The messages could not be clearer. There is a sharp focus on curriculum sequencing, building on prior learning and planning to ensure pupils develop deep knowledge and skills across all their learning. I could have included several other quotes about issues relating to assessment and the concern about subject knowledge and subject expertise as well as issues about how the curriculum is taught but this is a news post and not an essay.
Over the past few months we have followed the development of curriculum research, commentary on curriculum design and finally the publication of the latest OFSTED handbook for schools in a series of news posts and comments. You can read the story so far here. We have developed some outstanding resources and tools to support leadership teams, curriculum managers and subject leaders to plan and deliver a deeply knowledge rich and skills focused curriculum. We have focused on how to make this happen using practical approaches and well-researched strategies that are receiving high praise. Our training is practical and solutions focused and is based on the principles of coaching. There is no better way to cascade outstanding practice and build a culture of professional dialogue that is shared across the whole school.
Have a look at our website for the many other training courses that are both relevant and will enhance the CPD potential in your school. We run superb INSET training or off-site courses. There is something for all the staff in your school or college.
I am Glynis Frater, the founder of Learning Cultures, a leading provider of coaching and other professional development services for the education profession. I have followed the developments that have unfolded as Amanda Spielman has slammed the lack of attention many schools have given to ensuring pupils have access to a broad and balanced, deep and rich curriculum. She is right, of course, but she isn’t a head of a school battling with the only accountability measures that currently count at the end of key stage 1, 2 and key stage 4.
Let’s take what she says at face value, change needs to take time (this is an evolution not a revolution). There is a need to focus on communication, collaboration and professional learning conversations, (OFSTED want to listen and communicate with school leaders, middle leaders and teachers), the subject specialist, subject leader, subject expert is at the heart of ensuring changes to how we deliver the curriculum can make a difference, (content, concept, knowledge and the skills that help pupils access them are the key to building this deep and rich curriculum offer) so subject teams must work together effectively to create sequential learning that ensures all pupils, whatever their ability, achieve their full potential.
The team at Learning Cultures has been working hard, deepening our own knowledge of the research, creating innovative resources and creating solutions focused training materials. The work we do here and the messages within our training echo many of the indicators that OFSTED have based their new handbook on. We have not changed any of our programmes, courses or support packages to accommodate the new handbook and the messages from OFSTED because many of our messages and the skills and knowledge we bring already mirror the philosophies and indicators that are simply good practice and embody the characteristics of a good or outstanding school
Read the news-posts that I have written, week by week I have followed the unfolding change in emphasis for how schools should be judged. They are all on our webisite, Since Christmas, these have included,
Have a look at our curriculum courses that challenge you to re-think your curriculum strategy, delivery models and clearly stated impact. Then focus on our coaching programmes and decide to make the decision to use coaching to create the culture that will ensure high quality professional dialogue drives positive change where all staff know how the curriculum intent delivers a learning strategy for all the pupils they teach, provides them with the time and resources to create that innovative, creative and deep content that will build on learning over time and design the blueprint for all pupils to have the skills they need for the next stages of their education. Add in our teaching and learning courses that are designed to foster outstanding pedagogy, raise the bar on assessment and focus on how to ensure knowledge and skills weave a positive curriculum offer.
Key elements of a coaching culture
Coaching is all about positive dialogue that drives change. A school is a place where experts in pedagogy, assessment, learning and thinking all contribute to the successful outcomes the school sets out to achieve. Coaching brings that expertise together to ensure that it is shared and disseminated to ensure outstanding continuous improvement for all staff.
The current imperative to focus on a sequenced curriculum that builds on prior learning and ensures deep understanding and readiness for the next stage requires high levels of collaboration.
- Leaders and their senior teams need to work together to define the intent and rationale. They need to be ambitious in their vision to ensure that all pupils receive a deep and rich learning experience
- Middle leaders need to have the skills to disseminate the vision, communicate the rationale and empower individuals in their teams to be innovative in how they plan for change
- Subject leaders and specialists need to focus on how to weave the skills and knowledge that build a sequential tapestry of learning that will motivate and inspire pupils
- Teachers from across the subject spectrum must have the confidence and self-belief to plan and deliver high quality pedagogy that drives a learning culture. Creating opportunities for teachers to focus on the pedagogy that creates independent, active and participative learners can be achieved through developing for them a range of coaching skills, a pedagogy for learning
Coaching has the power to change perceptions of self, to create opportunities for innovation, to build a culture that puts learning at the heart of the school’s vision and to ensure a consistency of purpose that involves everyone.
Trying to implement change without an effective model is difficult. Try a coaching approach and success is nearer than you think. The sequenced courses below will provide the perfect starting point for a journey that you won’t turn back from. Our full coaching programme provides further training opportunities that are all linked to creating an outstanding learning culture. Have a look here.
You may also like to attend one of our highly praised and well-reserached courses that focus on reflecting on and re-defining the curriculum to ensure the breadth and depth that OFSTED have placed such an emphasis on.
The third phase of OFSTED’s research into curriculum intent, implementation and impact is detailed, evidence based and provides a lot of information for leaders in primary and secondary schools. We discussed in our last news-post that the research highlights 25 indicators they have used to test whether it is possible to assess curriculum quality across a range of different school types. In this post I wanted to focus on how these indicators provide a positive starting point for headteachers and their teams to assess their readiness for leading an evolution that will ensure their current and future strategies continue to deliver high quality education for all.
Putting the spotlight on the curriculum gives all leaders across the education spectrum an opportunity to reflect on their own understanding of their curriculum rationale and how that translates into a set of centrally prescribed curriculum aims that are ambitious, deliver depth and breadth of learning and ensure the acquisition of knowledge, the development of relevant skills and allow for sequential progression.
The research highlights the critical importance of how this is communicated in order to ensure high levels of accountability of subject leaders and teachers in ensuring they have evidence of informed planning, equitable delivery, progression and depth of content.
The indicators underpin a series of fundamentals that are essential to effective leadership and how the communication of a vision, a rationale and centrally prescribed aims are implemented coherently and consistently and deliver high quality education for all. Putting the curriculum at the heart of a whole school quality assurance strategy makes perfect sense and will embrace many other indicators that create an outstanding school such as strong principles of assessment, the embedding of literacy and numeracy, highly effective classroom pedagogy and differentiated learning that together create an inclusive learning platform.
Leaders must focus on their vision and rationale for the curriculum and audit the skills and gaps of their teams in order to build a coherent professional development programme that will highlight current successes, determine what needs to change and plan for new innovations. Using coaching CPD as the catalyst for reviewing and improving quality is proven to be the most effective, sustainable and cost-effective way to manage change. Coaching encourages reflection, opportunities for learning conversations and will ensure the focus is on curriculum content, pedagogy and the desired outcomes for learners.
Join us to review and reflect on curriculum issues and how to respond to the current narrative.
Focus on leadership, middle leadership and teaching and learning with our highly praised coaching courses
What is being proposed by OFSTED is not new, it is, however, good practice linked to an approach that focuses on the learning and is not simply about data and end of stage testing. The principles and ethos have been at the heart of our own well-researched and highly successful training programmes for several years.
To create a culture where excellence and high-quality learning is cascaded across the whole school is best achieved through coaching. Using coaching to ensure there is curriculum cohesion across all phases and stages will ensure all staff exceed and surpass expectations. Coaching encourages the use of positive and deep questioning that will enhance professional learning and challenge pupils. Coaching inspires innovation, helps individuals to embrace change and creates opportunities for the sharing and cascading of good and outstanding practice.
Amanda Spielman’s latest communication, her letter to the public accounts committee’s request for information confirms her intention to pursue a new category for the forthcoming changes to the OFSTED Inspection Framework ‘Quality of Education’ which will include curriculum intent, depth and breadth alongside the quality of teaching, the quality of pupils’ work and the resulting outcomes. The diagram below is my interpretation of the main components that need to be in place in order that schools know how their vision is translated into powerful learning over time.
Creating a culture that ensures all of the components above are carefully planned and implemented requires highly effective communication. Leading a Coaching School. Talented teams need to work together to manage change, create new approaches and build on what they currently do well. Coaching from the Middle – How to influence change, build outstanding teams and lead innovation.
All teachers need to have a range of pedagogies and strategies for learning and assessment that will support pupils to build on their prior learning, deepen that learning and be ready to embrace challenge through the acquisition of knowledge and the use of associated skills. Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning. Pupils need to be an integral part of this and learner voice can be highly effective as part of an overall strategy. Coaching in the Classroom with Pupils. Using coaching as the CPD vehicle to achieving the above is highly effective.
CPD is an essential component in creating a culture where staff accept positive change and work together to achieve the stated vision for excellence and improvement. What emerges from this particular cycle of change is exciting and should create a curriculum that is fit for purpose for the school, its pupils and the local and wider community within which it draws its cohort. However, the CPD and associated training must be relevant, sustainable and have an impact on learning and achievement for all. Coaching is non-judgemental and non-directive, provides individuals with the opportunity to find their own solutions and learn how professional dialogue leads to successful outcomes for the school, teams and individual staff and pupils. It is the sharing and cascading of the learning both as part of an actual coaching training programme and how that is then cascaded to others to enhance its efficacy that makes the coaching training we offer so powerful.
Have a look at our Coaching in Education section on our website that has something for all staff. Join us at one of our curriculum courses to look in great depth at how to ensure readiness for the changes:
or ask us about our INSET packages where we can help you to plan your CPD and curriculum strategies for intent, implementation and impact.
OFSTED have this week released a commentary on the second phase of their research into curriculum design, implementation and impact. Amanda Spielman is clear in her assertion that the real substance of education is the curriculum and how it is structured so that all pupils can access it, learn through it and make progress linked to how it is delivered and assessed.
There will be, the report states, a new approach to inspection that moves away from simply focusing on outcomes linked to end of key stage data and more towards looking at what complements that data.
This, it suggests, includes evidence of:
- a clearly defined and fit for purpose curriculum design that is linked to the school vision and purpose
- positive leadership that includes devolved leadership to subject specialists and teachers
- collaborative and whole school involvement
- pedagogy that deepens subject knowledge and challenges the pupil’s ability to make connections across different subject disciplines
- how pupils demonstrate competence in their use of skills that help them to access curriculum knowledge
- a carefully sequenced content that builds depth and breadth of understanding over time
The research found that the sample schools used one of three approaches to planning their curriculum.
- Knowledge – led approach -skills come from knowledge, “skills are the bi-product of knowledge”. Through the deepening of knowledge comes the ability to use associated skills. The characteristics of this approach are fewer topics that are taught in greater depth
- Knowledge – engaged approach – “knowledge underpins the application of skills” This approach focuses on how the skills and the knowledge are integral, the pupil learns skills alongside knowledge acquisition. This involves planning which skills the pupil will use to access knowledge. Within this approach there is a greater emphasis on cross-curricular teaching, ensuring an understanding of how knowledge applies in a context
- Skills – led approach – Skills have the higher priority in the planning process, knowledge is seen as a series of disconnected facts unless the pupil has the skills to place them in their context
There is no suggestion that one approach is better than another and schools remain free to make their own decisions as to the best model in their specific local setting. However, it is the reasons behind the choices made that will need to be clear and focused on holistic, deeper and sequential learning and not simply on how to achieve the best outcomes for the schools at times of testing or examination outcome.
Curriculum design, the report concludes, is a reflective process involving leaders, subject specialists and teachers. It suggests that there needs to be much more evidence of progression models that show how pupils will build their subject knowledge and their ability to use associated skills adeptly and competently. It is also clearly stated that curriculum and assessment are inseparable and welcome evidence that leaders in the sample schools believe that skilful formative and summative assessment strategies are integral to deep learning and are useful in identifying gaps in learning.
- No one design fits all, the National Curriculum is the benchmark, but the choice of design is up to the school and linked to the school’s context and the expertise of those involved
- The curriculum should be linked to the school vision and purpose. It should be the yardstick for what leaders want their pupils to know and be able to do by the end of their school life
- The curriculum design should be clearly defined, the content should be carefully sequenced, have thoughtfully designed assessment practice and include an appropriate model of progression
- The curriculum should have substance, depth and breadth and be more than preparation for tests and examinations
- There should be a rich web of knowledge where skills weave opportunities for a continuum of learning that deepens understanding and allows for progression
The Learning Cultures Expert Curriculum team have developed two outstanding training opportunities that will give school and curriculum leaders an opportunity to reflect on what currently works well and how to ensure that new strategies and innovations create a curriculum design for now and the future that enriches learning and deepens knowledge and understanding. We weave our deep knowledge of curriculum design with our expertise in coaching to explore how to create a whole school, collaborative curriculum and assessment model that inspires and nurtures learning and achievement.
Re-defining the Primary Curriculum – Content, cohesion and purpose
Re-defining the Secondary Curriculum – Defining purpose, designing content and delivering impact