One to One Coaching in a Secondary School

We suspect that it is not uncommon for the senior management within a school to consider that they have a ‘coaching culture’ within their school.  Though, we are curious as to how many schools might currently prioritise any budget allocation to provide the opportunity for staff to receive 1 to 1 coaching by professional coaches.  Perhaps it is the perception of having a coaching culture that would lead senior leaders to consider that any coaching required for teachers can be done ‘in-house’ rather than by ‘expensive external providers who don’t understand our school’.  Over the last 3 years, The John Warner School have chosen to allocate individual 1 to 1 coaching sessions for their teaching and non-teaching staff (a total of 40 sessions of 75 minutes).  The results have been astonishing.

The decision to provide individual coaching for staff in this way came about as a result of the success of some bespoke training in conducting ‘Crucial Conversations’ that we carried out with the school’s Pastoral Team, earlier in the year.  This workshop led to one member of the SLT sharing with Chris some concerns related to work-life balance and Chris offering a 1 to 1 coaching session gratis to help the teacher consider the issues and possible actions that might help work and life to be more enjoyable and successful.  It was the success of this coaching session that led the SLT to decide to offer some coaching sessions more widely, to gauge interest in this new approach to CPD and to examine whether other members of staff might also find it similarly beneficial.

So a further 8 individual 75 minute 1 to 1 sessions were provided by Chris and Ian.  The extremely positive feedback from these sessions led to the school offering further sessions, each year, again with excellent feedback. 

The SLT decided to offer the coaching sessions to all staff on a first come first served basis.  No member of staff was encouraged to attend or not attend!  It was made clear that the teachers could raise any issues that they wished and that every coaching session would be completely confidential.  The only requirement being that they write a short piece of feedback to help John Warner and us to evaluate the effectiveness of the coaching sessions.

We have examined and distilled the feedback from the staff and suggest some potential learning points that we believe would be useful for all schools to consider.

Feedback: “I found the experience exceptionally worthwhile.  It was the first time in nearly 15 years of teaching where I was able to focus on my future for a substantial amount of time in an entirely non-agenda driven environment.  It helped me to clarify a number of different issues and gave me lots more to ponder in the coming weeks.  One of the most valuable CPD times of my career.”

Learning Points:  1 to 1 coaching allows teachers to set their own agendas for their CPD and the benefits to the individual teacher can be dramatic, in part, due to the highly specific focus.

Feedback:  “Through my coaching session I found things out about myself that will enable me to improve my practice.  The individual approach to CPD that coaching provides is advantageous for me and the school because I am now able to solve issues in my career that are not related to the learning of my pupils but may be affecting them directly or indirectly.”

Learning Point:  1 to 1 coaching can allow teachers to significantly increase their self-awareness through quality reflection and feedback from the coach.  It allows them to raise issues that are indirectly related to the learning of pupils, yet have a significant impact on the quality of their teaching.

Feedback:  “I am feeling positive about my job again and I can see a path for improvement. Prevention is better than a cure. I have let go of a lot of negative issues that I was just carrying around with me because I was able to talk freely about work. All of this I achieved myself as I am the vessel for change.”

Learning Points:  1 to 1 coaching with an ‘external’ coach encourages teachers to ‘freely talk’ about issues and work in ways that they would be most unlikely to discuss with a colleague.  It can empower them to realise that they have an enormous capacity for change.

Feedback:  “In the meeting we looked at one issue which has a negative effect on my day to day life and my professional work and really analysed what I could do to improve this situation. It was really helpful to talk to a professional about this issue in total confidence who has no ‘ties’ to the school but is closely associated with the school and has a good idea about how it works and the relationships within it. I was encouraged to analyse why this was an issue and how it holds me back and then develop strategies to improve and solve this problem.”

Learning Point:  Great benefits can be gained from using external coaches that have a close relationship with the school

Feedback:  “It helped me to think about things in a completely different way …It made me question things and seek answers using approaches I had not thought of.  The whole focus was on what I needed ...This was so much more productive and useful for me both in terms of professional and personal development.”

Learning Point:  Coaching can encourage staff to think in new ways and adopt new approaches.

Feedback:  “It was a truly valuable and worthwhile session, offering concepts and ideas with wide-ranging application both in the teaching profession and outside.”

Learning Point:  An external coach may be more likely to help a person reflect on learning that encompasses more than the teaching environment.

Feedback:  “It has allowed me to spend time thinking about teaching and I have really reflected on what’s important to me and what I want to achieve in my career.”

Learning Point:  1 to 1 coaching can be a significant part of a performance management cycle.

Feedback:  “I would say it is useful for anyone who just wants to “get their head straight” and “get focused” as I left feeling a renewed sense of enthusiasm for what I do in the classroom and optimism that I CAN make changes.”

Learning Point:  Often the most significant changes are to do with beliefs.

Feedback: “It has allowed me to clarify points with regards to my purpose in the school and made me realise that I have the attributes and confidence to fulfil my expectations and those of others too.”

Learning Point:  When individuals are clear about their purpose the rest often falls into place.

Feedback:  “I found the session very valuable.  In fact, more so than subject specific CPD I have been on in the past.  I had the opportunity to be specific about any issues and be able to discuss these in confidence.  I left feeling empowered and ready to deal with situations that I had felt I needed more skills to deal with.”

Learning Point:  Coaching can help to develop self-reliance and resilience in your staff.

Feedback:  The best thing about the coaching is that I was helped to find the answers which I already knew. Sometimes you just need a torch to help you through the clouds!  We even went through my break, after which I have a tricky class, and I didn’t panic about not relaxing before my lesson, as I knew could go straight in and deal with the situation, whatever it may be. Sometimes we all get too caught up in others negativity or what’s going on around us.

Learning Point:  “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it within himself.” Galileo

Feedback:  “I have to say that the effectiveness and the quality of coaching were beyond my expectations!  I have been coached before in industry and have coached people as well.  The session was conducted extremely professionally with precision-based questioning which led to the crux of the matter. This was followed by very well conducted advice on how to apply some NLP techniques to address certain matters.  Practising and trialling, using visualisation really helped me embrace the techniques.  In my opinion, one of the best CPD experiences I have ever had in my life.”

Learning Point:  Specialist coaching can have a dramatic impact in a short time frame.

Three teachers requested to have an additional coaching session and their feedback on the second sessions included these comments.

Feedback: “The 2nd coaching session was brilliant – I got even more out of it than the first, partly because I had already built a rapport with my coach and secondly because we built on what I had discussed previously.  The fact it is totally specific to my needs makes it some of the best CPD I have had in relation to my own personal development.  Whilst I knew the sessions would be worthwhile and productive - I have gained much more than I initially had envisaged from the 2 sessions, and know I can gain still more.”

Learning Point:  For some staff a series of sessions can give a greater impact.

Feedback:  “The 2nd coaching session was excellent.  My coach allowed to me to explore and overcome hurdles that would have been very difficult for me to address. The approach of the coaching is very open and it allows personal development to a very high level. Not addressing mere surface concerns but resolving underlying causes to what may be inhibiting or preventing us from making progress in certain areas.  In short, a very positive experience which to my pleasant surprise, yet again, addresses matters of concern to an individual in a highly effective manner.  Empowering and positively constructive.  In my opinion it is one of the best CPD I have had - it is tailored to my needs and the impact is very significant and very positive.”

Learning Point:  Coaching can tackle underlying causes affecting staff performance.


We believe that this feedback is extremely positive and interesting in the context of the teachers’ CPD.  We were surprised at how many of the teachers rated the 75 minutes of coaching so highly in relation to their other CPD opportunities over their years of teaching.

So why do we believe we have got the results that we have?

  1. We are independent from the school and the school’s line-management structure.
  2. Although independent, we have developed a good understanding of the school through our work in training with different staff groups at different levels over the year.
  3. We and the school were looking to develop a long-term relationship over years rather than a ‘quick-fix’ approach to a single issue.  This encourages us all to be open and honest in our discussions.
  4. As coaches, we both have had considerable experience within schools and education services prior to investing in our development as trainers and coaches.
  5. We are both qualified Master Practitioners in NLP alongside other complimentary skills in communication and coaching.
  6. We give a different perspective that is fundamentally based on the belief that everyone can change and develop themselves.
  7. Our purpose is to foster transformational growth within everyone we work with.  We believe that we offer complementary skills to the expertise within schools whilst sharing many core Educational values.  We are proud to be working with teachers and schools.
  8. 1 to 1 external coaching allows individuals to raise personal and/or emotional issues that they would not dream of discussing with anyone within the internal school environment.  These issues can have a significant impact on their teaching performance.

General Learning Points

What do we think are the potential general learning opportunities for other schools?

  1. Consider develop long-term relationships with external providers who can demonstrate excellent training and coaching skills alongside value for money.
  2. Consider coaching as a cost-effective way of helping teachers to change and overcome significant hurdles in their work or personal lives as both can significantly impact on their abilities to successfully teach their pupils.
  3. Act promptly on emerging needs / flexibility to break away from an annual CPD plan.
  4. Be open to informal insights and feedback from staff in considering future CPD provision.
  5. Look beyond local or traditional providers of CPD

News and Views