Find out how Brownedge St Mary’s have created a more personalised and cost-effective CPD system that’s improved teaching and learning and boosted results – And why they don’t want to go back to sending people out on the odd course.
My name’s Mary Page and I’m the Deputy Head here at Brownedge St Marys which is an 11-16 catholic school on the outskirts of Preston.
Before the coaching we had a very traditional approach to CPD. Staff would go out on courses or we might do bits and pieces in-house. That was alright, but they had limited effect, and since the coaching we’ve transformed the way we do CPD. What we’ve managed to do is create in a sense a personalised CPD programme for every member of staff.
I’ve very much been an advocate of coaching for a long time. I did part of my masters in education management was looking at effective CPD. That’s probably going back about 8 years or so, and I’d never had the opportunity to put things into practice. But we were very lucky – about 3 ½ years ago we managed to get some funding from the TDA to support CPD development, and I saw this as my opportunity to get some coaching started in school. So I used part of that funding to buy in the services of coachinginschools.com so that we could get a programme up and running that would accredit our coaches as well, because I’m very much an advocate of any CPD that staff do, that they actually get some certificate, and some points towards a Masters or whatever so that it enhances their career prospects in the future.
So what made you pick our programme as opposed to others that might be out there?
It looked most appealing to the variety of staff that we wanted to train. Also, actually talking to Annie on the phone and working out how one programme could actually be tailored to suit our needs. So in a sense we ended up with a very bespoke programme, linked to developing the staff that we’d identified, rather than just buying a programme off-the-shelf being delivered to everybody whether it fitted or not.
I think initially there were a lot of staff who were very sceptical, even though they were open to doing the training, they were thinking “I’m not sure whether it’s going to be for me or not”. But the way the training is organised and the fact that it’s a small group that get to know each other very well, and Annie’s relaxed approach in delivering the sessions helped create the right atmosphere, so that you grow in confidence and skills that you might think “Oh I’m not going to be very good at”, you’re encouraged to develop and go away and practice in a safe environment. And I think that there’s been in a sense an off-shoot of the coaching programme - that we’ve developed little teams of staff who are mutually supportive of one another outside a coaching conversation, but just sort of in a wider sense really in supporting themselves and one another in school.
How have people used what they’ve learnt on the programme in school here?
They’ve coached other members of staff at all different levels. There have been some that have wanted support for management activities, some lesson activities, we’ve used some with the middle leaders course that we’ve developed. We’ve been running that in-house this year and each of the middle leaders we offered them a couple of coaching sessions. Some of the pastoral leaders that have been trained as coaches have used coaching with their pupils – particularly Year 11 pupils that are on our mentoring programme. So we’ve tried to use it at every level.
What sorts of results have people got from using the system in school?
A lot more confidence. Confidence in their own ability to actually achieve things. And I think that’s probably been the major thing. We’ve had quite a lot of staff that have had promotions either to senior leadership level or middle leadership level and when we’ve interviewed them we’ve seen that they have the potential, but quite often they’re like “Well I don’t know that I can really step up and do that!” Having the support of a coach in school has given them that confidence to actually carry out that job a lot more effectively. And we’ve also seen improvements in teaching and learning in the classroom because again that’s been another focus that we can actually support staff in developing their behaviour management strategies or their independent learning strategies for the children. So again, it’s covered the whole range of activities in school.
How did the impact you achieved compare with what you’d originally hoped for?
Oh it’s above and beyond really what we’d hoped for. I think now to not have coaching available in school - people would be up in arms about it. We’ve turned around quite a lot of the sceptical members of staff who are saying “Well, can I have a coach for XYZ” – it’s a totally accepted – and if not expected part of the CPD system that we operate in school because we’ve found that that leads to much more long term results, so we wouldn’t want to go back to sending people out on the odd course.
It’s been much more cost-effective. Initially it looks like the programme’s going to cost a lot of money, but if you actually break that down into the amount of time that Annie puts in, and the amount of time that the coaches do, it’s negligible compared with £200 on a day out course where you get very little back. So I wouldn’t want to go back at all.
And what would you say your biggest success story is?
I think it has to be confidence of staff. I think we’ve got one particular member of staff who was a head of faculty – an effective head of faculty – but had been off with maternity leave. And then she came back and trained in the first cohort of coaches and that has really given her a big boost to her career. She’s now seconded to the SLT, she leads the school in teaching and learning, and she wouldn’t have been in that position – I don’t think – without the backup of the coaching programme that she’s done. I think it’s helped her with relationships with colleagues at all levels. It’s helped her own self-esteem and her own career plans. And I think as an individual she sort of embodies all that is really good about coaching. But I could probably say the exactly the same for pretty much everybody that’s been through the programme. Their confidence and their ability to tackle tasks that they might have been shy of in the past has been a real success.
What sorts of challenges or priorities has it helped your school with?
It’s helped with our teaching and learning priorities in developing more independent learning techniques within the classroom, because we’ve had teacher input on the different styles of techniques and that has been backed up by staff having one-to-one support from a coach.
I think it’s helped us to be much more effective as an SLT as well, because we’ve had a lot of changes at SLT level. Particularly the last twelve months – we’ve had a lot more challenges with the SLT, with members of staff being off sick, and our SLT meetings have sometimes turned into more of a coaching conversation. So it has helped us to focus more and be more effective in achieving our priorities. And better results across the board.
So what do you think the 3 biggest differences are that coaching’s made to Brownedge St Mary’s?
More committed and motivated staff. Staff knowing that they have support if they need it. And I’m convinced it’s led to better results with the year 11s because they’ve had better mentoring because of coaches that they’ve had as their mentors.
And what do you think would happened if you hadn’t invested in the programme?
Hmmm...all the things that I’ve said that have been positive wouldn’t have happened necessarily in the same way. Perhaps we would have carried on with the similar going out on days and trundling along really. But we haven’t done that and we’ve got these results, so I would advocate if that’s all the money you can afford, I would put it all into a coaching programme, and you will see a much better return from it.
If you could sum up the programme in 3 words, what would they be?
Transforming, empowering and revitalising.
Is there anything else you want to add that we haven’t covered?
It really is worth every penny of it. And the support you get is fantastic. It isn’t just a course that you go to and forget. There’s lots and lots of backup support and I think that is vital.