A Coaching Model

Reading time: 3
shutterstock_183277961 Concept of businessman that builds a new business


In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

How can we genuinely improve teaching?

Eighteen months ago, we removed lesson gradings and stop judging teachers. Over a period of time, we’ve been working out a better solution that helps teachers improve their classroom repertoire (and improve whole-school teaching).

What Then?

Moving to an overtime methodology appears to be the way forward, steering away from an outdated – union informed –  3 observations-per-academic-year model, forming judgements of teachers that are often, invalid or unreliable assessments of what is taking place everyday. We have developed our own Learning Policy with is soon to be developed later this year; we have consulted on marking and introduced the Yellow Box to help teachers mark smarter not harder. 

What Now?

It appears to me that coaching is the solution for every school; a genuine attempt to help teachers improve; to encourage open-door classrooms and facilitate teachers to talk to one another about the same students they are teaching and the same issues they may be facing.

One small brick in the wall to strengthen teaching and learning.”


Over the past 2 to 3 months,  conversations have evolved and inspiration has been taken from Teach Like A Champion, written by @Doug_Lemov; various coaching programmes and the book, Leverage Leadership by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo. Last month, former headteacher @KennyGFrederick started Teacher Rounds with a group of teachers in our school each signed up voluntary to trail this method; inspired by doctors and nurses who complete hospital rounds daily around a patient’s bed. Time has been promised to see how this action-research model can work.

Lesson Study and use of IRIS Connect has also evolved behind the scenes for the past 18 months. The culture is shifting … 

What I now see needs to happen –  in a landscape without lesson gradings –  is a genuine attempt to replace a summative assessment of teaching with a formative model to genuinely improve what is going on in the classroom. To give teachers a model and the time to work together to improve.

Essentially the following part of this blog have been inspired by a visit I made to a school this week. This has given me the catalyst we need to drive teaching and learning that little bit forward.


This is how I view our work developing over the next 6 months.

  • to banish lesson gradings once and forever.
  • to stop the ‘3-model formal (summative) observations’ once per term – even if they are not graded, forever.
  • to allow every teacher to volunteer to be coached.
  • to  identify a group of teachers who wish to be trained within a coaching framework.
  • that all new staff to the school, including every NQT, School Direct and Teach First teacher to be part of the coachee programme, in addition to their induction process. This would not replace the support already in place.
  • to include ZERO paperwork in the process; only a specific script to keep to (where possible). For example;
  • Coach: ‘How best could I observe you that would best improve your practice?’
  • Coach: (Would also agree a feedback time before the coaching observation took place)
  • Coachee: Identify their own target;  just one.
  • Coach: This is all the coach would look at (not for) during the observation.
  • Coach/Coachee:  the feedback session would focus in on a Praise-Question-Suggestion-Action Step model.
  • to ensure a ‘common vernacular’ (thank you Alex Thomas)
  • to build our own programme alongside models listed above, using expertise within the school.
  • to offer one period a week for coaches to visit their coachee.
  • all teaching staff would be able to choose their own coach.
  • relationships would mainly be outside of the coachee’s department.
  • appraisal would never be a factor; nor line-management relationships.
  • every coached observation would last 15 minutes and focus on one action step (only).
  • feedback would take place within 24 hours and be no longer than 30 minutes.
  • the cycle would repeat each week. Time would be given in return for trust/ to ensure it would happen.
  • to develop the Department Diagnostic report to help gather a picture of teaching, learning and assessment throughout a cycle (one academic year).
  • learning walks would still happen by departments to gather a flavour of work across the school – for every department – but this would be divorced from this proposal.
  • at the end of the cycle, the programme would be tweaked and the coach and coachee bank of staffing would be reviewed for the year ahead.

These are just my initial thoughts and I’m sure they will evolve over the coming weeks. 

… a genuine attempt to replace a summative assessment of teaching with a formative model to genuinely improve what is going on in the classroom.”

I hope we will have something concrete in place during the summer term so we can launch something with our staff.

Doug Lemov Coaching

Watch this space … and get in touch with your thoughts.



17 thoughts on “A Coaching Model

  1. Great timing Ross! I’ve been trying to convince trainees on a variety of courses that a coaching/mentoring model will reap far more benefits than the (often unwittingly) adverserial model still in use in so many schools despite the evidence that it is unreliable. If we know it’s not working let’s fix it – one only has to read the many education blogs and articles over recent months to realise the observation grade-based model is not just flawed, it is dead – akin to that famous sketch “‘It’s not pining! It’s passed on! This X (model) is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet it’s maker!”(Ofsted).

    Notwithstanding the benefits to teaching and learning, staff desperately need a model which puts their needs and aspirations at the forefront not their perceived weaknesses, failings or gaps. A humane, proactive and positive framework for staff development will add one more dimension which is worth it’s weight in gold (if that stuff is still worth anything) – professional regard, remember that?

      1. I’m sure you’ll have loads of ideas and resources but, if you would like more, give me a shout- I’ve nicked plenty of yours!

  2. A comprehensive model and good to see you are flexible in adapting it as you review the impact. I have had success with a model that asks the “awkward” questions along with not being part of the school or a member of staff. There are a number of advantages to this approach not least it is no least it is not tied to the limiting structures within schools (tha tof timetables, staff availability etc). This article is based on an external support coaching model and explores the awkward side of being coached, that of when we are under performing, not at our best. http://wp.me/p2LphS-6F See what you think.

  3. Excellent proposed model. I have seen coaching use in schools really support teacher morale and wellbeing, whilst improving teaching and learning. Research I carried out for a psychology MSc found that teacher’s valued coaching and linked it to positive wellbeing (for themselves). This book by Mark Adams http://www.adamspsychologyservices.co.uk/book.html really supports this approach.

  4. I think there would be a lot of benefits to this model. Except every week? Timetables are very stretched at my school. Would you factor this in to timetabling or expect coaching to happen during ppa time?

  5. Some links and a couple of short films folk might want to watch – very useful solution focussed (don’t get bound in the “therapy” reference but rather the strength-based focus) and another simple one from 2103 on building a successful school. Interesting stuff which I hope will help those starting their journey.

    Please bear in mind I am biased! Probably because I am a SF coach and mentor but also because it works and moves away dramatically from the (unhelpful) deficit model.





  6. I think your proposal sounds great.
    As a teacher of multiple subjects across 3 departments it is always a tricky negotiation with HOD’s in the 3 observation cycle system to ensure that I am not observed more then other members of the staff (7 times last academic year). The Coaching process sounds like it would improve teaching and learning in a less stressful way and allow teachers to really see progress in their own practice. The dialogue also allows for sharing of good practice rather than, what seems to me to be a very subjective assessment of someone’s teaching practice.
    Will be very interested to hear how this develops and works as you put it into place.

  7. I researched what teachers want in the CPD recommendations came out as coaching programme that reflected where the individual was in their teaching journey.

  8. Pingback: Dear Santa
  9. I couldn’t agree with this model more. The principles behind coaching are all about supporting people to ‘find’ the answers themselves. Put this into the context of a lesson observation and you have a far less threatening discussion whereby the teacher is asked a series of questions that enables them to properly reflect and analyse their own lesson. The job of the observer is no longer about grading and judgements of what is now in the past but is now about facilitating self-analysis with the aim of future improvement. This is a significant shift.

    I’m currently working on supporting schools to outsource their coaching because it is actually extremely expensive for a school to have dedicated coaches with a time allowance to do the work. You may think that you couldn’t remotely coach someone but it’s amazing how much self-analysis and improvement can happen when you haven’t even met. It’s wonderful to support teachers in this way and to help them make non-threatening progress.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.