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Kingshurst Academy’s coaching programme

is impacting both students’ and teachers’ development. Carrie Saint Freedman explains

knowledge, understanding and skills grow. The process depends therefore on experienced teachers acting as role models for teaching and learning. However, to presuppose that coaching and mentoring


is all about “experts” passing on their wisdom to less experienced colleagues is to oversimplify the issue according to Edward Gildea, ex-secondary head and educational consultant with Cambridge Education and the Association of School and College Leaders. He explained: “Mentoring lies at the ‘directive’

end of the spectrum – it does exactly what it says; it directs the client in a traditional, instructive way. As an approach it is limited because it assumes that the coach has all the answers and the client’s job is to passively receive the information. “Coaching, in contrast, is – according to Myles

Downey in Effective Coaching – ‘the art of facilitating the performance, learning and development of another’. An effective non-directive coach seeks to access our innate capacity to learn and acts as a catalyst, enabling the client to learn for him or herself.” Mentoring can be very useful, especially with

younger teachers, but only for as long as the suggestions made by the mentor are perceived and welcomed by the client as being relevant and helpful. An essential part of non-directive coaching is to acknowledge that the client has experience, imagination, intuition and insight. Successful coaching, Mr Gildea believes, is to a

large extent dependent on the latter – a conviction that is underpinned by latest neurological studies on the subject. Recent breakthroughs in brain research show conclusively that to bring about new behaviour a transformation in someone’s mental “map” is required. Such attitudinal change is determined by experiences which enable them as individuals to have a degree of ownership and responsibility, and to be an intrinsic part of the transformative process. Scientists at Northwestern University’s Institute

for Neuroscience in Chicago, USA, have established that during moments of insight, complex sets of new brain connections are created which not only enhance our mental resources, but also have the potential to overcome the brain’s resistance to change. Such connections will only result however if the insight is “hard-wired”, which demands sustained attention and a high degree of attachment to the idea. Although mentoring can perform a vital role in

school, enabling experienced (and usually but not always) older staff to help their colleagues develop their professional skills, it cannot substitute for coaching and does not fulfil the same function. While mentoring can be both formal and informal,

it tends, as a rule, to take place intra-departmentally and requires neither specialist training, funding nor organisation to be effective. Coaching, meanwhile, represents a major commitment on the part of senior management and requires all of the above. Mr Gildea continued: “Teaching can be a tough

environment and teachers can lose their way, their energy and their morale. We need to look after our colleagues and offer them tailored support which is focused on personal development and specific need.” Coaching has been a feature at Solihull’s City

Technology College Kingshurst Academy for nearly three years and works cross-departmentally and peer- to-peer. By helping colleagues who are struggling in the classroom to recapture their initial enthusiasm and regain some job satisfaction it has proven to be of significant benefit to staff and students alike. Tim Boylan, vice-principal, explained: “Coaching

was established at Kingshurst in response to a specific need. Our existing classroom observation programme identified good practice as well as not so good practice, but we needed a mechanism to support vulnerable staff on a more intensive level. Some staff have subsequently remained in the profession because of this intervention. “Coaching has led to improved planning and

effectiveness in the classroom which in turn has improved student performance and relations with pupils. For standards of learning to be as good as they can be and for students to progress, teachers need to feel supported and know that there are systems in place to help them.”

SecEd • March 24 2011

EFERENCES FROM the Training and Development Agency for Schools to the importance of coaching and mentoring as a tool for professional development assume teachers’ increasing effectiveness as their professional attributes,

the teachers For Cristina Garcia, Kingshurst’s head of modern

languages, the professional training was a revelation. She said: “We all thought we knew what was involved, what coaching meant and what we would be required to do, but looking back, we would have been ill-equipped to deal with what lay ahead without specialist skills and strategies.” Despite the utmost discretion and confidentiality,

there is still an element of stigma and fear attached to the referral process which is difficult to eliminate altogether. Sometimes “clients” can be reluctant or even resistant, but this, Ms Garcia emphasises, is only to be expected. She continued: “People only come to us when

they are at a low ebb. If you’re lacking in self-belief and have lost confidence in your capacity to control a situation and command the respect of your pupils and your colleagues, you are not likely to be in a positive frame of mind. “By the same token, however, some referrals are

manifestly relieved to have been offered a helping hand and some welcome support at a moment in their career when they feel undermined, unable to communicate effectively with their students, and locked into a vicious circle. “We start from the premise that Kingshurst only

employs the best teachers and that we are there to help them ‘get back’ to where they were originally. As coaches, our first task is to gain our client’s trust, reassure them that they have our complete confidence and that we believe in them.” Sessions take place weekly, last up to an hour at a

time and are supplemented with classroom observations. So far some 18 teachers have used the service which, as fellow coach, Sharon Clift (a teacher of French and Spanish) points out, represents a huge collateral benefit for the school. She said: “Each teacher impacts weekly on hundreds of pupils’ experiences, so a more effective presence in the classroom will inevitably convert into enhanced student performance and better exam results. It’s a no-brainer.” On a macro level, if the scheme has helped prevent

even one teacher from leaving the sector by enabling them to turn their career around, then it more than justifies its existence financially as well as morally and ethically. The first step is always to encourage the subject to

look outside the box and take a more objective view of the “problem”. Ms Clift continued: “We often hear comments like

‘but this is how I’ve always done it’, nevertheless it’s crucial not to revert to the default position of offering advice in terms of ‘well, if I were you, I would do it like this’. “Nothing is likely to make someone feel even more

entrenched, alienated and isolated than being told what to do and how to do it. Our aim is to encourage reflection. You can’t tell someone how to do their job; they have to find their own style and the methods that work best for them.” Although the key indicators behind most referrals

from the audit team involve lack of student progress in exams and/or classroom participation, in combination with issues around discipline and control, 80 per cent of cases are most definitely not about failing teachers according to both Ms Clift and Ms Garcia. Ms Clift added: “A lack of motivation can often be

a cumulative matter. Things might start to go wrong almost imperceptibly – a bad day, a lack of planning or simply a particularly difficult student. Once someone starts to lose their professional self-assurance in front

of their class, however, things can quickly spiral downwards into anxiety and stress. “Coaching is about getting ‘clients’ to see and

acknowledge the positive and to be open to new ways of doing things. Often we find that they have become very fearful of experimenting and that’s when occasionally we take a more ‘directive’ approach and make a suggestion which we think has a high degree of potential. “Sometimes it’s the smallest thing, but it breaks the deadlock and kick-starts the process. It might be a useful

Talking CPD Achieving more with less

Sarah Pinkerton on the importance

of working and learning together to develop our skills as teachers

THE EDUCATIONAL landscape is changing, given the current financial constraints, new practices must have real impact and be cost-effective. We have to rigorously evaluate traditional activities and consider innovative ways of working. In short, we have to achieve more with less. The importance of teachers in producing excellent

educational systems is strongly noted in the influential Mckinsey Report and recognised in the recent White Paper – The Importance of Teaching. As Professor Dylan Wiliam has said: “If we are

serious about improving outcomes for young people what we have to do is invest in the professional development of teachers already in place.” (Reality Check, July 2010). And recent research, such asDo Teachers Matter?

by Burgess et al 2009, also reinforces this view. But do teachers magically emerge as “good and

great” following training? Do they simply have to attend courses to become “super teachers”? In reality, teaching can be a “lonely profession” and despite often vibrant staffrooms teachers do spend a lot of time without professional contact with their peers. There is a strong and growing body of evidence

which shows that collaborative CPD approaches are critical to raising teaching and learning standards. Collaborative approaches to CPD; peer support,

exchanging of practices, extending skills and knowledge in and between schools are key features of top performing school systems globally (Hobson et al 2009, Mckinsey 2007). Why? First, collaborative CPD harnesses the greatest

asset with our education systems – teachers. Learning from other professionals incorporates key components of successful CPD – contextualisation; personalisation; immediacy of feedback.


Adult learning methodologies (andragogy) suggest that 70 per cent of our learning comes from “doing”. Experiential learning is underpinned by discovering and developing skills within the environment in which we want to put them into practice.


Personalised and tailored training can dramatically increase the effectiveness of CPD programmes by providing support in line with the specific challenges faced by each teacher. Furthermore by recognising the individual needs of each teacher, every learner feels more valued and motivated.


Providing timely and relevant feedback, CPD activities are likely to result in change but how effective is feedback from a lesson observation when it is delivered a week later? Sustained approaches to CPD incorporating the key components of collaboration positively correlate with changes in teaching practice (Boyle et al 2004).

Learning together

The emergence of TeachMeets as successful and popular development forums show the popularity of the “grass-roots” approach driven from the chalkface. The demand for experiential learning opportunities is apparent. Teachers no longer want passive CPD. Teachers want opportunities to engage and shape CPD to meet their own needs. They want to share their own experience. They want to learn with others in the context of their own classrooms. The sharing of skills, knowledge and experience is

one of the best ways to spread the impact of excellent practice. We can rightly assume that collaborative approaches to CPD will improve standards while delivering more for less. A teacher learning network enables everyone to

contribute to the community and share their own skills and experience with their colleagues. It also facilitates the intensive one-to-one relationships needed to develop practice in a cost effective and scalable way. I would argue that even at this time of budgetary

constraint, collaborative CPD will enable the teaching profession to improve standards and outcomes.

• Sara Pinkerton is marketing manager for IRIS Connect. Visit

technique for getting pupils’ attention at the beginning of a lesson for example, or laying ground rules with pupils about speaking in class, but once a ‘client’ realises that they can make a difference and be effective again, one success leads to another quite quickly.” Testimony to the success of the scheme is the support

of the governors and the fact that Kingshurst’s coaching team has doubled in number since its inception. SecEd

• Carrie Saint Freedman is a freelance education journalist.


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