Coaching & Leadership Development
How Coaching supports School Performance

How Coaching supports School Performance

  This blog comes from the Executive Headteacher of two large primary schools in the London Borough of Redbridge, Kulvarn Atwal The easiest way to understand coaching is to consider it as an activity that enables you to explore a challenging aspect of your practice, something that you would like to improve, in greater detail. Coaching skills cannot be developed through a one-day course; they have to be nurtured over time.Through ongoing engagement in coaching, teachers develop both an understanding of the model and an awareness of how to use it to develop themselves and team members. As a school leader, I have seen the significant positive impact on staff and children working at the centre of a team of teachers who are now experienced coaches. The benefits are myriad, with boosts to professional learning, staff self-assessment and reflection, building of relational trust, improving communication with children and parents, and developing the emotional climate across the school. It enables teachers to understand exactly where they are in their learning, where they need to get to and how best to get there. (Indeed, that is the etymology of the word “coach” in this sense: a tutor who transports (as in a coach and horses) a student to greater understanding.) Schools are places of continual change and that – hopefully – means continual improvement. In recent years, the expected standards for children at each key stage in primary schools have been raised considerably. In order to respond to these, the thinking school requires teachers who are not fixed in their thinking and are open to continual individual and collective development. For us to achieve, we need...
4 Things than can Hinder School Improvement

4 Things than can Hinder School Improvement

  There are many challenges to bringing a School Development Plan (SDP) to life and ensuring that priorities are owned and meticulously followed through by all relevant parties.   It’s easy to understand, how within the busyness of school-life, many can mistakenly assume, that a well written SDP, backed up with numerous sets of data will secure a school’s progress and increase levels of performance.   If that were true, many a school leader would find the whole task of school improvement relatively easy. They’d never worry, ruminate over errors made or worry about the next OFSTED visit. They’d just write the SDP, give it to others to read and feel safe in the knowledge that teachers would complete every action detailed within the plan and improvements would follow in simple, predictable, sequential steps. But… we know, schools are busy places and life in schools just isn’t like that!   Senior school leaders know this and recognise that they have a critical role to play in the execution of the SDP and how it is received by others. Those that fare well are aware of how their actions can either hinder or facilitate school improvement. Their self-awareness is such that their skill in managing inter-personal relationships becomes a key determinant for the degree to which staff engage with the school’s priorities for improvement and their own roles and responsibilities.   In essence, they know that success very much depends on them not doing four of these key things when leading and managing others…   1. Being ambiguous about expectations   Individuals like to know where they stand. Ambiguity over...
3 Coaching Skills you need as a School Leader

3 Coaching Skills you need as a School Leader

    Good coaches and indeed good school leaders are able to communicate a belief in people’s potential and an expectation that they can do their best. Their tacit message is…   I believe in you. I’m investing in you, and I expect your best efforts. As a result, people sense that a leader cares, so they feel motivated to uphold their own standards for performance, and they feel accountable for how well they do. (Daniel Goleman)   For those that line manage others, it is essential that they have the skills that will have a strong, direct, positive impact on staff levels of motivation, and improve standards for all. Many of the skills required for this type of impact stem from coaching.   Coaching is a broad term for a process that is concerned with bringing out the best in others. There are a wide spectrum of skills that coaches develop over time to assist both the personal and professional growth process.   For school leaders seeking to develop both their coaching competence and confidence there are three key coaching skills that are the foundations for success when working with others…   1. Asking High Level Questions   Questions have the power to change both the content and direction of a conversation. They can play a key role in shaping the structure of a meeting and the quality of both the discussion and related outcomes.   In a variety of school settings ‘high level’ questions (i.e. ones that enable an individual to think deeply about their intention and motivation to succeed) can be used to enable both the...
How Coaching Transforms Staff Performance in Schools

How Coaching Transforms Staff Performance in Schools

  The frustrations, pressures, and challenges teachers face test their self-esteem, energy and dedication every day. To preserve throughout their careers the vision with which the best of them started – to hold fast to the idea that the business they are in is that of setting minds on fire – is a heroic project. [Branden, 1994: 226] It is a project that all teachers and school leaders face, one that is about learning to bring out the best in themselves and others. It is a project that is as much about ensuring their pupils are emotionally intelligent, as it is about ensuring that they are numerate and literate.   It is about ensuring that they leave school with levels of emotional maturity and insight that will enable them to develop positive relationships with individuals from all walks of life. It is about a human quest where the prize should not just be a ranking on government league tables, but building generations of young people who possess a healthy sense of self- worth and belief in their own capabilities and potential, ready to stride forward and to make their own dreams reality.   Where do we begin?   For a school to realise its potential of being a place in which humanity is at its best, and by extension a place where all human beings flourish, a school has to be an emotionally healthy place where all adults within the community possess a positive sense of self and a robust emotional maturity. Yet sadly, we know this is very hard to achieve. Why? Because very few adults, leaders included,...
The 3 Signs of Toxic School Culture

The 3 Signs of Toxic School Culture

  Over the past few years, I’ve seen and heard the term “toxic school culture” or “toxic schools” being used to depict various situations in which there are qualities that negatively impact the performance, mental health or working environment in our schools.    It’s a term that is a source of great debate, as what qualifies as a “toxic school culture” to one teacher or school leader is so very much dependent on context and the personalities/people involved.   Having read some of the accounts from teachers and school leaders who have described their experiences of “toxic schools” and from my own experience in education, I would surmise that these experiences, are rarely caused by a wilful intent to toxify a school culture by any one party.   Rather they are a result of behaviours and habits (of staff and leaders alike) that left un-checked have become negative norms. Very often, initially, these behaviours and habits may not even be immediately obvious or even appear to be a huge problem.   However, in a delicate school ecosystem where emotions are contagious and behaviours can easily impact one another; these limiting behaviours, attitudes or habits can gradually become endemic and slowly hinder both staff performance and the culture of the school.   I am certain that in-spite of the stories that abound, the vast majority of teachers and school leaders do not want to either create or be a part of such cultures. So, what are the early warning signs and how can teachers and school leaders be better prepared to address them when they are in evidence?   There...
The 5 Characteristics of Positive School Culture

The 5 Characteristics of Positive School Culture

  Recently, we announced the launch of our latest cohort of our 4 Day Coaching Programme to Maximise School Performance.   In preparation for the programme, I have been reflecting on the features of school cultures that serve to grow adults and foster outstanding staff performance.   As I did so, I was reminded of research carried out by Stoll and Fink at the Institute of Education. Their research identified a number of school cultural norms that they cite as evidence for strong, positive school cultures.   They assert that if these norms are weak or non-existent within a school, then growth and development at both an individual and organisational level are severely hampered.   Out of the norms which they identified, I believe there are five that are essential, for creating genuine school cultures in which all adults and young people thrive.   As you read through these, I’d encourage you to reflect on each of the norms below and perhaps consider these questions:   – To what extent are these norms present in your school culture? – Which norms are strengths and would act as enablers for the development of a positive culture in your school? – Which norms are weaknesses/areas for development and might act as potential barriers for the development of a positive culture in your school? – What strategies could be developed for overcoming these barriers?   1. Shared Goals & Vision – We know where we’re going   When individuals are empowered to take ownership of their goals it can cause a shift in the culture of a school. As individuals learn how to work in alignment with the school’s vision and values, a new set of relationship...