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Coaching has the power to deliver consistent, whole school strategies for improvement and change

How coaching can significantly improve performance, build reflective and proactive teams and be the catalyst for effective change and renewal

june newsletter2016During this half term holiday I have been spending time reflecting on the growth in interest in coaching as a powerful driver for change and improvement in education. This has not always been the case. When I first suggested coaching as a powerful CD model for education the response from CD professionals and senior leaders was skeptical to say the least. It was about nine years ago when I was first introduced to coaching. I was asked to lead a team and to develop a sustainable, cost effective, hands-on and active CD strategy that would be transferrable across a range of education providers. We researched best practice here and internationally and focused on the need to build a model that would allow those involved in the training to be able to identify what they were hoping to achieve and to quantify the impact on whole organisation, team and individual performance. The research that impressed us the most was that of Joyce and Showers who had looked at how training activity across a number of schools was delivered and then disseminated to others. There findings overwhelming suggested that, firstly, all training is valuable and secondly, where there is no action taken following on from the training and there are no opportunities given for the recipient of the training to share and cascade their learning there is no measurable or perceived impact. However, where the training is planned as an integral need relating to a clearly defined goal or vision and there is an imperative placed on the recipient of the training to share their learning with others there is a measurable and tangible impact on learning and achievement. Disseminating learning in this way requires those involved to develop a range of skills that will allow a professional learning conversation to take place where time is set aside for it to happen and opportunities for reflection and further dialogue are integral to the process. It was from this research along with painstaking investigation into resources, theories and practical activities that could form the basis of our training programme that coaching became the model that we wanted to use. We developed a powerful and hugely successful training experience for many professionals in education and it was that programme that now forms the foundation for the coaching training we deliver today through Learning Cultures today.

Coaching is about being positive, asking deep and rich questions that will not evoke a yes or no answer but require the coachee to seek an answer or a solution to their own problem or issue and be drawn skillfully towards being empowered to move out of their paradigm or comfort zone. It is about active listening. Allowing one to see behind the responses one hears or being able to interpret the body language and non-verbal signals that are louder than what is said all help us to understand more and help us to persuade and manipulate others to change. It is also about understanding oneself and what it is that allows us to be a part of a team or partnership, what drives us and what motivates us to achieve. Coaching is not mentoring and it is essential that we understand the difference between the two. Both have their place in the classroom, in feedback sessions after observation or as part of appraisal. Mentoring is an essential part of giving advice or sharing the benefit of your experience with an NQT or a teacher who is having difficulties but it is unlikely to provide the stretch and challenge that will lead the recipient to take a risk or be innovative in finding a solution. Coaching on the other hand requires the skillful manipulation of the coach to draw the coachee towards a deeper understanding of how he or she can find their own way forward and own their own solution to a problem or issue. Coaching is about deep learning, focused understanding and inner motivation. Coaching is finally colliding with policy and there has never been a better time to make the decision to develop a coaching strategy as part of recruiting, training and developing staff from the senior leadership team to support staff and everywhere in between. Click here to view our coaching programmes and training courses..

Good luck with this last half term with all its pressures and summer joys.


Planning an effective appraisal and ongoing performance reviews - using a skillful blend of coaching and mentoring

Appraisal is part of legislation and is certainly evidence for OFSTED that there is a process by which every member of staff is valued, has a clear understanding of their role and how they should perform to successfully carry it out in meeting the school, team and their own objectives. Coaching can play a significant part in ensuring that the time taken to plan and implement a positive performance management system and appraisal process will have measurable benefits for the whole organisation. It is essential for those who have line management responsibility to understand the difference between coaching and mentoring and when to use both in the pursuance of developing highly effective teams. Mentoring is important when it is necessary to guide and support someone who is having issues say with behaviour, or someone who has lost confidence because of poor results or grades following observation of their teaching. Knowing when to mentor but also knowing when to begin to gently coach someone to begin to develop their own ideas and think for themselves how they might resolve an issue or try something else is a skill that comes with a deeper understanding of the differences between mentoring and coaching. Appraisal is essentially a two way process that involves both parties having a very clear understanding of the vision and goals that are within the school improvement plan and how these translate into departmental or team goals. It is essential that the individual who is being appraised understands the part he or she plays in helping to realise the vision of their team or of the whole organisation. Highly effective communication where there are no barriers as to meaning and understanding are crucial elements in ensuring that both parties involved involved in the appraisal can share a common understanding of what each needs to do to ensure success. Alongside this it is also important that the appraisee is able to articulate their own learning agenda and professional development needs in order that they will succeed in meeting the expectations of their line manager and others who lead the school or college.

This positive two way relationship is easier to achieve if the line manager has had an opportunity to develop the skills of a coach and is able to carefully and skillfully move towards a consensus where the appraisee is confident in making changes, innovating and implementing new ideas and resolving issues and problems as they arise. Equally coaching supports the appraisee to look deeper, reflect on their own ability and successes and accept challenge. One of the tools we recommend you use when planning for an appraisal interview is that developed by Richard Boyatsis. His model of intentional change is a useful document to give to those who are preparing for their appraisal. Alternatively, other people may prefer to complete a word document in linear form. It is a good idea to offer both so that those who are to complete it can choose their preferred way. This model asks the appraisee or the coachee to think about their ideal self and their real self and then to focus on their strengths, describing what they do well and what they have achieved so far in moving from their real self to their ideal self. The model then leads the individual to focus on their gaps and what they need to do in order that they can develop further strengths and move towards their goal or ideal self. You will notice that the model talks about gaps and not weaknesses, you can fill a gap and not a weakness. Join us at our coaching event that looks specifically at the appraisal process and how developing a coaching approach can have a significant impact on running a successful performance management process. Click on the title below to find out more.

Appraisal and Performance Management - A coaching focused solution

Formative Assessment - Coaching in the classroom where questioning, listening and a positive approach to challenge delivers high levels of progression

Marking is out and formative dialogue with pupils is definitely in. OFSTED are clear about the fact that they do not want to look at books to ascertain how much marking has taken place, instead they want to talk to the pupils about their learning. Formative assessment or assessment for learning as it was known until very recently is not about marking and never was, it is about talking to pupils using the kinds of questioning techniques that are the same as those used by successful coaches. Soft persuasion using highly effective questioning will:-

  • encourage pupils to reflect on how they are building on prior learning
  • foster the use of deep and rich questioning that allows pupils to make connections and understand what skills they are using to access knowledge and understanding
  • build the right environment for positive learning conversations to take place that give support to pupils to enable them to articulate how they are learning as well as what they are learning
  • provide a basis for a pedogogy where pupils take control of their learning, become resilient and much more independent as they find their own solutions and achieve mastery across a range of subjects and topics

The evidence is not in exercise books but in the direct observation of learning in the classroom and in the responses from pupils. Taking books home to mark has a number of negative side effects. Teachers increase their workload inexorably, pupils are unlikely to read past the first few comments and are unlikely to learn from them. The opportunity to put mistakes right in this way may impede further learning and the opportunity for positive interaction and the reinforcement of what is good about the work is hugely diluted. We have read widely about the current advice on formative assessment and have put together a sample policy document that focuses on assessing with the learner in order to eliminate the need to take whole sets of books or papers away to mark in isolation. We have talked to several schools that have had recent OFSTED inspections and they say that OFSTED want to look at the marking/assessment policy and then see how it is being put into practice. Most of the schools say that inspectors did not want to look at the marking in books, they wanted to look at the quality of the pupil's work, evidence of progress and were much more interested in talking to pupils about their learning and experiences in the classroom. Join us at one of our training events that looks in depth at the current thinking and best practice in relation to formative assessment and assessment without levels. We have also created a questionnaire to help you plan an assessment strategy that will be consistent and sustainable across the whole school. 

Join us at one of our assessment events to look in detail at good and best practice, the latest thinking and techniques linked to formative assessment and an opportunity to focus on how to embed a powerful formative assessment strategy in your school

  • The Language of Assessment at Key Stage 1 and 2 - A focus on how to manage a consistent and evidence based approach to formative assessment strategies and creating a continuum of learning across the primary phases
  • The Language of Assessment at Key Stage 3 and 4 - A focus on ensuring assessment builds on prior learning from Key Stage 2 to 3, creates a platform for independent learning in Key Stage 3 and prepares pupils for the rigour of the new GCSEs and A Levels
  • Formative Assessment - at the heart of planning for learning and progression - A focus on practical pedagogical approaches for teachers in the classroom, this is a generic event that is suitable for all phases of education and looks at how teachers use highly focused skills to develop the right culture for independent and active learning that provide evidence of ongoing effective formative assessment

What does the term mastery mean to you? - Designing a mastery curriculum may be easier than you think

There is a lot of information on what the current thinking and practice is in relation to mastery. It is a word that seems to be attached in the main to Mathematics if you look at all the literature that is available. There is a strong link with the Singapore Maths model that uses a version of mastery learning. There are also various other theories and ideas as to how to teach and create a mastery culture across the school or college. Mastery to me is the ability to be able to use the skills that allow us to access knowledge and understanding with increasing competence and confidence. It is also being aware of which skills to use in which context and having the ability to make connections across a range of subjects or topics in deepening and strengthening an understanding of the world and how it works. The current thinking suggests that the best way to develop a mastery approach in the classroom is to have all pupils start at the same point so that they can have the opportunity to demonstrate their level of understanding and the dexterity of the skills being applied. Differentiation comes later when the teacher can assess how much progress each pupil has made and how much more practice they need in order to master the learning.

I have tried to reconcile with this approach and find it difficult to see it happening well in practice. I would like to suggest a different model that puts skills at the heart of the planning process and ensures that all teachers are working together to support mastery across a range of topics or subjects. The new GCSEs require pupils to have mastered some pretty important skills in order that they can 'use and apply' them in a series of problem solving style questions in the exam paper across all subjects. Pupils from an early age need to be exposed to the skills continuum that forms the basis of all assessment models or mark schemes for every level of learning. This is nothing new and is derived from the original Bloom's Taxonomy recently revised by Anderson and Krathwohl. It is the backdrop for the continuum in the old levels, the National Qualification Framework (GCSE and above) and even the 'P' levels. Describe requires highly effective writing and speaking skills, explain, requires pupils to share ideas add inference and articulate the reason why. Analyse, may require some statistical evidence or mathematical calculation, it may also require some further research or investigation, evaluate requires excellent reasoning skills, powerful use of grammar and the ability to compare and contrast or justify an answer. None of these levels of response can be achieved without the unconsciously competent use of oral, listening, reading and writing skills or the ability to have the confidence to know which mathematical concept is the right one to use in a given context. Planning a whole school skills focused curriculum requires time and commitment but has the power to raise the potential of many pupils. The answer to mastery is planning learning that starts with identifying the skills the pupil will need to use to access knowledge and understanding in every lesson, across all subjects and topics and work outside the classroom. The skills are not an add on they are the pumping heart of all learning. Our suite of literacy, numeracy and computer science events will provide a range of practical applications, solutions and ideas about embedding a mastery model. Our curriculum days will support planning and implementation of curriculum change

Positive strategies at times of transition when pupils move from one Key Stage to the next

The dip in performance of pupils when they move from one key stage to the next is well documented. Finding ways to turn that dip into more positive outcomes for pupils does have a profound impact on the levels of progress pupils make along their education pathway. It is only natural that partner schools focus on the pastoral needs of pupils as they make the big step towards the next key stage and in most of the schools that we have worked with over many years this aspect of transition is very well planned and delivered. However, it is only one part of a much bigger set of criteria the needs to be explored in order to make sure that pupils build on their prior learning, do not lose momentum and are able to continue to learn in a different and sometimes challenging environment. Our work in this field has given us a wealth of good and best practice examples of effective transition. Below are some of the issues that need careful consideration:-

  • How effectively do you share schemes of work across key stages to ensure there is a continuum of learning?
  • What opportunities are there for teachers to observe learning and teaching in different key stage settings?
  • Is time given to teachers across key stages to moderate together to build a consensus of what work that is emerging, achieving or exceeding a given standard should look like?
  • How do teachers receiving pupils from the previous phase ascertain the level of skills pupils have and the knowledge they have about topics or subjects they will be studying?
  • How well do all teachers who will be teaching pupils in the first year of a new key stage understand the curriculum content of the previous phase and dovetail their planning to take account of what has been taught previously?
  • To what extent are pupils, parents and other stakeholders involved in the process of transition in relation to learning and not just pastoral issues?

Join us at one of our two events that look at transition in detail and provide a range of outstanding resources and tools to support the planning and delivery of a highly successful transition strategy. Turning that dip around will have a significant impact on how well pupils progress to meet their full potential.

  • Seamless Transition from Key Stage 1 to 2 - An in-depth look at highly effective transition strategies that build on the learning in key stage 1
  • Crossing the Bridge - Transition from Key Stage 2 to 3 - Turn a well researched average 39% dip in performance into a celebration of success for pupils as they move from primary to secondary school

The Importance of Key Stage 3 - Planning a springboard for Key Stage 4

The Learning Cultures' curriculum team have now delivered the first suite of our new event The Importance of Key Stage 3 - Planning a springboard for Key Stage 4 and beyond across the country. This day looks at the content of the new curriculum in both key stage 2 and 3 focuses on some best practice strategies for change at Key Stage 3 to ensure that there is a continuity of learning and that all pupils are developing a range of skills so that they have the ability and levels of response to tackle the rigorous and more testing GCSE and A level content. We have used a wealth of current and respected research and best practice examples to develop this event and continue to add to and re-shape the content as new evidence of what works well emerges. The OFSTED report Key Stage 3: the wasted years? highlighted some of the issues that we address in this event.  or click here to read our shortened version. We have also created a questionnaire for those planning or reviewing their strategy for Key Stage 3 which may help to consider the main priorities for your setting. Click here to download a copy.

  • The Importance of Key Stage 3 - Planning a springboard for Key Stage 4 and beyond

Click on a title below to look at other events that may help as you plan, deliver and manager the changing education landscape:-

  • Weaving a 21st Century Secondary School Curriculum - building a Continuum of Learning
  • Delivering a Vocational Pathway that Counts
  • Harnessing Achievement for learners working at NQF Level 1 and below (D-G) or (1-4) GCSE

Lesson Study - Improving teaching, enhancing learning through professional collaboration and enquiry

Lesson study is an approach to lesson observation that began in Japan and is now gathering a large following in this country. There is significant evidence emerging of the impact this approach has in supporting both improving the quality of teaching and outcomes for pupils. Professor Peter Dudley has written an informative book Lesson Study: Professional learning for our time on this approach and is an advocate of its efficacy as a powerful CD tool for schools to use in developing highly effective learning communities. If you would like to read more about the research click here. The emphasis is on teachers planning a lesson together so that they can observe how well it works in practice. The teachers target individual pupils to follow through the lesson in relation to their progress and the impact on learning as a result of the strategies employed throughout the length of the lesson. The teachers then reflect on the teaching, the learning, the resources used and what went well and what they would do differently next time. This is a collaborative process that does require a time commitment. It works best when it is planned as an integral part of the school's improvement strategy. Lesson study aligns closely with the development of a coaching model and can really support the school's vision to embed a coaching culture where the sharing and cascading of good and best practice is a visible part of the performance management system. We have developed a new training opportunity that looks in detail at the principles of lesson study and focuses on the practicalities of how to build it into a whole school CD strategy where the approach is seen as a priority where the time and the resources are allocated, where there is a commitment from the senior leadership team to develop teams in this way and where teachers can learn the coaching skills they need to collaborate effectively through reflection and the development of positive professional dialogue.

Reframing inner beliefs about ability using Growth Mindset techniques

We have recently added a specific event looking at how teachers can use Growth Mindset theory to build highly resilient and motivated pupils who are willing and ready to seek out more and bigger challenges and who are open and responsive to positive and focused feedback that will help them to continue to thrive and succeed. Understanding the theory and how to put it into practice will support the development of a school culture that has evidence of how it is creating the right outcomes linked to high expectations for all and ensuring every child is able to reach their full potential. The quote below from the White Paper Educational Excellence Everywhere embodies this principle.

"We must share that level of ambition for every pupil, avoiding the trap of designing policies that accept lower aspirations for some. Equally, we reject the notion that our schools should limit their focus on bringing every child up to a minimum level – instead, they should stretch every child, including the most able, to reach their full potential."

Understanding the theory of Growth Mindset and how putting it into practice in the classroom can impact on learning and achievement is well documented. There is a wealth of research that shows how well this approach works. Evidence suggests that learners are more motivated and resilient and are ready to believe in their own ability to accept ever more challenging tasks. There is also profound evidence of how the use of Growth Mindset techniques can have a positive impact on closing the attainment gap and helping to raise achievement and create opportunities for progress of disadvantaged pupils. For teachers there is also strong evidence of far greater collaboration with colleagues, more responsiveness to feedback and a greater willingness to seek to build their skills in this area and a willingness to learn.

The opportunities to develop an understanding of Growth Mindset theory complements the theory and practice that underpins the philosophy of coaching. There is no doubt that many of the skills needed to draw out an individuals self-belief and support them in taking risks, managing change and trying out new strategies and approaches are similar. Mindset Matters to Unlock Learning is a positive addition to our programme.

Managing the Pupil Premium - Closing the gap

The use of Pupil Premium funding to close the achievement gap between those pupils receiving it and their non-Pupil Premium peers continues to be a key area of accountability in the most recent Ofsted handbook The emphasis for OFSTED is intended to ensure that schools and academies succeed in their efforts to provide the best possible learning opportunities for their disadvantaged pupils. We are working in collaboration with Nigel Bishop of Nigel Bishop Education Limited to offer a new event looking closely at how Pupil Premium is used in successful schools and provide an opportunity to review current strategies to ensure that the best possible outcomes are integral and that there is profound evidence for OFSTED that this is the case.

This one day course will provide everything that primary and secondary school leaders need to know about:

  • A review of current DfE and Ofsted requirements, what evidence OFSTED are looking to see and any changes that those involved need to be aware of
  • A focus on recent research that has been undertaken into effective intervention strategies and the impact these are having on learning, achievement and progress of specific groups of learners
  • An opportunity to look at tools and techniques that will support strategic improvement in the use of pupil premium
  • Time to reflect on what is working well, what could be improved and any innovations from the day that might be completely new and different
  • Resources to use to support the production of an action plan analysing and using relevant data and tracking documentation

Nigel has first hand knowledge of how pupil premium is used successfully in schools to improve learning and achievement for disadvantaged pupils. We are looking forward to working with him and see this as a valuable addition to the programme of events we have for senior leaders and those who manage this process.

The event is called Managing Pupil Premium - Creating successful outcomes and having the evidence of impact for stakeholders


  • Do you use The Confident teacher, Chris Quigley's website? There are some interesting articles and of course links to his books. A good find!
  • Also read his book The Confident Teacher
  • Recommended by Jayne who delivers on our Mindset Matters event is Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code: Greatness isn't born. It's Grown. Here's how. She also recommends Bounce: The
  • Myth of Talent and the power of practice by Matthew Syed
  • Another one for the coaching shelf is Differentiated Coaching - A framework for helping teachers change by Jane AG Kise
  • A book for the SLT is called Results Coaching: The new essential for school leaders edited by Kathryn McKee; Karen A Anderson; Vicky S Dearing; Edna Harris; Frances A Shuster
  • Visit the IRIS Connect website and see more information on the concept of Lesson Study and its power to promote learning
  • We have just become a member of Miranda Net an international fellowship focusing on academic research into the impact of CD and technology

I am reading the second fo a series of four books by Elena Ferranti The Story of A New Name it is one of those books that is difficult to put down. I enjoyed the first one so much that I have now bought all the other three so that I can continue to read them one after the other. A compelling tale of two close friends through their lives which I am presuming is semi-autobiographical


  • Applications are now open for character grants worth £6 million pounds and aimed at schools promoting traits such as resilience and respect
  • Pupil premium funding worth £1,900 per child is to continue until the end the end of this parliament
  • Attainment has risen in the last twelve months between disadvantaged pupils nd their peers and has narrowed since 2011 by 7.1% at Key Stage 2 and 6.6% at Key Stage 4. On 6th May 2016 the Government issued a press release announcing next steps in implementing the recently published White Paper Education Excellence Everywhere
  • New SATs tests have not had a very auspicious start but the Government is clear that they are here to stay
  • The academies debate rumbles on but the headline of the moment is ' a move from coercion to aspiration'
  • There is to be an expansion of the Regional Schools Commissioners system with the appointment of deputy directors to support the commissioners in their work
  • OFSTED says that too little time is being spent on the study of Modern Foreign Languages and Science in primary schools and that there remains poor communication and synergy between secondary schools and their primary partners at times of transition