Coaching provides a useful approach for students in alternative provision settings to achieve their personal and learning goals. It is a collaborative process where the coach helps the young person develop skills, create action plans, and make positive changes that enable them to access education.

Many of the students in alternative provision have a range of complex needs that make accessing mainstream school challenging these include social emotional and mental health difficulties, behavioural issues, and learning disabilities. Coaching is a flexible approach that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual student either in the classroom or through 1-2-1 interventions.

We recently trained a team of Pastoral Support Workers from Brian Jackson College an Alternative provision setting for 13-16 year olds in West Yorkshire. The team completed our Practitioner Training in Coaching in the Autumn Term of 2023. Two of the members of their team Kelly and Paul, were interviewed and shared their feedback on the impact of the training on their ability to support students and also as a team.  Their feedback is highlighted throughout this article.

Positive Psychology in Alternative Provision

At Worth-it we specialise in positive psychology coaching which focuses on building resilience, positive relationships and a flexible mindset. This approach is particularly beneficial for students in alternative provision as it helps them to develop coping strategies and build their self-esteem and confidence.

Positive psychology coaching encourages students to focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses, helping them to see themselves in a more positive light. It also provides them with the tools they need to overcome challenges and obstacles that may be hindering their progress.

One of the key benefits of coaching in alternative provision settings is its ability to empower students. By working closely with a coach, students are given ownership over their learning journey and are encouraged to take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

The Importance of Personalisation in Coaching

One of the key benefits of coaching for students in alternative provision is its ability to be personalised. Every young person has unique strengths, challenges, and goals. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work for them. With coaching, the coach works closely with the students to understand their individual needs and tailor the coaching process accordingly.

By personalising the coaching experience, students are more likely to feel understood and supported.

it's doing an intervention. So it's either we sit with them in class and put different strategies in place or we take them out of the class and do work related to their needs so that it's working on friendships and anger. - Kelly

How does Training Support Workers to use Coaching Help students?

The training provided to the Pastoral Support Workers at Brian Jackson College equipped them with the skills and knowledge needed to effectively support students through coaching. By understanding the principles of positive psychology and how it can be applied in a coaching context, they are able to provide more personalised, consistent and effective support for each young person.

The training covered a range of coaching skills and positive psychology tools these include

  • Active listening
  • Coaching questions
  • Trust
  • Creating a coaching relationship with a student
  • Strengths
  • Solution focused approaches
  • Emotional literacy
  • Self-regulation
  • Developing helpful thinking skills

Paul and Kelly reflect on their favourite strategies gained from the training

Probably active listening for me. So now I can understand more when I'm picking out a little bit of stories that they're telling me. It helps them understand more if I can give them a different angle - Paul

The training provided practical skills and a coaching resource toolkit that enabled team to work in a consistent way as a team, providing a shared approach to supporting students. This not only supported the students to feel reassured and psychologically safer at college but also developed team support and dynamics.

The resources...so they can visually look at what you're doing with them. So it gives you a bit of a template to what you're going to plan. And do it that way. And because it's visual, it's easier for them to understand what you're doing with them -Kelly

Moreover, training also helps the support workers develop their own reflective practice, self-awareness and emotional intelligence, which is crucial in building strong relationships with vulnerable students and supporting them through challenging situations.

There's more scenarios nowadays, where I think, actually, let me just take a second. And then you can reassess in that split second and carry on the conversation. - Paul

What are the skills students learn through Coaching?

The wellbeing skills and resilience strategies young people develop through positive psychology coaching help them learn to apply strategies from three broad interrelated categories. These are:

  • Interpersonal and relationship – skills and strategies that develop positive relationships and the skills to make and maintain them. This can include communication skills, friendship and teamwork skills. 
  • Self and emotional awareness – strategies that develop self-knowledge, self-acceptance, self-esteem and positive self-image. These are combined with strategies that develop an understanding of all emotions and how to express and experience emotions in helpful and healthy ways.
  • Thinking – skills and strategies that encourage dealing with challenges, action planning, optimistic thinking and the ability to be resilient. Our approaches allow young people to take responsibility and ownership for their thinking and behaviour and how this leads to enhanced wellbeing and resilience.

Using these skills and strategies in alternative provision settings can have a transformative effect on students, as they develop the tools they need to not only improve their academic achievement but also their overall wellbeing.

when you're doing your interventions, and you're on that one-to-one, it's letting them lead the conversation, and then listening to what they say and to be able to then ask the questions to be able to delve a little deeper into what's actually going on with them. And because they're being listened to, they tend to open up a lot more. -Kelly

Coaching Builds Student Confidence and Motivation

One of the main goals of coaching in alternative provision is to build students' confidence and motivation. Many students in these settings may have experienced difficulties or setbacks in their education which can lead to low self-esteem and a lack of motivation.

Coaching works by helping students set achievable goals, break them down into manageable steps, and celebrate each small success along the way. This process builds confidence and motivation as students see themselves making progress towards their ultimate goal.

Coaching can help with the development of self-regulation and emotional awareness which are essential for success in education and beyond. As students become more confident and motivated, they are also better equipped to manage their emotions and behaviour, leading to improved relationships with peers and teachers.

I like the comfort zones, so you see what they're not comfortable with and pushing that little bit further to be able to go do it. Yeah, it's just little stuff. Like none of them dare go into a shop and order a drink or go out, get on a bus and speak to somebody. It's like little things like that, that we're trying to build on so that they can transition into adult life. - Kelly

Benefits of Training a Team to Use Coaching with Students

One of the outcomes of the training was team bonding and peer-to-peer support for the team. The training is delivered in a way where the staff practice coaching with each other to try out the skills they are learning to coach students. This helps them to build team dynamics and learn how to coach each other to support students.

Another benefit of training a team to use coaching with students is the reduction in staff stress and improved wellbeing. By implementing a shared approach to supporting students, the workload is evenly distributed among the team members, leading to less stress and more support for each individual.

Coaching also helps staff develop their own self-awareness and emotional intelligence, which can reduce conflicts and improve communication within the team, to promote a consistent way of supporting students. This creates a positive work environment where everyone feels supported and valued.

the team of six that we've got is the strongest been since I've worked here in two years. Oh, it's, we help each other out. We've all got different strengths that we have. So if I've got something that I'm struggling with, I can go to Kelly on any of the others, and say, What do you think of this? And then we'll have a quick chat, tweak it and then it's perfect for my intervention. And I think that as a whole, because we know, we can go to any of the team. It just automatically makes everyone around you happier. Because, we're getting the work done and that's just what all workers want. - Paul

Training your team your pastoral team to support students

Coaching in alternative provision settings is a powerful tool for supporting students' wellbeing and academic success. By focusing on personalisation, positive psychology, and building confidence and motivation, coaching can have a long-lasting impact on the lives of these young people. The team at Brian Jackson College has seen first-hand the benefits of coaching and continues to integrate it into their practice with great success.  So if you are looking for an effective way to support students in alternative provision, consider implementing coaching as part of your approach.  With its focus on strengths, individual needs, and goal-setting, coaching can truly make a difference in the lives of your students.

If you're interested in finding our more about how coaching can help the young people you work with access our free Introduction to Coaching Young People course.

If you would like to train as an individual or provide training for your staff team visit our Coach Training Page to find out more about the course options and get in touch.

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