Using instructional coaching to develop all staff: three pillars shaping a trust’s approach

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Date published 20 October 2023

“Coaching is crucial for the professional development of all people that we work with: it can be really tailored to the individual. And we’re working hard on getting as many colleagues as possible to access it,” Katie Pattinson says.

Katie is the deputy director of Academy Transformation Trust’s Institute. Alongside her colleague, the Institute’s director Cat Rushton, Katie is responsible for helping as many teachers and school leaders as possible access coaching. The Institute itself works with schools in the trust and beyond as a “vehicle for professional development” for teaching staff, non-teaching staff and support staff.

The Institute team has taken steps towards using instructional coaching to develop staff across the trust and beyond. Cat has piloted a coaching programme with one secondary school and two primary schools. The team has also trained staff to lead coaching within their school, and similarly coached leaders who were new to their post or to the trust.

Both Cat and Katie joined Ambition Institute’s Instructional Coaching programme to develop their trust-wide instructional coaching work. The programme was an opportunity to enhance their theoretical knowledge of coaching and practical knowledge of its implementation. Looking ahead to developing the trust’s coaching offer so that all staff can access it, here are three pillars shaping their approach:

1.Underpinning the vision with self-development

Katie has never been shy of pursuing continuous professional development (CPD) as she has progressed in her career. Katie recognises that the best way for her to support staff to develop is to engage in CPD herself.

“I have already completed my Master’s in Educational Research which focused on deliberate practice and instructional coaching.” Katie explains. It was this, paired with completing one of Ambition’s previous programmes, that sparked her interest in teacher education and the possibility of pursuing this further.

“I knew that we were using instructional coaching as part of the Early Career Framework and that it was going to have a huge impact,” says Katie. “Because we were launching a coaching programme across the trust, I felt that the Instructional Coaching programme would be a useful starting point to build my understanding of the practice.”

“The programme helped me and Cat to start to think about our plans moving forward. This academic year we will be launching leadership coaching, instructional coaching and teaching assistant coaching across Academy Transformation Trust; this has come out of the discussions that we've been having about instructional coaching on the course.”

“It's allowed us to refine what we're doing and then look at how we do that at scale,” Katie says, “The programme has had an impact on our thinking already and will continue to do so as we see our Institute coaching plans come into fruition.”

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2. Gaining inspiration from networks

Cat and Katie value the input and inspiration from other coaches they have met along the way.

On the programme, they had the opportunity to network with their peers during conferences. “Coming from the Institute, my setting was quite different to that of others on the programme, so that networking was really useful for me,” says Katie.

In each of the three programme conferences, attendees discuss common problems they may be experiencing in their different settings. For Katie, the breadth of expertise on her cohort meant that she was able to meet with people who were implementing strategies she hadn’t considered before.

“Some people on the programme were from a single school, some were from small multi-academy trusts (MAT), I am from a large MAT, and others were from teaching school hubs. It was beneficial to have a diverse network. I was able to take a step back, listen to others and then work out what the Institute wanted to do as an organisation. Collaboration was important to that.”

Following one conference, Katie contacted another coach to discuss their school’s coaching strategy, outside of the programme. This collaboration supported Katie to shape the Institute’s coaching strategy using the advice and experience from others who had done the same.

“The coach I got in contact with really helped me to refine my thinking. In particular, he helped me to consider the possibilities of teaching assistant coaching, which the Institute will now be piloting to ensure that everyone within the trust has access to high-quality coaching,” Katie says.

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3. Starting with a plan

Cat and Katie approach coaching with a cross-school strategy. The pilot enabled Cat to trial aspects of the strategy to better understand what works for their teachers and school leaders.

As part of the Instructional Coaching programme conferences and reading, Cat and Katie were supported to further explore the ways in which instructional coaching could be embedded across their settings.

“Developing a coaching implementation plan made us stop and think. Because we’d done that depth of thinking and planning beforehand with colleagues at the Institute, we were confident about what was the right thing for us in our setting,” Katie says.

This level of planning helped to refine what the Institute needed from coaching, such as the number of coaches trained at each point in the year and the number of teachers receiving instructional coaching. It also meant that any potential barriers were considered, such as time of year and staff numbers.

Having a plan also supported staff buy-in by providing them with clarity on how coaching will work at different points in the school year and why. “Having a plan gives staff an understanding of where they’re going to be by a certain point in their instructional coaching journey,” Cat adds.

“This meant that we didn’t start on a journey and then have to change direction midway through. As we were putting the coaching plan into practice I could refer to the objectives and ask; ‘are we where we thought we were going to be, or not? And what do we need to do about that? Is there a reason behind that?’. This puts us in an excellent position as we roll out coaching further across the trust.”

Learn how the Instructional Coaching programme can support you to implement a coaching strategy in your setting. Read more on our programme page.

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