Andy Roberts

Deputy Head of Russell School at Varndean School/Expert Coach for Pavilion and Downs.

Andy has been teaching for over 15 years, in two very different environments. He began his career in a primary school in south London where as part of the newly qualified process, he received mentoring on a fortnightly basis for his NQT year. This was an invaluable form of professional development for Andy and helped him to develop his teaching practice immensely.

Expert's Bio

I have been teaching for over 15 years, in two very different environments. I began my career in a primary school in south London where as part of the newly qualified process, I received mentoring on a fortnightly basis for my NQT year. This was an invaluable form of professional development and it helped me to develop my teaching practice immensely.

After five years as a primary school teacher I made the transition into secondary school teaching where coaching was first introduced to me. Initially, I volunteered to be coached as it was a new form of CPD at the school and the lead coach at the time wanted “guinea pigs” to trial the provision. As a new member of staff and somewhat struggling with the ‘time management’ element of secondary education I opted to be coached. Once the process had been explained to me during my contracting session it began to open my eyes to the power coaching can have on one’s development. I remember reading a particular quote that resonated with me by Sir John Whitmore “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them” (Whitmore, 2009). This has stuck with me ever since and has had a profound effect on how I coach.

Since my personal experience of being coached I have been trained internally and then trained on the Power of Coaching Train the Trainers (POC TTT) programme in 2014, which is part of the Olevi Outstanding Teachers Programme. Subsequently, I have coached a number of colleagues, both teaching and support staff at my school and across Brighton and Hove Schools, using the GROW Model (Goal – Reality - Obstacles/Opportunities - Way Forward).

Most recently a colleague and I were asked by the Headteacher to create a Coaching Model for Varndean School in order to promote coaching as a form of CPD. Beginning with Heads of Department, all staff will now have the opportunity to be coached by a member of the coaching team, trained by my colleague and I. We meet half-termly as a team and as a form of supervision, providing individual support when necessary.

Coaching and mentoring have played a significant part in the development of my teaching and ability to manage effectively. I am a firm believer in the process and have witnessed first-hand how powerful it can be. Coaching is about finding solutions from within the coachee through skilled questioning and listening from the coach regardless of the hierarchal nature of the relationship between the two people. In theory a newly qualified teacher could coach the headteacher for example in an educational setting. The coachee must ‘buy in’ to the process and be prepared to be challenged, though it should never be forced upon somebody. Through effective facilitation, the coachee should “gain increased clarity regarding a situation or topic, which enables them to make progress in some way” (Starr, 2016).  

Coaching should follow a Model, in order to give the process a structure and purpose, often being more systematic than mentoring. Clients should feel as though their initiated goal has been worked towards. This goal may well change through the process, but it must always be client centred. In management, time is extremely valuable, and therefore it is imperative clients see the purpose and consequential outcomes of the process. It should help them to move forward in their professional development, to learn from the process and where necessary change their practice.

“Believe in the process” (Miles, 2016). This is something which is so important if coaching is to be an integral part of any organisation. There are always going to be barriers to any form of additional support, but by believing in the intervention at all levels, it will help to eliminate some of these obstacles. Coaching sits along a ‘continuum of helping’ processes, but due to in particular the time constraints of modern society, coaching is often pushed aside for more directive approaches which involve more advising and telling.

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