This week we explore the role that coaching and mentoring can play in this quest. We also take a look at the newly announced National Challenge to improve schools that are deemed to be under-performing


As learning institutions, schools are often on the look out for methods of enhancing the way learning is achieved. Sometimes the simplest of changes can increase effectiveness and efficiency, not least in the way in which we learn for ourselves.

Spotlight on coaching
Coaching is an issue that we have covered in CPD Week before and the fact that it deserves revisiting is testament to the success it currently enjoys in schools and other educational establishments. Coaching is increasingly the topic of professional dialogues among teachers and a growing number of schools are enjoying the potential to be gained for both teachers and learners.

For coaching to work best in a school it has to be able to function on an institutional level as well as on an individual level. Learning, as well all know, is frequently context-dependent, which would seem to indicate that coaching is set to continue its growing role in our schools, helping young people realise their potential.

There is no set definition on what coaching means in the context of a school. It can take many forms, and frequently does! There’s life coaching, so-called executive coaching, sports coaching… the list is endless. Thankfully, the National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching, devised by the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE), offers schools some basic principles, concepts and skills to take on board as well as a key comparison of mentoring with coaching.

According to the National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching (available to download from the CUREE website, see below), effective mentoring and coaching involves:

  • A learning conversation
  • A thoughtful relationship
  • A learning agreement
  • Combining support from fellow professional learners and specialists
  • Growing self-direction
  • Setting challenging and personal goals
  • Understanding why different approaches work
  • Acknowledging the benefits to mentors and coaches
  • Experimenting and observing
  • Using resources effectively

In terms of helping to facilitate the extended use of coaching in your school these ideas may help.

  • A coach doesn’t necessarily need to have more experience than the coachee. Peer to peer coaching can work incredibly effectively and sometimes mixing up the status of staff in coaching relationships can significantly add to professional and personal learning potential.
  • Mentoring usually involves an experienced colleague facilitating professional development in a colleague with less experience.
  • Investigate the ways in which coaching and mentoring in your school could hook into other initiatives such as Investors in People, Assessment for Learning, Rights Respecting Schools, and performance management and professional development in general.
  • Consider the use of coaching as a way to help colleagues identify the kinds of new behaviours which will feed into their plans for professional development. Expanding underlying skills in this way can lead to more efficient personal and professional development.
  • Experiment with the range of coaching interactions that happen in your school. They don’t always need to be lengthy relationships sustained over whole terms. Sometimes shorter methods such as learning conversations are more appropriate forms of coaching. Being flexible about the scope and methods involved with coaching helps schools to gain maximum benefit from it.
  • Aim to link coaching to action. This helps colleagues to appreciate the meaning and purpose behind it.
  • Use coaching to bring out inner drivers and passions to influence work in the classroom. Helping people to connect these with their work can lead to a greater sense of meaning in life. This has a significant impact on well-being at work.  

Above all else, remember that the purpose of both coaching and mentoring is to help others to be the best they can be. When that desire rules all motivations, professional and personal development cannot fail to materialise.

Find out more…
Read about teacher research mentoring

For information on the impact and use of coaching and mentoring in schools visit the websites of the National College for School Leadership and the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education

The National Challenge
In a bid to raise standards in schools, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls has issued an ultimatum to 638 schools in which less than 30% of pupils achieve at least five good GCSEs: improve or face closure. Part of this drive to raise standards will see the creation of up to 70 new academies which the government thinks will bridge the gap between poverty and attainment.

The National Challenge is based on the London Challenge. Not only will it see some schools receiving additional funding but also mentoring and assistance from external ‘partners’. Mike Tomlinson will be chairing a panel of National Challenge advisors.

  • Read a DCSF press release about the National Challenge

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2008

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being