With a staff body of around 120, Royal Wootton Bassett Academy, part of the Royal Wootton Bassett Academy Trust, has used coaching apprenticeships to help staff develop new skills and improve the standard of teaching and learning across its member schools.
The Royal Wootton Bassett Academy Trust is made up of seven schools comprising four secondary and three primary schools. Across the schools, a cohort of ten members of staff have completed the Advanced Skills Educational Coach Level 4 Apprenticeship, designed by education sector specialist Olevi and supported by City Skill.
As Assistant Head, Paul Day explains, the knowledge, skills and behaviours developed through the apprenticeship have benefited the wider school community. “In our school, two teachers have completed the apprenticeship and worked with another 15 members of staff meaning around 10% of staff are now trained as coaches”, said Paul.
This was the accumulation of years of work and investment by the school that has led to a coaching culture within the school as an approach to empowering teachers to drive their own development and pupils to become more independent.
Paul explains, “Because of the length of time it takes and because of the requirement to demonstrate deliberate coaching practice, the apprenticeship has allowed us to dig deep into the mechanisms of coaching, not just in terms of how you do it, but also in the different ways it can be implemented across the school.
“Over the last few years, in particular, we have been increasingly interested in its use in the classroom as well. We’re very keen to understand how coaching can develop pupils as it allows us to switch from the ‘sage on the stage’ to a ‘guide on the side’ mentality.”
The explicit nature of the coaching culture transcends formal contracting as coaches and coachees and is now prevalent in corridor conversations, staff room conversations and appraisals.
The Royal Wootton Bassett Academy Trust is able to fund this deep-routed staff development through the Apprenticeship Levy, a government tax created in 2017 to increase funds for work-based learning and to encourage employers with a wage bill of over £3m to invest in high-quality apprenticeships. Despite the availability of this fund many schools and Multi-Academy Trusts are not utilising it.
“When the idea of using the apprenticeship levy was first floated, I’d never heard of it. We had obviously paid for staff development previously but never explored how to utilise the Apprenticeship Levy. It allows for a perfect marriage of how we wanted to take coaching forward as a school and be able to access a funding stream that meant we could provide such a great opportunity for our staff,” admits Paul. As a trust, one of the biggest impacts of the apprenticeship and an engrained coaching ethos is the change in mindset it triggers amongst staff and pupils. Historically coaching would have been a term
used for support when a teacher needed support, now, Paul explains, it has led to a growth mindset that means when something has going wrong, it’s seen as an opportunity for change and an opportunity for growth.
“We speak a lot about the TLC model, where teaching, learning or leadership and coaching all align. By increasing the coaching and communication skills of our teachers, we have seen the impact on their leadership styles and their teaching. They become more confident practitioners, who are more willing to go beyond their comfort zone and stretch themselves to try new things.”
“Historically, coaching might have been something used when a member of staff wasn’t doing very well, but now our ethos is actually that it doesn’t matter whether someone sees themselves as a two out of ten or an eight out of ten, the point is coaching is for anyone that sees a gap between where they are and where they want to be. And I think because we’ve now got staff that are much more self-aware, they’re now much more able to identify their own gaps and therefore more willing to take steps to close those gaps and achieve the impact that they want for themselves.”
This willingness to change and develop is now widespread across the school. More teachers are willing to put themselves forward for CPD opportunities, but also to lead them now they have the confidence and assertiveness to feel they are in a position to influence those situations. The knock-on effect is greater questioning skills in the classroom which helps to develop pupil’s learning techniques too.
Starting an apprenticeship as an experienced teacher might put some members of staff off, but Paul explains that this has never been a barrier to development.
“Knowing the purpose, knowing why people were asked to do the apprenticeship and understanding the impact it would have on their school made it a far richer learning experience for them and meant that we could have almost called it anything. Being an apprenticeship was never an issue.”
This investment is paying dividends.
“We knew, from working with Olevi previously that there would an inherent quality about the apprenticeship and that it would achieve the impact we wanted from coaching in the school and across the trust.
“Number one we are interested in the level of coaching skills someone could develop and the impact this could have on their practice, but number two we wanted them to share what they had learned effectively so that everyone could benefit from these skills and utilise them, whatever role they are in.”