The Coaching Toolkit: A Practical Guide for your School


Shaun Allison & Michael Harbour

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    About the Authors

    Shaun Allison

    Shaun Allison is Assistant Headteacher at Littlehampton Community School in West Sussex, which is a large 11–19 comprehensive. In this role, he has overall responsibility for the Continuing Professional Development of the staff at the school, as well as the induction of Newly Qualified Teachers. He also works very closely with three local Higher Education Institutions, co-ordinating the school placements of their Initial Teacher Training programmes. His other leadership roles at the school include leading the performance management process and evaluating the impact of whole-school improvement initiatives. Prior to this, he was Head of Science at another large comprehensive school in West Sussex. Under his leadership, the department showed continuous improvement at KS3 and GCSE. Since 2005, Continuing Professional Development at the Littlehampton Community School has developed into an innovative and highly personalised programme, with coaching and sharing best practice at its heart.

    Michael Harbour

    Michael Harbour is a Consultant Headteacher, who has led two co-educational 13–18 comprehensive schools in the United Kingdom. The first successfully operated a joint sixth form with its neighbours, and developed a collaborative cluster of primary, middle and secondary schools (see ‘Collaboration, Competition and Cross-phase Liaison: The North Lowestoft Schools Network’ in Consorting and Collaborating in the Education Marketplace (1996) Bridges, D. and Husbands, C. (eds) London: Falmer Press). The second, a school in challenging circumstances, achieved four years of continuous GCSE improvement under Michael's leadership. During his time as a Headteacher, he served on the University of East Anglia's Initial Teacher Training Advisory Panel and was a consultant Head in the Suffolk Headteacher Appraisal Scheme. Since becoming an independent consultant in May 2000, he has supported schools facing challenging circumstances in the United Kingdom and in Dominica and St Lucia in the Windward Isles. He has written a guide to school development planning in conjunction with principals and education officers in Dominica, and helped to introduce peer coaching in schools in the south and north of England. He works closely with teachers, senior teams and education officers to build the capacity for sustained school improvement.


    We are grateful to many people for their contributions to this book and for their support and inspiration.

    We would like to thank Julia Vincent, Sue Bond, Julie Woodward, Ian Boundy, Trevor Pask and colleagues at Bognor Regis Community College, West Sussex, who embraced coaching wholeheartedly and who gave generously of their time to reflect on their experiences. We thank John Morrison for his wise counsel and unfailing belief in his staff's capacity to make a difference.

    We are indebted to Jayne Wilson for her commitment and support for the development of coaching at Littlehampton Community School and to her staff who have engaged with the coaching process.

    Many thanks to Will Thomas for his clarity, theoretical framework and vision of coaching, and for getting us started.

    We would like to thank colleagues at Patcham High School, in particular Paula Sargent for her invaluable suggestions about measuring the impact of coaching, John McKee for his enthusiasm and passion for developing coaching in schools, and Pete Korman for the many conversations that helped to clear the fog.

    We are grateful to Bill Whiting, Vicky Whitlock, Austen Hindman, Kerrie Parsons and the staff at Mayfield School, Portsmouth, whose determination and teamwork were inspirational, and to Ian Cox for encouraging all of us to step outside our comfort zone.

    Our thanks go to two colleagues in particular in the West Sussex Advisory Service – Lesley Smith for challenging assumptions and for being so clear about how to support the work of coaches, and to Mark Wilson for his grounded approach to whole-staff coaching training.

    We are indebted to Katie Morgan for her useful case study, and Tracy Smith and the rest of the teaching staff at Seven Kings High School for their inspirational work on Assessment for Learning.

    Our thanks must also go to all those coaches and coachees with whom we have worked in schools and from whom we have learned.

    Finally our thanks to Jude Bowen and Amy Jarrold for guiding us through the publication process.

    Key to Icons

    • Chapter objectives
    • Case study
    • Questions for Reflection and Discussion
    • Electronic resource available from website
    • Summary
    • Further reading

    List of Electronic Resource Materials

    Wherever you see the icon, downloadable material can be found at for use in your setting. A full list of materials follows.

    Chapter 1
    • Beliefs and principles of coaching
    • Beliefs about learning and teaching
    • Coaching, counselling and mentoring definitions
    • Peer coaching
    • The effective coach
    Chapter 2
    • Coaching helps people to …
    • Coaching is based on …
    • Skills-motivation matrix
    • Why coaching? 1 and 2
    Chapter 3
    • Record of coaching conversation (FLOW)
    • Record of coaching conversation (STRIDE)
    • Self-talk and performance success task
    Chapter 5
    • Coaching prompt cards
    • NQT co-coaching – lesson observation review sheet
    Chapter 8
    • Teaching audit
    • Procedures for peer coaching
    • CPD staff questionnaire
    • Protocol for peer coaching
    • Sample coach invite letter
    Chapter 9
    • The coaching cycle
    • Coaching for performance – PowerPoint presentation
    • Coaching for performance – training plan
    • Coaching for performance – programme
    • Request for coaching form
    Chapter 10
    • Coaching review template
    • Job satisfaction chart
    • Teacher attitudinal survey
    • Whole-school coaching audit
    • Student survey

    How to use this Book

    We decided to write this book because we have experienced, in a range of very different schools, the power of coaching to develop teachers’ practice. In a ‘coaching school’, you will hear much conversation about what works effectively in the classroom and you will notice openness about the issues that teachers face, a high degree of self-reflection and a real confidence that teachers will find the solutions to their own challenges. In other words, coaching has the capacity, if properly embedded, to generate enormous positive energy and a ‘can do’ culture within a staff.

    We noticed that, although there are many excellent books on the market about the theory and skills behind coaching, very few writers have paid attention to the practicalities of introducing and embedding coaching in a busy school. We intended to plug this gap, as well as sharing our enthusiasm and experiences with you.

    After writing The Coaching Toolkit, we have come to one very firm conclusion about using coaching as a staff development tool in schools. That is, there are many ways to go about setting up coaching and some approaches may not fit in with your own ideas or the needs of your institution. This is fine! Bill Whiting, Assistant Headteacher, Mayfield School, Portsmouth, sums this up beautifully, by describing coaching as being like a virus in that it needs to adapt and evolve depending on the conditions and circumstances of the school. Consider the following questions in this context:

    • What is to be the focus for coaching? The focus of how coaching is used may vary from year to year, or school to school. For example, the whole school may be involved in coaching trios, or coaching may be used to develop teachers in their second year of teaching.
    • What are the school's circumstances? Schools are clearly very different places, because of the circumstances they find themselves in (special measures, ‘coasting’, low morale, dynamic, pro-active …). These differing circumstances will determine how coaching will be used.
    • What is the climate of the school? In schools with different cultures, coaching could be viewed as:
      • ○ a tool to address failure and weakness
      • ○ Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
      • ○ a tool to celebrate strengths
      • ○ a way of improving practice
      • ○ a way of developing people.

    The challenge is finding the right way to do it in your school. What have other schools done to establish coaching? What were the practicalities? What were the problems? How did they overcome these problems?

    Finding the answers to these questions, based on the real experiences of schools, is not easy. Coaching as a staff development process in schools is relatively new. Schools are still trying it out for themselves – seeing what does and does not work. We have been doing what we tend to do a great deal in education, and that is working in isolation – trying to work through a problem that has probably been experienced and solved by an institution 20 miles up the road. This book provides a means for sharing some of the good practice that schools have developed.

    The strategies and resources in the book have all been developed and used by the authors and their colleagues in schools in England. Shaun has worked with Mike in his own school, Littlehampton Community School, to develop coaching with a view to improving the quality of teaching and learning for three years. During this period the school has seen a steady improvement in the examination outcomes of its students. Mike has also worked with leaders in a number of other schools, many of which have been in ‘challenging circumstances’ requiring swift improvement following an inspection. He has worked with these schools to develop coaching. All of these schools, have made significant improvements and have been successful in addressing the issues raised following their inspection. We have taken the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate their successes in this book.

    As coaching develops in a school, some of the things we put into place will work well and serve to move coaching and, as a result, teaching and learning on, whilst other initiatives will not work so well and will be abandoned or further developed. What does happen though is that coaching will evolve and develop a life of its own – again, like a virus!

    What is clear, however, is that the skills of coaching are generic. They can be used successfully with children and with adults in schools of all sizes, from small primary to large secondary, in urban and rural settings and in schools with a range of strengths and weaknesses.

    How you Can Use this Book in your School

    Chapters 1-3 are designed to help the practitioner to clarify what coaching is about and to begin using it as a tool to support the development of learning and teaching.

    Chapter 1 deals with the question, what is coaching? It then goes on to look at the differences and similarities between mentoring and coaching. It also explores some of the models that are available for the structuring of coaching conversations and finally looks at the skills needed to become an effective coach.

    Chapter 2 explores why coaching is a powerful developmental tool for teachers and looks at the impact of coaching on teaching and learning compared to other professional development activities.

    We hope that Chapter 3 will be especially useful to teachers who are relatively new to coaching. Here we suggest:

    • – ways of practising coaching skills before ‘going live’ with coachees
    • – how to establish the ground rules for coaching conversations
    • – how to conduct coaching conversations
    • – how to give feedback on an observed lesson in coaching mode.

    Chapters 4-6 examine the use of coaching for different purposes and will be of value to practising coaches and school leaders alike.

    In Chapter 4 we define specialist coaching and consider how school leaders can use it to address specific developmental priorities within their school. We also look at how coaching can play an integral role in performance management and consider the wider issues of collaborative working within schools.

    Chapter 5 explores how co-coaching can be used to develop Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) and teachers in their second year of teaching.

    In Chapter 6 we look at group coaching and suggest that knowledge of how adults learn is important in the setting up of coaching groups. We then go on to look at how different groups of staff could use coaching as a development tool for a variety of purposes.

    Chapter 7 shows how coaching can rapidly develop and can have a significant impact on teaching and learning, despite challenging circumstances. The case studies illustrate best practice in the development of coaching trios; the use of lead teachers to drive the coaching process; how to support the work of a coaching team; how coaching can be used to support the work of one department; how to measure the impact of coaching. The lessons learned in the two schools can be applied in a range of different school contexts.

    Chapters 8-10 are of particular interest to school leaders and deal with many of the organisational issues associated with setting up, sustaining and measuring the impact of coaching in schools.

    In Chapter 8 we suggest how to carry out a whole-school CPD audit, how to identify and train potential coaches and how to establish whole-school coaching protocols.

    Chapter 9 deals with some of the issues that arise as coaching develops in the school. It also considers how to promote the idea of coaching to the whole school, how to identify the needs of different coachees and match them with a coach and how to meet the development needs of coaches.

    In Chapter 10 we explore the issues around measuring the impact of coaching in schools and suggest ways in which it can be done. Finally, we look at how to audit the development of coaching.

    Whenever you see the downloadable resources icon materials are available from the website to support this book and can be used and adapted for your context.

    It is hoped that this book will provide school leaders at all levels, including teachers who are leaders in their classrooms, with something that we couldn't find when trying to establish coaching in a range of different schools – a practical, hands-on guide to developing coaching at your school.

    We do not claim to be experts in this area; there are many more colleagues working in the field of performance coaching who have a far greater knowledge base of the theory of coaching. However, we both have hands-on experience of setting up coaching in a range of secondary schools. We have also been fortunate enough to have worked with a number of very talented teachers and coaches, who have been keen to share their expertise and experiences of coaching. We thank them.

  • Suggested Timeline for Implementing a Coaching Programme


    • Active listening: Occurs when the coach pays full attention to the coachee's language, tone of voice, verbal images and figures of speech without being distracted by his or her own thoughts or internal listening.
    • Clarifying questions: Help the coachee to identify the issue with precision and to deepen thinking as well as to sort out misconceptions.
    • Coaching: A non-directive helping process that enables people to identify and clarify issues, solve problems, commit to action, develop their skills, motivation and self-esteem. The coach enables the coachee to find his or her own solutions by using the skills of listening, questioning, reflecting and clarifying.
    • Co-coaching: An activity in which two colleagues coach each other in order to develop aspects of their practice.
    • Group coaching: When one or two teachers coach a group of colleagues who may have similar issues.
    • Incisive questions: Questions that are intended to get to the nub of an issue and to cut through perceived limitations. They may present the coachee with real challenge. They should therefore be used with care.
    • Internal listening: The self-talk that goes on inside one's head that can act as ‘interference’ in a coaching conversation.
    • Intuitive listening: This occurs when the coach tunes in to the coachee's thoughts and feelings, to what is implied or suggested by non-verbal cues, to what lies under the surface of the conversation.
    • Leadership coaching: Coaching that focuses specifically on leadership issues.
    • Locus of control: The mechanisms that people perceive are present to guide and control the events in their lives and their behaviours. These may be internal (determined by self) or external (determined by others). In coaching, the aim is to help the coachee to identify which aspects of the situation are truly within their control.
    • Mentoring: A helping process in which the mentor will offer expert knowledge, advice and guidance. While the mentor may use the skills of coaching (listening, questioning, reflecting and clarifying), they have a responsibility to oversee colleagues and for the evaluation of progress.
    • Mirroring: Used by the coach to reflect the body posture of the coachee in order to put them at ease. This will require the coach to observe small signs in the body language of the colleague and to respond appropriately. It may involve, for example, adopting a similar seating position or respecting the coachee's sense of what constitutes a safe distance between the two individuals.
    • Outcome questions: Useful towards the end of the conversation when the coachee wishes to commit to action.
    • Peer coaching: A term used to stress that coaching is a relationship of equals.
    • Preferred future state: An imagined future in which issues are resolved. Coaches often help their clients to visualise this state in order to begin to formulate the first steps towards it.
    • Reflective questions: Help coachees to think about their practice and why they behave as they do as well as how they might change.
    • Scaling: A tool used in coaching to test the degree of success so far or to check commitment to future action. The coach may ask the coachee to assess, for example on a scale of one to ten, the likelihood of taking the next step. A low score in this case is likely to indicate lack of commitment or uncertainty about the course of action.
    • Self-talk (negative): The state of mind in which we feel that we cannot control or improve our situation. The task of the coach is to assist the coachee to adopt realistic, positive self-talk rather than the action-sapping negative.
    • Self-talk (positive): The talk that goes on in our heads in which we adopt a positive ‘can do’ attitude to our challenges.
    • Solution-focused coaching: A term used in the literature to stress the positive, action-focused nature of coaching – that it is concerned to assist the coachee to work away from a problem and towards a solution.
    • Specialist coaching: This occurs when a teacher uses specific expertise to support the development of a particular aspect of a colleague's practice. It may require real restraint on the part of the coach in order to avoid telling the coachee what to do.
    • Summarising questions: Help to focus the conversation and to clarify what has been said.
    • Team coaching: This occurs when a department or other distinct team within the staff use coaching techniques to develop their practice.


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