Coaching v Mentoring: What Works Best for Pupils to Boost GCSE Grades? [The Great Experiment!]

The Science department at St Bernard’s Catholic High School, Barrow in Furness, couldn’t resist putting coaching to the test!

Read on to find out how this approach compared to mentoring.


If students are coached will they make better progress than if they are mentored?


  • 20 x students (C/D borderline in science)
  • 4 x coaches (trained in the system)
  • 2 x mentors
  • Science IEP
  • Work Booklets
  • Target & Monitoring Sheets
  • AQA Results Analysis


  • 20 students were identified by the Science department to move from E or D grades in their June GCSE Exam to C grades in their January re-sit
  • Students were divided into 2 groups: 11 were coached & 9 were mentored
  • Parents were invited to a meeting where the Head of Department explained the process
  • Science IEPs were given out for Students and Parents to sign
  • Each intervention student was allocated a coach
  • Weekly meetings of 20-40 minutes took place and students were able to request extra meetings if required.


Coached students: 7 out of 11 achieved C grades (63.64%) & the other 4 students all improved their target grades. Confidence increased significantly because they weren’t told what to do, and they began coming up with goals, ideas and action steps on their own. Teacher coaches found this approach far more manageable as it involved less preparation and pressure on them.

Mentored students: 9 should have attended the sessions, but only 6 continued to attend – 3 of these improved to grade C (33.33%), 2 stayed at grade D – but improved overall UMS marks by 25. One improved to a D – UMS marks 59 improved to 218 – but this was because she joined the school late and had sat only one module in the first place.


The coaching approach worked more effectively and was more manageable for staff than mentoring


Congratulations to St Bernard’s Science Department for their remarkable success, and thank you for sharing your results with us. We’d also like to thank and give a special mention to Katie Galvaey who conducted this research task as part of an M.A. in Education




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