In March 2017 Saffron Walden County High School became the largest secondary school in the country to be awarded the National Coachmark Gold Award – a qualification that gives recognition for coaching excellence in schools
This blog will aim to share with you our coaching journey; from experimenting with coaching for teachers at the beginning of our journey, to giving all colleagues the opportunity to be coached through a range of different pathways with a professional coaching team accredited through the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM).
My starting point is a quote from Dylan William which has not only made a lasting impression upon me as a teacher, but is also a great starting point when considering the place of coaching in school led CPLD.
I believe coaching is like having your own personal cheerleader – who wouldn’t benefit from that?! The coach has no vested interest in anyone other than you. By definition, coaching normally involves one-to-one support (a coach and coachee) to help a person improve, develop, learn and manage challenging situations.
Philosophically, Tschannen-Moran’s definition of coaching is the ideal to which I aspire: coaching, they say, is ‘love in action’. This is because coaching should be based on relationships rooted in mutual respect, where the participants are equals, and there is a genuine willingness to share practice. Trust and rapport can thus effect positive change for both the teacher, the pupils and the school as a whole.
Our Coaching Journey at Saffron Walden County High – a whole school strategy.
Our coaching journey started back in 2013/2014 when a small group of interested staff met to talk about coaching and how it could be used to develop teaching and learning. Armed with the STRIDE model as a starting point, we paired up and practiced and developed our skills as a coaching team.
The feedback from this group of staff was really positive and so it convinced us that we should develop coaching as a form of CPD across the school. A couple of key questions we considered before embarking on a coaching programme were:
What would coaching look like in our school?
What role could coaching play in the long term strategy to harness staff development?
How could this be embedded into our CPLD offer in a meaningful way?
At the beginning of our coaching journey any colleague wishing to be coached had to focus on a teaching and learning goal/objective linked with our strategic priorities. However, over the years we have made coaching much more bespoke resulting in colleagues being able to request coaching through a number of coaching pathways:
Leadership coaching- The next step
Returning to work after a period of absence (e.g. maternity/paternity leave)
Anyone new to the school or new to a management role.
NQT and RQT Coaching
CPD/Teaching and Learning Excellence Programme
In May 2017, once coaching was firmly established, we applied for the Coachmark Award – A National Award for Coaching in schools which leads to recognition of the coaching culture, practices and standards that have been developed in a school. Through an audit and assessment process, the Coachmark award offered a supportive guide to assist us to achieve the highest standards in coaching practice and we were awarded the highest accolade –the gold award!
One of the few development points from the Coachmark process included researching how we could get our coaches trained and accredited to the highest level. Embarking on an accredited ILM Coaching and Mentoring Qualification with Marvelous Minds for our team of coaches.
The ILM qualification which consisted of three face-to-face days, three written assignments and 36 hours of assessed coaching has most definitely given coaching a higher professional status and has allowed our coaching team to research the latest theory and deepen their understanding of how coaching and mentoring can impact enabled coaches to get a deeper and more critical understanding of the diagnostic tools, structures and effective coaching practice.
The research has allowed us tools to assess our own skills, behaviors and knowledge as coaches through the use of diagnostic and psychometric tools including Myers Briggs Type Indicator test and using a range of models including: GROW, STRIDE, OSKAR and RIGGAR, offering excellent professional development.
Overall Benefits of Coaching to a School
Coaching has allowed us to promote and establish a more reflective and collaborative culture at Saffron Walden County High with more conversations taking place about our core business - teaching and learning. When staff feel more confident about solving their own issues, they are more likely to do so again – and so continue to develop and improve their own practice. When coaching starts to happen informally and frequently around the school (also known as Martini coaching!), it becomes a very powerful tool for continuous improvement.
Saffron Walden County High School