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The most cost-effective and sustainable solution to ensuring continuing professional development (CPD) is still seen as a priority through these lean times is to build a coaching culture.  I have been involved in the development of coaching within education for over 12 years now and have observed the transformational change that comes from it.  Leaders, managers and teachers must have CPD.  Training and the opportunities it brings to allow for deeper thinking, interaction and innovation are what creates the vibrant learning platform we all want to see in our classrooms. 

If training is essential then we need to think carefully about how we make sure that it is value for money and has an impact on school, team and individual improvement. Deciding to adopt a coaching model is the first step in creating a whole school CPD strategy that will involve everyone in learning together through the use of professional conversations and the sharing and cascading of good practice.

pencils for newsletter2The skills that coaching training delivers are essentially the skills that embody outstanding teaching, inspiring leadership and deep learning.  These include the ability to:-

  • have clarity of vision that creates highly motivated teams
  • create opportunities for transformational change
  • empower others to achieve the school vision and their own goals
  • ask deep and rich questioning that leads to learning, problem solving and empowerment
  • listen actively and skilfully in order to see meaning
  • identify one's own strengths and use these wisely in the pursuance of excellence
  • identify one's own gaps and work with others to fill them and turn them into strengths

I know from my own experience as a teacher and leader in both schools and colleges that this is the time of year when you are planning for the next academic year. There is no better time to adopt, rekindle or reinforce a coaching model in your school or across a group of schools that form a trust or partnership.  We have a unique offer that provides the profession with the tools and resources to use coaching in a way that will make a difference to learning, staff motivation and the quality of teaching.  Read more about the coaching training we offer.  Following on from any of our training courses we give the delegates all the resources, presentations and activities so that the training can be shared with others back in school. Any training one of your staff receives from Learning Cultures is meant to be the beginning of a journey that impacts on their success and that of the school.

Enjoy the rest of this summer term



Why the principles of Lesson Study create a powerful model for helping staff to learn together

Lesson Study is a Japanese model of professional development.  It came to the UK about 20 years ago.  Essentially, it is about teachers planning and observing learning in the classroom together.  "It blends all the features of professional learning that most improve learning and teaching." (Cordingley et al., 2004) Lesson Study provides teachers with the opportunity to work together to identify an area of development in pupils' learning. It gives those involved a chance to examine the impact of different pedagogical approaches on how pupils achieve and progress. It is, however, primarily for teachers to observe the learning and is therefore essential that those taking part are not seen to be judging the teaching.  A group of teachers, ideally three work together to plan, collaborate, discuss and reflect on practice.  Over time this approach can provide the school with a shared vision of what constitutes effective teaching and learning techniques and does drive whole school improvement.  Use our learning cards to focus on some questions originally posed by Bill Page to think about learning in the classroom as a starting point for planning a Lesson Study.

We have developed a practical training course Lesson Study - Enhancing learning through professional collaboration and enquiry for schools who would like to use this extremely motivating and highly effective CPD approach.  The process requires those involved to plan together, observe each other and then reflect on their experience and what they have gained from the lesson.  The skills that teachers need in order to do this well are coaching skills and so we have dovetailed some coaching training into the day.  The resources, plans and proformas that are given to delegates as part of the training give those who attend all they will need to develop this approach back in school. We have also provided a tool here for you to use to see the stages required in the planning of a successful Lesson Study sequence.

Create a two-year plan to embed a coaching culture across your school

 The significant benefits of using coaching as the means to deliver your CPD strategy are many. You can see this by looking at our case study page or reading our coaching in education page on our website.  However, it is important to recognise that it takes time and commitment and it is essential to win hearts and minds along the way.  We are working with several schools and Teaching School Alliances to look at how coaching can support a consistent approach to staff development.  The essential ingredient is recognising the wealth of talent that exists in a school and harnessing that talent through structured professional dialogue and a collective culture where the sharing and cascading of good practice is an essential part of the CPD process.  The recently published Standards for Professional Development recognise the importance of the commitment of the senior leadership team as a conduit for ensuring that teachers have good quality training and that it is sustained over time.  The same standards also recognise that training is of no value at all if it is a stand-alone activity and is not linked to the vision of the school in relation to the school improvement plan. 

Developing a coaching culture allows a school or a group of schools to focus on a non-judgemental approach to the observation of lessons, where the observer and the observed are in a partnership and focus on the pedagogy and the learning that comes from it. Feedback focuses on the positive and on opportunities for self-reflection where individuals feel confident in identifying their own learning agenda.  Coaching also provides teachers with opportunities to look closely at how the skills they are learning can contribute to the pedagogy they are using in the classroom.  Open, deep and rich questioning are the life-blood of effective formative assessment, active listening skills are part of ensuring teachers understand some of the nuances of their pupils and can build empathy that supports improvements in behaviour.  Creating resilience through ensuring the teacher's responses allow pupils to find their own solutions and solve their own problems builds the independent and enquiring learner.

We have developed a two-year planning tool that supports a school or group of schools to plan a coaching programme.  Although this is designed as a two-year programme it is easily adaptable to cover whatever your time-frame is. 

Rethink appraisal and transform the performance management system

The appraisal interview is an important tool in ensuring all staff within a school or college understand the part they play in supporting the vision for the organisation over the coming year or several years.  It is the time that individuals set their own goals and targets and negotiate their training and development requests linked to their own professional standing and the needs of the organisation.  It is also a time when the line manager can discuss past performance, successes and areas for improvement. In short, it is a very important part of performance management and sets the scene for the academic year ahead. 

Where those involved in the process, especially line managers learn some coaching skills the whole process becomes much more inclusive and supportive. Coaching is about influencing change, creating the right environment for individuals to self-reflect, find their own solutions and have the self-belief that means they will achieve their goals and their SMART objectives.  We have a training course that examines the performance management function and shows those involved in its roll out to review carefully the process and ensure that the appraisal interview and what comes out of it is beneficial to the individual, the team and the whole organisation.  The impact that a coaching approach can have to this process is profound.  Check out your qualities as an influencer in your team by completing this self-assessment proforma.

Rethinking Appraisal - influencing learning, empowering people and creating a culture of positive change is an inspiring event that will provide those who attend with some innovative and very useful resources and models that will enhance the performance management process and ensure that the best possible outcomes flow from the appraisal interview.

The theory of 'Growth Mindset' and how it can dovetail so well into a coaching model

Coaching is about building the self-esteem of others.  It is about unlocking potential and giving individuals the right to believe in themselves and believe that they can achieve the goals they set themselves and that others set for them.  The theory of 'Growth Mindset' is based on the theme that with practice, perseverance and effort people have limitless potential to learn and grow.  So, I think it fair to say that the two complement each other.  The view that there is no such thing as failure only a process of learning and growth are synonymous of both 'Growth Mindset' and coaching.  However, 'Growth Mindset' is a theory and coaching is a skill.  We need the skills one develops as a coach to drive a culture that changes a fixed mindset into a 'Growth Mindset'. We have created a document that focuses on the principles underpinning a Growth Mindset, read it here.

The development of effective questioning techniques that do not let an individual off the hook but require them to think about a response that will ensure they are learning and being stretched to find solutions and solve problems is an essential coaching skill. It is also the skill that will give pupils an opportunity to begin to see themselves in the capacity of the growth mindset rather than the fixed one.  The ability of the coach to listen actively provides an insight into what the individual is saying and also what they are not saying.  We can use our listening skills as coaches to reframe our approach to the pupil and their behaviours. Influencing change in a person's attitude to learning is also a coaching skill.

It is clear to us that in order to use the 'Growth Mindset' theory in the classroom or with teachers as part of CPD there is an imperative to learn how to coach and to use simple coaching techniques as part of the implementation and awareness of 'Growth Mindset' as a tool for school, team and individual improvement. We have a very popular and well received training course that dovetails the two.  Join us at our Mindset Matters to Unlock Learning event and learn how to use coaching techniques to create learners who are resilient, ready for challenge and who understand the importance of effort as much as of success.

How well does your school manage transition? We look at the process and give you a tool that might help

OFSTED's report Key Stage 3: the wasted years? from a couple of years ago talks a lot about transition from Key Stage 2 to 3.  There is damning criticism that there is too much emphasis on the pastoral process and very little time taken to focus on the curriculum and teaching and learning.  Many schools, say OFSTED, do not build on prior learning in the primary phase and do not have any real understanding of what has been taught in years 5 and 6.  There is little dovetailing of schemes of work and only a few schools jointly moderate pupils progress and work or observe approaches to pedagogy in either phase. 

There is a well-researched average dip in performance of pupils of up to 39% from the end of year 6 to the end of year 7.  This needs to change especially as the results of SATs tests create the benchmark for what pupils are expected to achieve by the end of year 11.  There is no mileage at all in re-testing at the beginning of year 7 as the results from SATs are what the school will be judged on over the five years up to when their pupils take their GCSEs. Instead, secondary schools can ensure a positive start for pupils entering year 7 by using a variety of strategies. For instance:-

  • Ensuring all those who teach in year 7 have copies of the Programmes of Study for Key Stage 2 in English, Maths and Science.  Using these will help teachers to see what has been taught in the core subjects and how they can build on this
  • Develop some joint schemes of work for the last term in year 6 that dovetails with the first term in year 7 to ensure seamless learning
  • Design a bridging project that allows pupils in year 6 to start a project that can be continued over the summer holidays and into year 7
  • Give year 6 teachers copies of exercise books the pupils will be using in year 7 to use for the last term in year 6. In this way year 7 teachers can see clearly the quality of the pupils' work
  • Create opportunities for teachers who will be teaching in year 7 to observe learning in a year 6 classroom
  • Give all teachers who will teach in year 7 access to the SATs papers so that they can see the degree of difficulty of some of the questions (you could ask teachers to sit the tests!!!)

We have produced a self-assessment tool for secondary schools to use to assess the efficacy of their policy for transition from Key Stage 2 to 3.

One of our most popular courses Crossing the Transition Bridge - Seamless learning from Key Stage 2 to 3 takes an in-depth look at how to create a robust transition policy that delivers high levels of progression, ensures pupils make a seamless transition and learn from the first day they arrive in their new school.

You may also want to take a look at another training course that addresses some of the issues raised in OFSTED's  Key Stage 3: the wasted years? report.  The Importance of Key Stage 3 looks in detail at how to make the best use of Key Stage 3 as a springboard for Key Stage 4 and beyond.  We look at current policy changes and how these affect this crucial stage. We review the importance of creating the right curriculum for progression including how literacy, numeracy and SMSC are embedded in all subjects.  We look at the importance of formative assessment and creating approaches to assessment that allow pupils to develop the higher-level thinking skills they need for Key Stage 4 and beyond. 

Delivering a curriculum for learning - have the evidence that your curriculum has breadth and balance and is fit for purpose for all learners

We have two events that examine the content of the curriculum and how best to design a programme that will ensure that pupils build on their prior learning, can make connections across all their learning and make significant progress year on year. The first of these two events Mastering the Primary Curriculum - Weaving skills and deep learning to foster a continuum of progression and achievement has been designed by Headteacher and coach Lyn Matthews, she examines the primary curriculum and focuses on how to ensure innovation and creativity underpin the design of a primary curriculum that will support teachers to help pupils master the subject knowledge through the acquisition of skills.  The event will look closely at the skills teachers need to ensure that formative assessment allows pupils to deepen their understanding, reflect on how they learn and how to develop the unconscious competence to put the concepts they learn into a variety of contexts across the curriculum. The second event in this spotlight is examining the content and nuances of the secondary curriculum. This event has been designed by John Price, who was a LA advisor and is a curriculum expert.  Weaving a 21st Century Curriculum - Building a continuum of learning from year 7 to year 11 and beyond looks at the implications of Progress 8, the new GCSEs and the impact of changes to accountability measures that mean Key Stage 3 has a much greater significance in ensuring pupils can make expected progress by the end of year 11. 

In both events we look closely at the content of the curriculum and the imperative to weave reading, writing, communication and Mathematics through all learning. 

We want to rename CPD and call it Joint Professional Development (JDP)

We are primarily a coaching organisation.  You will have already seen if you have read previous articles that make up this newsletter that we put coaching at the heart of everything we do.  Build a coaching culture and you will transform your school or college.  Putting coaching at the heart of a school CPD strategy is the best decision a school leader can make.  Teaching is a lonely profession, yes, the teacher has the children in her class and she may see colleagues at the beginning, middle and end of the day for short bursts of time but on the whole, it is down to one individual, the teacher.  in most other professions individuals spend their whole day with other adults.  Where a school develops a coaching culture, it is essential that time is given for individuals to work with others to share their goals, celebrate good practice and discuss their strengths and their development needs and how to meet them. Read the Standard for Teachers' Professional Development published by the Government in 2016 and it is clear that collaboration and the sharing of good and outstanding practice is seen as a positive approach to achieving a model of sustainable CPD. 

Creating opportunities for coaching to become a reality in a school or college really does give teachers the time to share, work together and grow together.  It is very powerful and motivational and for those involved and once under way there is no turning back to a less positive and more isolated world. 

Training and development and SLT away days in Shropshire

We have now run some training events in our own training rooms here in Bridgnorth.  Last Monday we had a small group of teachers from Shropshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands.  We ran our Lesson Study event.  The feedback was excellent and the facilities were rated highly.  Bridgnorth is a 15th century market town in the heart of beautiful Shropshire.  It is a great place to visit. We have a steam railway, the first iron bridge only four miles away where you can also visit several Ironbridge Gorge museums.  There is the history of how Oliver Cromwell blew up our castle in the pursuance of King Charles 1.  It makes a great venue for small groups of senior leaders who want to spend some time together away from school to develop their strategy or plans for the future or to learn how to lead a coaching school.  We have some lovely hotels and smaller farmhouse of cottage bed a breakfast facilities and we can guarantee a warm welcome and some local knowledge to ensure your stay here is enjoyable as well as being an opportunity to team build or learn.

Have some fun with story-telling and gardening

We have designed two innovative courses that support pupil and teacher wellbeing.  They are fun and practical but still highly relevant in relation to the National Curriculum and the SMSC curriculum. Fairytwists is all about immersive story-telling and provides the teacher with six short stories that actively promote resilience, challenge stereotypes and celebrate diversity.  Grow Learning Through Gardening is a practical look at using horticulture as part of delivering the National Curriculum.  Working with plants and flower is known to help with stress and gives anyone who is involved a feeling of wellbeing and satisfaction.  Colour, shape, touch and scent give depth to understanding.  There are many imaginative ways to bring alive the subject matter of much of the national curriculum using gardening as a theme.

You may also like to have a look at our Mindset Matters to Unlock Learning event which is a stimulating and thought provoking look at the theory of Growth Mindset and how the use of coaching techniques can really help to create a 'Growth Mindset' culture within the school.  Our Psychological Wellbeing - Promoting emotional health, mindfulness and wellbeing to optimise learning and achievement course may also be of great interest if you are looking to ensure teachers can recognise mental health issues and understand how they can minimise these and promote wellbeing through positive interaction.


More suggestions for the coaching bookcase:-

  • The Power of Questioning - opening up the world of student enquiry by Starr Sackstein.  Learning how to use deep questioning techniques as part of learning to coach is essential
  • Leading Collaborative Learning by Lyn Sharratt and Beate Plance looks at the importance of professional dialogue as part of sharing and cascading how teaching impacts on learning
  • Leadership Coaching for Educators by Karla J Reiss This book is about supporting educational change
  • Outstanding Formative Assessment - culture and practice by Shirley Clarke A practical approach with some good resources
  • Leadership Matters - How leaders at all levels can create great schools by Andy Buck examines management skills in some detail

I have just finished reading My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, the prose is urgent and the story is sad and poignant but strangely compelling.

I am just about to start The Sellout by Paul Beatty.


Policy is thin on the ground at the moment with the General Election imminent.  However, we do know what each party want to achieve if they are elected to lead us on June 8th from their respective manifestos.  There is a very comprehensive overview of the manifesto commitments made about education by the three main parties from the Education Policy Institute. You can read the shortened version here and if you want to there is an opportunity to download the whole thing from the EPI website.

The Education Endowment Foundation has recently published A guide to improving literacy in Key Stage 2.  They produced A guide to improving literacy in Key Stage 1 last year. There are several more similar guides in the pipeline.  They may influence policy in the future. 

In our last newsletter I wrote my own policy wish-list, there is not much of it in any of the manifestos, que sera!