Coaching for schools

Coaching For Schools https-2F2Fcdn_evbuc__com2Fimages2F309290162F442396428262F12Foriginal-800x400

What does effective coaching look like, and how can coaching be introduced into schools?

On Friday 15th September 2017, Ross McGill and I will be piloting ‘Coaching For Schools’: a pragmatic training day for leaders of teaching and learning; for those interested in moving towards a coaching culture for observations.

Why Attend?

Some of the issues to be tackled on the day include: how can we use feedback more effectively in professional learning? Ideas for solution-focused approaches – scripting dialogue, as well as ideas how to kick-start coaching in your own school.

We will explore the most up-to-date ideas from research and practice to re-boot your thinking so you can return to school, equipped with strategies to use immediately. We will also give you the tools to deliver the training yourself so that you can share the resources with your colleagues and kick-start coaching in your school.


You can purchase a place at the event here for just £59.00. The location will be in Central London and the venue will be confirmed to ticket holders. Read draft details about the day.

If the event is a success, we hope to arrange more – once every half-term – around the U.K. So, if you can’t make this one, do let us know if you are interested in us organsing a similar event at a location near you.


To make the training day as useful as possible, we suggest that you focus on a particular area for personal development from your own teaching repertoire. If possible, a particular class and/or group of students.  It may help you to bring some information about the current observation framework you are using and information about the students to support your action planning. E.g, class data and a lesson observation proforma.


Led by:

Get in touch if you’d like more details or would like to sponsor the event or offer a venue.

Follow the hashtag, #Coaching4Schools and thank you for your interest. If you’d like us to lead this same event in another location, please leave your details below and location.

Lesson planning: the basics

Lesson planning: the basics

Here are 6 main questions to consider when planning your lessons. Included also are some hints and ideas to help and further questions to consider.

lesson plan

What do I want the children to learn or start to learn?

  • Begin with the end in mind. What do I want the children to leave with that they didn’t arrive with?
  • Am I going to share this purpose? Don’t waste time getting them to write the objective out in their books though!
  • Might the purpose be best articulated in the form of a question to answer?
  • Pitch it high – avoid ‘must-should-could’ as it signifies low expectation. A possible alternative is…‘We are learning… (objective) so that we can…’ (tangible outcome).
  • Base the purpose of the lesson on their precise need. What have they achieved recently that informs today or this series of lessons? What are they understanding less well?
  • The clearer you are about where you want them to get to in this lesson or in a series of lessons, the better you’ll be able to help them get there.

How will they show me they’ve learnt it?

  • Have a tangible outcome. Remember this may not be achieved within this lesson. An end task or exit ticket may work well here. Flag this up at the start so that they are aware of the direction of travel.

How will I explain and model it so that they have the best chance of getting it?

  • Understand how limitations in working memory may influence the manner of your explanation and modelling. Less is more so be clear, concise and ‘choose the shortest path’.
  • Consider the impact of dual coding (pairing words with graphics). Think about how you make the abstract more concrete and therefore make sense to them e.g. drawing diagrams, using manipulatives, providing demonstrations…
  • Find out what they already know and then build on this. Possibly through a ‘quick review’, ‘do now’ or ‘cold task’ at the start.
  • Use a worked example if they are novices moving onto problems if they are more proficient.
  • If you use a WAGOLL (what a good one looks like) deconstruct it, ensuring that you ‘call your shots’ and articulate your expert thinking out loud to the children. A visualiser may be helpful in some subjects.
  • Spend more time thinking about how you are going to explain and model than anything else.
  • The ‘I We You’ approach from Doud Lemov’s ‘Teach like a Champion’ is a helpful structure to consider here.

What practice will they need to do?

  • Plan in adequate time, during the lesson and over a series of lessons, for the children to practise using their new knowledge and skills.
  • Be clear about what you want the children to achieve / produce during independent practice time. What are the key tasks children need to do during independent time?
  • Relentlessly check their work. Prioritise who you visit – possibly monitor first fast starters and those who may need support.
  • Allow for at least 5 minutes struggle time – no input from teacher or TA so that any support is required rather than assumed. Ensure they start well before any intervention.
  • Align independent practice to the assessment – match the rigour of the upcoming assessment.
  • Consider how many children should receive feedback from you. How could you increase that number? Who might you prioritise?
  • During practice time constantly check all children for understanding – avoid traffic lights or thumbs but utilise instead observations, mini whiteboards, exit tickets and hinge questions.

What if they struggle and find it difficult to learn?

  • What strategies should we be teaching children so that they can better cope with struggling?
  • Some will need focused questioning; some might require a clear or different starting point; some might rush and have to redo the task.
  • Some might need you to re-explain but possibly not all. Use ‘drop in clinics’.
  • Who is most likely to struggle? Knowing your class well will help you to prioritise.

What if they find it easy?

  • How will you be ‘responsive’ if some children seem capable of working beyond the objective?
  • Some will reach the objective more easily and need to be challenged further – what constitutes a good challenge without just doing more of the same work? A ‘sideways stretch’?

Raising the bar

Incremental gains for professional growth

In my role as a senior leader, as a SLE and as a consultant I am constantly looking for more efficient, effective and realistic ways to help teachers be the best they can be. In order to fulfil this quest, I have frequently looked beyond education for inspiration, direction and solution.

Over the last few years these are just some of the books that have influenced my thinking.


Who has inspired or influenced you?

As a young child in 1969 I distinctly remember watching, on a small black and white TV with my family, an event that had a big impact on me. The first man on the moon. I Picture2.pngremember my mum putting me to bed that night and saying, as she pointed to the bright moon, “there’s a man up there!” This sparked in real interest in science for me; I wanted to be Neil Armstrong.

Over the years several people influenced and inspired me. They were mostly from the world of sport: Bobby Moore, Bruce Lee, Daley Thompson and Sergey Bubka.


In the dim and distant past I was, amongst other things, a pole vaulter. I learnt it at school, developed it at club level and successfully took part in several competitions. The first time I saw Sergey Bubka, a Ukrainian pole vaulter, was at Crystal Palace in 1984 where he broke the world record. He was still vaulting when all other athletes had gone home! A supreme athlete, Bubka went on to break the world record 35 times (17 outdoor and 18 indoor). An extraordinary statistic fuelled undoubtedly by incentives such as world record bonuses. As much as $100,000 each time has been mentioned. In less than two years between 1991 and 1993, he improved his previous mark an astonishing 14 times. Bubka’s final record of 6.15m stood for two decades. A consistently high and sustainable standard over a long career.

By the time I watched Bubka in action my vaulting days were over (PB 3.89m!). For me his influence wasn’t and isn’t one related to my own athletic performance but to how I approach working with teachers to help them to grow; training of the basic skills, specific practice, focused feedback and, most pertinently, small ‘1cm’ bar raises to ensure continuous and sustainable ‘performance’ and improvement.

The bar is higher now and raising it even further is harder.
Where does our next 1, 2, 3, 4cm bar raise come from?

Picture4There has been much talk over the years of ‘marginal gains’ (Sir Dave Brailsford), 1% gains (Sir Clive Woodward) and Critical Non Essentials (Australian dentist – Paddy Lund) but much of these approaches relates to small tweaks to every aspect of performance to bring about changes.

In my experience of working with teachers, they are too busy and do not have the capacity to address EVERY aspect of their ‘performance’. So, instead I take the approach of 1cm bar raises; the relentless pursuit of one aspect of practice that when habitual and routine is added to with another 1cm bar raise and another and another…over a substantial length of time. Usually in the same area of practice too; for example, explaining, questioning, formative assessment or modelling.

TSP-3D-Covers-1-UP-72dpi_LEFT_001Jack Canfield in ‘The Success Principles’ refers to +1s.

Over a substantial time these small, sustainable and manageable improvements add up to BIG changes and great habits.

In Japan they call this approach ‘kaizen’; change for the good, change for the better – continual improvement.Picture5.png

Using kaizen, great and lasting success is achieved through small, consistent steps. I have discovered that clear, slow and steady is the best way to overcome a resistance to change too.

One of the mantras of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s phenomenally successfully rugby union team, as outlined in James Kerr’s wonderful book, Legacy, is…

The challenge is to ALWAYS IMPROVE, to always get better, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE THE BEST. Especially when you are the best.

Change for the good is for everyone, every teacher.Picture6.png

These changes may even be daily! The legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, used to extol the virtues of becoming a little better every day.

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens—and when it happens, it lasts.”

John Wooden was also a fan of FOCUS and DETAIL.

One of his basic principles for success was the focus on basics. At the first practice new players were taught how to tie their shoe laces! He actually taught them how to put on their socks first. Wooden had a reason for this; if you don’t put on socks and tie your shoe laces properly, it will affect your performance. Improperly put on socks can cause blisters and untied shoes can cause injuries or problems during games. Court time is lost, team performance is affected, as ultimately is league position.

The same principles hold true for teaching. Focus on the basics. Focus on the detail. Don’t get caught in the flash of social media, or the next shiny object. While many of these tools may be valuable and may help contribute to your goal, you can’t ignore the basics of teaching.

Little changes lead to BIG changes.compoundeffectbook

In Darren Hardy’s book ‘The Compound Effect’ he suggests that the formula is simple:
“Small, smart choices + consistency + time = radical difference.”

Focus on the daily disciplines. The magic is not in the complexity of the task; the magic is in doing simple things repeatedly and over a sustained period to instigate this ‘compound effect.

Jeff Olson, in his book, ‘The Slight Edge’ urges us to focus on…
…the things that are EASY TO DO but also EASY NOT TO DO.

Charles Duhigg in ‘The Power of Habit’ refers to a ‘keystone habit’; a habit that, when we change it, will have the greatest positive impact on our lives.

Designer Ray Eames said:
“What works good is better than what looks good, because what works good lasts.”

41baXFvN4UL__SX332_BO1,204,203,200_So focus not on the flash but on the stuff that works: the basic skills of teaching. The things you do in your classroom when no one is looking. The kind of skills that Shaun Allison (@shaun_allison) and Andy Tharby (@atharby) so deftly describe in their book ‘Making every lesson count’; explaining, modelling, questioning, feedback, challenge and so on.

Choose well – focusing not on just changing your practice but on having an impact on the children you teach. Choose what works therefore – cognitive science is now helping us hugely with making this choice.

Break these well-chosen strategies down into small achievable bits and practise them until they become routine, habitual and efficient.

However, we aren’t musicians or pole vaulters who perform occasionally and practise in the interim – we are always performing! So to counter this issue, book in time to practise. Plan for specific practice with a particular group. Seek the honest feedback from a colleague – ask them to focus on the impact on the children of the strategies you are practising.

IMG_1520Visual prompts
A pole vault coach I had many years ago used to write brief reminders of things I had to remember on pieces of card that were left by the runway – a visual prompt to help me keep focused and remind me about what we had been trying to do in training. I use this idea in my own school and all staff have these on their walls as a reminder of what they need to focus on. Teachers are also learners!

link-back2.pngIt doesn’t have to take this form of course and recently I read about a post it in a teacher’s classroom at Shaun Allison’s school which was used as a visual prompt.

Equally as effective!

The important thing here is to have a FOCUS.

Herbert Alexander Simon said ‘a wealth of information leads to a poverty of attention’. So narrow it down.

Look for the better you. The believable possible: the slightly better version of yourself. Focus on getting better rather than being good.

Reflect on your practice and on the children you teach.
Choose a focus. Choose well. Choose what works rather than what looks good.
Choose a challenge. The comfort zone is a lovely place but nothing grows there. Work just out of your comfort zone.
Be realistic – B is your aspiration, yet A is a realistic 1cm bar raise.
Book in time to practise.
Seek honest feedback and act upon it.

When embedded seek the next marginal gain, the next 1% gain, the next +1,

“Success is…
modest improvement consistently done”.

Sean Fitzpatrick
Former All Blacks captain


Chris is an education consultant with over 30 years of experience. He has worked with over 275 schools. Please get into contact if you would like to work with Chris.