Discover how Salford City Academy scrapped mentoring and used our coaching system to help teachers drastically improve and turn “inadequate” lessons into “good” and “outstanding” lessons in a 6 week coaching cycle.
I’m Carol Murray. I’m looking after the coaching co-ordination of our staff. Salford City Academy is an inner city school sponsored by ULT. Only a small school – about 900 pupils – in quite a challenging socially deprived area.
Before the coaching we had a very intensive teaching and learning observation schedule going where staff were observed very early on, and that raised some issues in the school that we felt needed to be challenged in order for the impact on the pupils not to have been detrimental in any way. We wanted to support them so that they could support the pupils. So we looked at different ways we could do that.
Coaching was the main one. We decided to go with it 110%. We’d done a lot of research, looked at different packages and looked at doing it internally. We knew that coaching was going to be the way forward for our teachers, so that’s the one we went with, and looking at where we would get support to do that, and not just tread water trying to do it ourselves.
We wanted an expert to come in and guide us, because what we didn’t want to do was do things wrong and cause detrimental effect with the staff. We didn’t want it to go backwards, obviously! We didn’t want to do a trial and error where again things could go drastically wrong, and it would actually not do what we wanted it to do.
We’re still in early days with the coaching. However, the impact of that has been tremendous. We targeted the staff who really needed support straight away. Within a six week programme, staff who were achieving grade 4 “unsatisfactory” lessons were turning that round very, very quickly.
All the feedback we had from that was tremendously positive. Staff didn’t feel under pressure. This led to a very positive environment of development rather than a judgemental, being picked on, “horrible senior leader” kind of environment with big brother watching me, into a very supportive one.
And I know when Ofsted came in they saw the results of that, didn’t they as well?
They did see results, because from our data they targeted members of staff who had actually drastically improved, because they were seeing that this person was a grade 4, and then suddenly we’ve said that they’re a 2. So I’m sure it raised flags for Ofsted – how has this come about? So they observed a number of our teachers who were being challenged, and their grades from the Ofsted inspection observations were again 2s and frequently were 1s. None of our teachers who’d been on the coaching package got anything less than a 2.
And can you just tell us, for those same teachers, what had you tried before?
We’d tried peer mentoring, with subject mentoring, professional mentoring – the usual traditional type of mentoring programme. And with a couple of teachers we’d got to that point of “what on earth can we do to help this member of staff?” And then the coaching was put into place and those members of staff have turned it around.
What was it like being on the programme yourself?
It was very awe-inspiring as the programme went through, seeing how just wording different things, just small steps made an impact on members of staff straight away. The actual coaching team developed a relationship that supported each other, and that had an impact itself on each of our departments in the wider school. It was the best CPD. The one that has had the most impact. I’ve been teaching here nearly 10 years and it’s been the best CPD that I’ve done. The one that you’ve come back from and said “Oh yes! - This is going to change things.” Not the one you come back from and you throw the notes in the bin – “I’ve had a nice day out and I’ve had a nice lunch!” – The one that I knew was going to have an effect.
What sorts of challenges and priorities has it helped your school with?
We’ve mentioned the teaching of teachers who were being challenged, but there’s also the teachers at the other extreme as well, going from “good” to “outstanding”. Also our support staff. We had support staff trained as coaches, and they’ve been working with other support staff and teachers, so I think what has been really good is the relationship between teaching and support staff. We’ve had support staff coaching teachers, teachers coaching support staff, and also we’ve now started to look at teachers coaching pupils rather than mentoring them or teaching them.
So what sorts of results have you and your colleagues got form using the system?
Every evaluation that’s come back has been really positive, both from the coaches experience and the coachee’s experience. Everything has been positive to the extent that one of the comments that arises quite frequently is “More please!” I think that because it’s very personalised the staff are seeing that it’s for them. It’s not coming from above – it’s for them – so it’s very much underpinning everything that we do.
Our next steps are to expand the programme so that more staff are taking ownership and being the coaches as well as the coachees.
So what would you say are the 3 biggest differences are that coaching’s made to Salford City Academy?
Improved teaching, improved learning, improved self-esteem.
And what do you think would happened if you hadn’t invested in the programme?
I think we would have mulled along, like teachers tend to do. You mull along. People move on. Stress levels would have gone through the roof. People would have left. Some staff that would have left are still here. I think that this will all impact on our results as well in the summer.
If you could sum up the programme in 3 words, what would they be?
Empowering, inspirational, challenging.
Is there anything else you want to add at all?
I think it’s the best investment that this school has done in its staff and its pupils. I think working with coachinginschools.com has been an inspiration to me personally and also to a number of staff. It involves every part of my working life now, and also my husband as well benefits from it tremendously!