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A Coaching Revolution: why schools need extra help
Annie Boate, author of A Coaching Revolution, discusses why schools need extra help when it comes to improving the skills of existing staff, and details the impact of her work:
How did you first get into the world of education and coaching (which one came first)?
I began my teaching career in a very challenging school in a deprived area. I quickly realised I had skills in motivating some of the most disengaged children with low prior attainment, low aspirations and low self-esteem.
I desperately wanted to help these children escape the poverty trap and believe in themselves so they could have a better future, so I learnt some basic coaching strategies to boost their confidence and help them recall things easily, ready for their GCSEs.
When I realised the success of these basic coaching techniques I knew that I could use them to develop the sixteen members of staff I line-managed, having been promoted again in my new school.
I knew they were under pressure and I wanted to help them to overcome their challenges, to do better, and to feel better.
The more I experienced the power of coaching the more I wanted to learn. I invested my personal time and money to learn from the best coaches. I then became a coach in the corporate world. Despite my lucrative earnings from coaching CEOs, I soon realised that my passion for making a difference to people in schools was far more important than my bank balance. That's when ‘Coachinginschools' was born.
Why do you think there needs to be a coaching revolution in education?
There are three main reasons:
One - because ‘coaching' is too often done badly in schools. People call things ‘coaching' which aren't really coaching. They use old, inefficient models (like GROW) and don't understand their limitations. These models take up way too much time so they aren't practical for busy educators, and they don't deliver anywhere near as much impact as my 12-Step Model.
Two - because when people adopt the coaching strategies shared in my book they'll instantly get better outcomes and take the pressure off themselves and others.
And three - because coaching impacts positively on all aspect of school improvement, which saves schools a lot of time and money. School improvement is such an incredibly complex issue, and there are so many aspects and strands that interconnect. Each school context is different, and it's difficult for school leaders to be confident that they're adopting the best school improvement strategies for their school. It sometimes seems that you need a different strategy for each area, leading to ‘initiative overload' and workload issues. That's why strategic Headteachers have realised that coaching is the answer. Not only does it impact positively on all aspects of school improvement (whether it's leadership and management, teaching and learning, pupil progress or mental health) but it also saves a vast amount of time and money.
How long have you been working as a ‘coaching in schools' expert?
Over 18 years.
What are the top three challenges facing headteachers and school leaders in the UK today?
1) Staff recruitment & retention (including wellbeing in view of workload issues, pressure to get results and constant policy changes!)
2) Financial pressures owing to budget cuts
3) Pupil progress and wellbeing
What is the biggest success story of your career?
Developing the 12-Step Coaching In Schools model which has made a difference to thousands of people worldwide, and is frequently described as "life-changing" and "transformational". It's easy to follow, simple and powerful, and as long as people do it correctly they can't fail to get results.
It's also been tested and proven to outperform other coaching models and deliver far better impact/results.
People who have been coached using my model report faster progress, greater success and huge increases in confidence and motivation. For example:
• One reception class went from just 13.79% to 72.41% of children writing through choice when their teacher was coached
• Combined reading, writing and maths at Whitefield Primary School went from 37% to 64% in one year and their Ofsted judgement went from ‘Requires Improvement' to ‘Good'
• All three schools supported by a ‘National Support School' increased their GCSE Results, going from 37% to 60%; from 40% to 55% and from just over 20% up to 55%
Although I originally developed my coaching model for schools I'm always delighted and excited to know that people are using it on a daily basis with colleagues, pupils, friends, family and on themselves. Not only has it transformed teaching, learning and leadership, it's also been successful in helping weight loss, work-life balance, depression, and even helping someone escape from a dreadful domestic violence situation.
Once someone has read A Coaching Revolution and they want MORE – how do they get that and what else can they get from you and your business?
If someone wants more they're welcome to contact me directly for a chat so that I can see what would work best for them. They can also:
a) Apply for a place on one of my online training programmes to learn the 12-Step Model and advanced coaching skills
b) Request face-to-face training for a group of staff
c) Order the ‘dual factor' 360 Diagnostic Tool to take a more forensic and effective approach to staff development and school improvement planning, leading to more rapid improvement.
May is notoriously a stressful time of year for students, teachers and parents as it's exam season. What advice would you give to each of those ‘groups' in terms of navigating through the month of May and coming out the other side?
Use my 12-Step Model to coach students to success.
This will keep them focused on the positive outcome they want and they'll work out the best way to get there. It will help them to break overwhelming revision down into bite-size chunks, and take any action they agree to!
The majority of schools waste time mentoring their students through the exam period, but coaching has much more impact:
63.64% of C/D borderline students at St Bernard's Catholic High School who were coached using my 12-Step Model achieved C grades in their Science GCSE compared with just 33.33% of students who were mentored.
Staff absences in schools are escalating. There's been a lot in the press about teachers going off sick due to stress and mental ill health. What's the root cause and what needs to be done to help teachers?
Teaching is a demanding, all-consuming profession for those wanting to do a good job. There are relentless internal and external pressures which increase workload and make it difficult to juggle work and family life. Alongside policy changes, Ofsted, and phenomenal pressure to get results, teachers have to manage challenging behaviour, and often have abusive or threatening parents to contend with!
The best teachers are continuously striving to improve. They never feel they ‘know it all' or have ‘got there.' They're always willing to learn, try new things and put their heart and soul into giving their best. However, they rarely get time to stop and think and reflect, so they don't always see the best way to do things. As a result they can feel overwhelmed or completely burnt out.
Research shows that 1.3 million days have been taken off by teachers for stress and mental health related issues in the last four years so something needs to be done!
High quality coaching is the answer.
People who have been coached using my 12-Step Model describe feeling empowered, in control, more confident and less stressed. They're able to manage their time and workload better. Some have even said they would have gone under without this!
Whilst the majority of coaching is work-related, some staff choose to deal with issues in their personal life which have been impacting on their mental health and work performance. This results in reduced stress, improved mental and physical health, better performance at work and significantly less time off sick.
The coaching business can have a bad reputation – as you write in your A Coaching Revolution there are plenty of ‘Mr and Mrs Average Coaches' out there. How can a school leader/teacher differentiate between an ineffective coach and a highly effective coach?
Far too many coaching systems lack structure. They amount to little more than a friendly, therapeutic chat. This may make the coachee feel better but it won't move them forward significantly or resolve the underlying problem.
The Coaching In Schools system produces highly effective coaches who don't just make the person feel better, they get tangible results. Great coaches aren't born, they are made. Our coaches complete extensive coaching training and their coaching skills are assessed and quality assured before they achieve accreditation. They are constantly honing their coaching skills through practice, practice and more practice. They produce amazing results with their coachees; each structured, 15 minute coaching session moves their coachee forward towards their identified target.
Surely you've not always had success though… when a coaching session/programme goes ‘wrong' what are the typical causes?
Not everyone is designed to excel at coaching. I always warn potential trainees that if they aren't open-minded and are convinced that they have nothing to learn, then they shouldn't enrol on my coaching course.
An effective coach needs to have developed the two core skills that underpin my coaching model as a minimum. These are the skills of ‘powerful questioning' and ‘active listening.' Most of us do both very badly without training and practice. Coaches who practise the core skills I teach, and stick religiously to my coaching model have significant impact on the people they coach without fail. Those who want to develop into ‘champion' coaches undergo my ‘advanced coaching skills' training. This takes their coaching onto an even higher level for even greater impact on their coachees.
Teachers are time-strapped. You say that the coaching sessions need only be 15 minutes long but for some even that may seem like time they don't have to spare – what would your response be?
If 15 minutes of coaching can transform a teacher from feeling stressed, overwhelmed and helpless into feeling empowered, in control of their workload and confident, then I would say that's an excellent investment in time, and an invaluable return on that investment. Each 15 minute coaching session gives busy staff the time to stop ‘doing' and ‘reacting.' Instead they are allowed the space to reflect, take control, and produce simple, creative solutions to their own challenges. Research shows that these 15 minutes can save them up to 2½ hours, so to me it's a complete no-brainer!
If you could give just one piece of advice to headteachers today, what would it be?
If you have a daunting range of school improvement issues to deal with but only enough CPD budget to invest in one thing, then invest in creating a coaching culture across your school. Adopting a ‘coaching approach' will have a positive impact on every aspect of school improvement, and on every member of your school community. This coaching system has no sell-by date. Once you learn the skills of effective coaching they are skills that will last for life. They can be applied in improving leadership and management, teaching and learning, pupil progress, behaviour…the list is endless. They can also impact positively on life beyond school, making a huge contribution to staff, pupil and parent wellbeing.
The question isn't "Can you afford to do this?", it's "Can you afford NOT to do this?"