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Cori Bateman (Headteacher), Chantry Primary Academy

Coaching Reduces Problems, Increases Independence & Almost Doubles Results!

A 'MUST-WATCH' VIDEO FOR ALL HEADTEACHERS & SENIOR LEADERS...
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SHORT VERSION OF THE INTERVIEW ABOVE (3 MINS)

Coaching in Schools Gets Monkeys Off Head's Back, Increases Independence & Almost Doubles Results!

Headteacher Cori Bateman shares how she's used coaching & what difference it's made to her, her school & another school she supported, eg Combined reading, writing & maths from 37% to 64% in 1 Year

[Coaching for Headteachers] Interview Transcript

Cori:

I’m Cori Bateman, I’m a Headteacher here at Chantry Primary Academy. We’re a two form entry primary school growing to three form entry. We’ve got an extensive leadership team. Um, we have a complexity or having two special provisions in the school. So we’ve got quite a big middle management tier, where the team leaders for those two special provisions are both within that team as well. So it’s quite a complex school.

 

Annie:

It is indeed!

So what made you want to get involved with the coaching?

 

Cori:

Um, too many monkeys on my back, I guess. Um, I just felt that everybody here was expecting a bit of spoonfeeding and that we’ve reached a point where we were so busy spending our time referring staff back to their line managers because they were coming to us as a leadership team with absolutely everything we were having to constantly say, “You need to go speak to so and so… you need to speak to so and so…”

 

But they expected the Head, and the strategic team, to hold all of the information – where actually we don’t. Um, so we were starting to kind of get into the habit of answering people’s queries rather than referring them back to line managers. So we went through this phase of referring them back to line managers. And then we found that things would still come back to us again anyway. So we were then answering queries and then having to feed back to the line manager, the answers that we’ve given to the queries.

 

Annie:

Right.

 

Cori:

So it clearly wasn’t working, because we were going around in circles and just ending up still answering the queries.

 

Annie:

Okay. So what difference did it make them once you’ve done the coaching training, to that?

 

Cori:

It came… um I was on a meeting, I was at a meeting and, um, met Monica (Head at Ashcroft) who had done the coaching in schools.

 

She was talking about the difference it made to her working life, and to her personal life, I guess. And um, I’m, I thought as I was listening to her, I was thinking “that’s what I need. I need some mechanisms I suppose, or a system, a way of fielding queries differently to be able to put the onus back onto people to do that for themselves and grow and build independence. Because I was fed up of being the one, everyone depended on. I feel a bit like that at home. I feel a bit like that at work. Everybody’s just constantly coming to me to answer the queries because I’m supposed to know everything!

 

So the coaching sounded like a great way forward. So the idea was, that by having all of our leadership team trained in coaching, that we would start putting the onus back on the staff to find their own solutions to problems and stop expecting that spoonfeeding of a solution every time.

 

So even for example, the things like lesson observations. They’ll come for feedback from lesson observation and feedback was strengths and areas for development. And then they’re expecting you to kind of populate an action plan for them by telling them what their next steps are, what they need to do next to improve, where actually then they have no ownership with any of it.

 

Annie:

No.

 

Cori:

So what we found through the coaching, was that we were able to hand over that ownership back to the teacher to develop their own practice and to find their own way forward, which therefore (hopefully!) is having more impact. And I would say that from the observations we’ve done using coaching style – and feeding back coaching style – that we’ve seen a greater impact. People are more independent and finding their own way forward.

 

Annie:

That’s really good. Wow. So that’s obviously one difference that it’s made in terms of how you’ve used it.

How else have you used it?

 

Cori:

I have… We try very hard to use it for the day-to-day queries.

 

Annie:

Right.

 

Cori:

And so if people come to me, I’ll give you an example. A senior, midday supervisor was frequently coming on a rainy and miserable day, or if it was a bit of mizzle – a bit a drizzle – she would come and say, “Well is it wet play? Indoor or outdoor? What do you think?”

 

And I would look out the window and make a decision on whether it was indoor or outdoor play. The problem I was having with that is that every time there was a bit of a misty, mizzley day, she’d come back and ask me the question again. And so by doing the coaching, what I realised is that what I needed to do was to say to her, “What do you think?”

 

And then she would make the decision and then the next time she came back and she said, “It’s raining again today. I think we should… we should… And then she would say either, “I think we should go out and then bring the children in after 5 or 10 minutes and they’ve had a bit of fresh air.”

 

So she’d make that decision, and check it out with me. And now I don’t see her. She doesn’t make… she makes decisions on her own.

 

Annie:

Oh wow!

 

Cori:

So I haven’t made the decision of ‘wet play’ for about the last six months!

Annie:

Wow! Amazing!

 

Cori:

It’s a little thing, but it’s one less thing to have to deal with.

 

Annie:

Yeah.

 

Cori:

And I just feel if we do that more and more often. So when people are coming and asking questions – and they’re silly little questions sometimes – but it’s not so silly to them in the moment. They need that decision. They don’t want to get it wrong.

 

So if they know that they have the power to make those decisions, and that they’ve tested those decisions out and they’re generally right, then they won’t come and ask.

 

The teachers themselves who worked with the Deputy and came up with the ‘7 features of an effective lesson’ [from the Coachinginschools training].

 

Annie:

Oh great.

 

Cori:

So we didn’t go with ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ or any kind of graded – it was just [the Coachinginschools] 7 key features of an effective lesson, and they use that for all lesson observations now. So because the staff came up with that themselves, and then we use that to feed back coaching-style. Um, so as I said, we’re much more on board with that.

 

So the kind of action planning that they do, then around that is their own. And then we come back to them and observe them again and talk about the action plan they’ve put in. So we then come with the follow up – it’s the next step of the coaching.

 

And then we’ll go back to the beginning of that cycle again, and we’re constantly picking up on what they said in the last one that they were going to do after their observation before.

Annie:

 

So you’re making sure that they’re accountable and just embedding it as it goes through. Fantastic!

 

Cori:

We have also used the coaching with teachers who are, who have longer term issues with their teaching. So if you’ve got ‘requires improvement’ teacher, we’ve used the coaching there. So what we used to class as “coaching – stroke – mentoring”. (Yeah). We now either use “coaching” – or we use “mentoring”.

 

Annie:

And has that had an impact?

 

Cori:

Um, in the case of one particular teacher. Yes. And that’s been quite a significant improvement. So we’ve seen the “requires improvement” securing “good”. Them heads are in the right place on improvement and self-improvement. So I think that’s been a real benefit. And that will have knocked on to children – because better teaching is better learning!

 

Annie:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And it’s just made me think actually with you saying that – “better teaching, better learning.” You’ve used it in your work with other schools haven’t you?

 

Cori:

Yeah.

 

Annie:

Are you happy to talk about that?

 

Cori:

Yeah. Yeah. So there the Headteacher that I’ve been supporting. The school had gone into… it went… it was judged “requires improvement” in December 13. And so I started working at the school in April 14 when the school with technically without a Head. So the Deputy had stepped up to Acting Head in the absence of a substantive post holder. Um, I think everyone at that point agreed that actually this school did really well to get, “requires improvement.”

 

Annie:

Right.

 

Cori:

So it had a very, very long way to go and it felt like as we were working together, and I was asking questions, and then she was exploring her school and we were talking things over, she was finding, sort of turning more and more rocks – and finding issues underneath.

 

So every time we turned a corner, we’d find another problem and another issue. And things were worse than any of us thought at the beginning. Um, so we’ve spent a year and a term now together. At the start, um, it did start as a ‘mentoring’ role. Yes. She didn’t know what the job of being a head teacher was. Um, so we did a lot of showing what that looks like. So once we’ve reached the point where she started to do things independently, we moved that into “coaching”. So that would have been around October/November time, Christmas maybe. Yeah. So at that time we then were moving more from mentoring into coaching and she wanted to troubleshoot and solve her own issues, which is exactly right and appropriate.

 

So, um, what kinds of things did we do?

 

It’s really things like talking through within the action plan, what steps needed to be taken.

 

So where at the beginning I was giving her the steps that I would take. I was having to sit on my hands a bit more, and challenge her to think of the steps that she would need to take. And so having had some of that mentoring, having had her spend time with me in my school and learning from my way of doing things, what would her work doing things be? So I was very keen to start exploring that. And at that time she’d also been appointed as the substantative head. So she’d made the decision, “This is your job for me, I’m going to do it.” And then, as soon, almost as soon as she was appointed, she no longer wanted to be shown the way she wanted to find her own way, which is absolutely right. So it was a really natural progression from ‘mentoring’ to ‘coaching’.

 

So once the coaching began, it was, yeah, talking through the action plans and then what types of things she felt she would need to do. And then as we met week on week, we would be talking through the actions that she’d taken, looking at the next issue – “The next block” she’d say, and then what, what would need to be done there. So we were constantly using the coaching cycle over and over and over, um, to, not just on one problem, but addressing multiple problems on a regular basis, um, in order to address the whole problem, which was the standards within the school. So if you’d break down the big, the big issue, which she’s had to be improve the quality of teaching and learning in this school. And then bit by bit we sort of address one, and then the other, and then the other through the coaching model.

 

Annie:

And what’s it like now?

 

Cori:

What’s it like now? They’ve had a whole school review about two weeks ago, I’ve just had the report emailed to me this morning actually.

 

Annie:

Wow. How bizarre!

 

Cori:

So they’ve been, so their SEF judgements, um, have all been agreed. The SEF, is an interesting story, because the first SEF that we wrote – effectively, I wrote – based on my observations of, of being in the school and around the school, and the times we’d spent together in school. And that’s how it started. I did a lot of learning walks with her, I did observations with her. There’s a lot of me being very visible around the school, alongside the Headteacher, doing the work with her. And then as time’s gone on, I’ve gone more and more and more backseat. So I see, you know, I will come after learning walk’s been done, and we will talk through what that’s shown, and then using coaching, we will then plan what her next steps will be to address the gaps that she’s identified. So she would identify the gaps. She would identify the actions. And we just talk that through using the coaching model.

 

So the SEF that she wrote is her own judgements of how the school was progressing, which we talked through in coaching. She’s then… That’s all being validated. So they now, they still have areas that require improvement. So their achievement and their teaching and learning. But they’re much stronger ‘requires improvement’ now. And I would say that they’re heading towards ‘good’.

 

And then the other areas – leadership and management is being judged ‘good’ by both themselves and by um, the external view. And behaviour and safety, which was, it was good in the Ofsted, although we, neither of us could agree on on how that happened, because behaviour was shocking when we first got to the school. But that’s um, it’s much, much stronger now than it was. So they’ve got, and the review has said that if they carry on with the trajectory that we’re on, and Ofsted come in nearer to Christmas than September…

 

Annie:

Yeah.

 

Cori:

…Because it will be next term. That with the right team, the right progress in books, that they could come out of “requires improvement” altogether and get “good”.

 

Annie:

That would be amazing!

 

Cori:

It would be amazing. I would be really pleased with that. So one, yeah…So what we’ve decided is because my formal relationship finishes with the school Friday effectively. Um, so at the end of this term I’ve been on ‘exit strategy’ – that I’m now going to take over the role of Headteacher’s mentor in September. So I still have a link to the school, but it won’t be, um, it won’t be a, a kind of a formal arrangement as it is at the moment. So at the moment it’s quite a formal arrangement. And In September, I’ll carry on working with the school. So I’ll be able to carry on being a part of the progress, er progress forward. But…

 

Annie:

Wow!

 

Cori:

…But not so formal.

 

And she knows that sometimes I could just solve the problem with the snap of the fingers, but I would be solving the problem my way – the Chantry way – rather than solving it her way, her school’s way. And so, and what I’ve found is that when I have been tempted to give them the quick fix answer, she’s delivered that answer differently from how I would have delivered it. It’s a solution. The outcome hasn’t been the same.

 

If I had taken my own action in the way I described it, I would have had a certain outcome and have had. (Yeah). But because she did it… With a slight twist! So I’d explained how I would do something. She’s gone off and done it – slightly differently from how I feel I explained it – and the outcome didn’t quite work. So my that that… And I guess that’s been the lesson to me – that if I want this to work, it has to work for her and her school. So it needs to be her solution. It can’t be my solution because it’s not me doing it, and it’s not my school it’s happening in. So I think that’s where coaching, it becomes really obvious that coaching is the solution when you see your own solution ‘failing’ because somebody else isn’t delivering it your way.

 

Annie:

Yeah. That’s really funny isn’t it? The different perceptions. Hmmm. Interesting!

 

Cori:

So it’s, yeah, all the more reason to be using coaching rather than telling somebody the answers I’d say. Yeah.

 

There were a few examples where there was something lost in translation and it just didn’t come out quite the way I thought it was going to, because it wasn’t done in quite the way I thought it would be done.

 

I think that, I guess for me the most important thing is, that if a solution that I would come up with and that I would deliver in my school might work in, in my school – with my children, or my staff – but it won’t necessarily work in another school, with another group of staff in a different situation. So it’s, it’s very much horses for courses. And I think coaching allows somebody to come up with their own response within their own circumstances, which will be very different from your own.

 

But it’s interesting because the job of a Headteacher’s mentor (they call them a ‘mentor’), but having done the [Coachinginschools] coaching, I would suggest that they probably ought to think about Headteachers having a ‘coach’ rather than a ‘mentor’.

 

Because if you are a Headteacher, new to the authority or new to headship, you’ve kind of, you’ve applied for the job, you’ve been successful at getting it, so it’s not a mentor you need. You probably do need a coach. Somebody who’s going to help you find your own way, rather than somebody who’s going to come along and say, “Well in my school I do this…”

 

Annie:

Yes. Yeah.

 

Cori:

So a mentor is very much a “This is what I do. Let me show you!”

 

Whereas I would say a ‘coach’ is what they need, which is someone who can help you find the right way.

 

That would be an interesting thing for the local authority to consider – is whether they have a Head’s coach or a ‘Headteacher coach’ rather than a ‘Headteacher mentor’.

 

So, and it is nice to see, that what’s what’s been written in the school review is that the school benefited from a kind of a ‘hefty package’ of support to begin with, but over time has developed the independence to to manage the school and to lead the school forward on its own two feet, you know. Or ‘their’ own two feet as a team.

 

So having made the right appointments and got things in place and structures are now setup, and structures that work for them in their school. So it’s not like I’ve taken everything we do here and replicated it there. By using coaching rather than replication, they’ve come up with their own version. So they might have seen something here that works for us, and they wanted to do the same there, but they’ve made it their own through working it through a coaching system rather than just saying, “Right, here’s, here’s the package. Take it and go and deliver it there!” So…

 

Annie:

Yeah. So it’s much more personalised, much more toned to them.

 

Cori:

Yeah, that’s right, yeah. Fits the school, fits the school’s needs, and hopefully improves their outcomes even further.

 

Annie:

“Even” [both laughing].

 

Cori:

Even further, yeah.

 

Because their results this year are almost double last years.

 

Annie:

Are they?

 

New Speaker:

Yeah. Yep. Yeah.

 

Annie:

Wow!

 

Cori:

Just from a few simple actions, I mean, and I can give some examples. You know, we… Here, we do, um, we have a ‘booster’ programme. And we have a comprehensive booster programme where we have children in different times the days. It might be the morning, lunch times, after school. But every child at whatever ability level they’re at, they will have some form of securing their level, um, through a booster activity. But when we talked about that, it was very clear that that wasn’t going to work for their school and their circumstances. So we, we worked it through and, and thought about, well, “What, what could you do here?” Um, and so she came up with various options. And then what the option that she settled on was an extended day. So every child in Year 6 – because they needed to raise standards quickly – every child in Year 6 stayed for an extended day one day a week. So rather than go home at half three, they went home at half four.

 

Annie:

Oh right.

 

Cori:

Um, so it was, uh, it was just… Parents were just informed: “Year 6 are having an extended day. Okay. What are the arrangements for collecting your child at four thirty?” So it wasn’t ever a kind of ‘opting out’ option. Parents were just informed that there were no clubs available to Year 6 that day. So it was, it wasn’t like we kind of had a clash with any other activities in school. And then they brought teaching staff on board and teaching staff stayed and did small group one-to-one work with the children that day, once a week, throughout the entire year. Um, and that’s one of the factors that made a difference. But it was a, it’s a good example of how we looked at what we did here. And she said to me, “Well, what do you do? This is what we do.”

 

Annie:

Mmm

 

Cori:

And I said, “but that won’t necessarily work for you. So what do you think you could do that would make the difference you’re looking for?”

 

And that was what she came up with through the coaching model.

 

Annie:

That’s brilliant.

 

Cori:

And it’s made a fantastic difference. They’ve got 85% level 4 in reading.

 

Annie:

And what did they have before?

 

Cori:

I think they’ve had 72 last year in reading, but their other results were lower.

Their combined English, maths and reading, writing and maths last year was 37% and this year it’s 64%.

 

Annie:

Wow!

 

Cori:

So as I say, it’s almost, it’s not quite, but it’s almost doubled, yeah.

 

Annie:

And that’s amazing. Wow!

 

So what would you say the three biggest differences are that coaching’s made, either here or there?

 

Cori:

Um, I think for me the biggest difference is that I, I no longer have to carry the monkey. So I don’t have to, I don’t have to carry other people’s problems around. I can just, I can give them their problem back, [laughing] and let them work out, and support them in working out.

 

You know, it’s not just like I say, “No, it’s your problem. It’s not mine!”

 

I’m asking questions to help them to get to the solution for themselves. Yeah. So that’s my, my biggest thing is that I am no longer having to be the answer for everything. They can find their own answer. Sometimes, you know, sometimes I have to offer more help or less help for them to get there. But they will get there themselves.

 

Um, for us as a school, I think it’s had a big impact on teacher’s independence in their teaching and learning. So they’re now much more able to find their own next step. So where they’d been expecting us to tell them, “And now you need to…” Now they’re saying, “Right, okay. So I think what I need to do is…”, And they’re coming up with their own solution. So it’s changed their language around school improvement.

 

Um, and, and the other thing I think is that our leadership meetings, although it still comes up from time to time, we spend less time moaning about other people moaning. Because the moans aren’t coming to us.

 

Annie:

Oh that’s good.

 

Cori:

Because it used to be that when people come to moan to us, really the moaning was a kind of a shroud behind which they’re hiding a query or a problem. So once you uncover that and unpick what the moaning is, and then sort out the problem through a ‘coaching approach’, you have less problems. And so therefore you have less moaning. So we spend less time moaning about moaning!

 

Annie:

That’s really good. That’s brilliant, isn’t it? So less monkeys and less moaning?!

 

Cori:

Less monkeys, less moaning, and more independence. So there’s far less spoon-feeding, and people aren’t expecting spoon-feeding, which is, which is good.

 

Annie:

That is good. Yeah. Yeah.

 

Cori:

Now the information’s there. They just need to go and read it, find it, and act on it themselves. Whereas I mean, so one example – another example – I like examples.

 

Annie:

That’s good!

 

Cori:

One of Sarah’s big things, (so the Deputy). One of her big things was that we used to have a weekly diary, so she would produce an A4 sheet with Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and everything you might need to know that’s going to happen in the week in school that day, that week. And then at the bottom there’d be a whole list of bullet points of things to remember. So she’d almost draw out the information. So you kind of put two things in one: there’s what’s going to happen. And then at the bottom, and there was almost a bullet point list of the implications of all the things that were going to happen.

 

So there’s a drama group on a Wednesday afternoon. And at the bottom there’d be note: “Because the drama group are in Wednesday afternoon, there will be no Key Stage 2 assembly.” …Because people couldn’t draw their own conclusions before!

 

Annie:

[Both laughing] Right.

 

Cori:

Now we don’t even have the piece of paper.

 

Annie:

Oh!

 

Cori:

Now the information is all on the electric diary – where it always was! But because we’re no longer compiling it onto a piece of paper for them, they are now looking on the electric diary themselves. So they go and find the information for themselves – and then they drew their own conclusions. And they realise now “Oh that drama group’s in on Wednesday afternoon, therefore there’ll be no assembly.” Because now they’re not expecting the spoon-feeding because we just took it away, and said “The information is there; you need to access it.”

 

Annie:

So how are they coping with not being spoon-fed?

 

Cori:

Well in September they kept saying, “When is it coming back? When’s it coming back?”

 

Because they, they… Sarah had gone and done a secondment in the other school that we’re supporting. And so they all, there were a few people that thought, “Well it’ll be fine, cause when Sarah or comes back, it will all start up again.” And it took a while to get the message out there: “No, no no… this is how it works now. The information’s there. You need to go and find it.” Um, and then by the time Christmas came, and Sarah did come back, they were then in those habits. So it just took time to change habits. Like anything, it takes time to change the view. You kind of took the crutch away and they had to walk on their own two feet. And now, now they can walk! [Laughing]

 

Annie:

That’s lovely. You helped them [both laughing] That’s really good.

 

Okay. So obviously you’ve applied it in loads of different ways. So if somebody’s thinking of doing the programme, what would you say to them?

 

Cori:

I’d say “Do it!” I’d say, “I think it will change the way you work. It will change the way you think. It will change the way you troubleshoot and problem solve for yourself, because you almost have an internal coaching conversation with you, with yourself.”

 

Um, with my coaching partner, I can go back and say, “Right, can you just help me out with this?”

 

And then she’ll go straight into a coaching model to support me in that.

 

Um, so yeah, I’d say I’d say “Do it, because it will have an impact on you and your organisation – whatever type of organisation that might be.

 

I can’t see that there would be any work environment dealing with adults or children – adults in particular – that coaching wouldn’t have positive impact on. Because I just think that there’s a big dependence of staff sometimes on somebody else to come up with the answers because they don’t want to take responsibility or because it’s… there’s a bit of, “I don’t get paid enough for making the decisions. You get paid to make the decisions. You make the decisions!”

 

Whereas now I’m not getting paid for making the decision. I’m getting paid for helping other people to make the decisions with me – or for me – or for themselves, in fact!

 

Annie:

That’s really good. Really good.
With you saying about “paid” and stuff, one thing sometimes people say is, “Oh well what about the money… it’s quite expensive…” and so on. 

What would you say to someone who’s a bit worried about the investment for the [Coachinginschools] coaching?

 

Cori:

I think money is an interesting one, isn’t it?

 

I always think that if something’s…

 

You get what you pay for!

 

If something’s surprisingly cheap, it’s not necessarily the best quality.

 

So I think it’s about “value for money.”

 

So for me, I have to add up how many man hours I’ve saved on not answering people’s queries, and not carrying their monkeys.

 

And can I put a value on the benefits that it’s had in staff in terms of their improvements, their self improvement in their teaching?

 

I don’t, I can’t put a price on it.

 

So in terms of value for money, I think for an organisation like us, it was very good value for money. 

It’s had a fantastic ‘output’ if you like, because the outcomes mean that we’ve improved, our teachers have improved. Therefore everything for the children’s improved.

 

So if I’ve got a stronger leadership team, and a stronger team of teachers, and a stronger group of children, then it could have cost twice as much and it would have been worth it.

 

Annie:

I’ll remember that! Thank you. [Both laughing] 

…So last question then, if you could sum up the [Coachinginschools] programme in three words, what would they be?

 

Cori:

Oh I hate 3 words!

 

Annie:

Or you can do one sentence if you like!

 

Cori:

I think it was “challenging” to start with. I found it particularly challenging cause I almost didn’t want to give up my ‘directorship’ if you like, of answering everyone’s queries. So it was challenging.

 

Once I got over myself a bit, I found it then “empowering”, and felt that “Oh actually there’s more power in helping people to do things for themselves.” That’s more important than me feeling I was in control of everything. So I liked the empowering part.

 

And then it’s “rewarding” because it’s nice to see those people now making their own decisions, and not feeling that they have to kind of check everything out with me all the time.

 

So yeah: Challenging, Empowering, and Rewarding.

 

Annie:

Love it! Thank you.

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