Amid the educational whirlwind of standards, policy change, and high expectations, a quiet but powerful revolution is taking place in the way we approach student support, growth and development. This revolution doesn't involve introducing new subjects, policies or processes instead, it centres around a well-established practice that is increasingly gaining recognition for its profound impact on student wellbeing and resilience: coaching.

For many educators, the term "coaching" might immediately evoke images of professional development workshops, skill-building exercises, or even one-on-one mentoring sessions. However, the application of coaching in schools goes far beyond the benefit of staff development, providing a meaningful framework to support the emotional and mental health of students and young people.

In this article we will explore the intricate web of connections between coaching, student wellbeing, resilience classroom behaviour and academic outcomes. We'll highlight how coaching can lead to improved academic success, increased self-awareness, and a stronger sense of responsibility for learning, ultimately cultivating young minds that are not just academically proficient but also equipped with the emotional tools to flourish in and out of the classroom.

The Rise of Coaching in Schools

In the past decade,  coaching in schools and educational settings has gained traction and support. Yet, the focus has primarily been on professional development to improve teaching and learning, rather than student wellbeing and resilience. It's aimed at enhancing leadership development and professional practice like management skills and classroom teaching - all with the goal of school improvement and academic achievement.

In the 'Coaching in Education article, van Nieuwerburgh, and Barr (2016) Identify coaching in schools operates in 4 key areas.

Coaching for educational leadership

Leaders being coached

  • Education leaders are coached to support their leadership development.

Leaders learning to coach, then coaching others

  • Education leaders learn how to coach, and then use coaching in their leadership repertoire.

Coaching for professional practice

Instructional coaching

  • Teachers are coached by peers or dedicated instructional coaches, with a focus on improving their instructional practice (teaching practice) and outcomes for learners.

Peer coaching

  • Teachers and other educators coach one another about any topic related to their professional practice.

Coaching with parents and the wider school community

Parent coaching by teachers and others

  • Teachers use coaching skills and approaches when meeting with parents.
  • Other education professionals coach parents to help improve their parenting skills.

Parents trained as coaches

  • Parents are trained to coach their own children.

Coaching from the community

  • Trained members of the local community coach schools students.

Coaching for student success and wellbeing

External coaches

  • Trained external coaches work with students to improve academic performance and wellbeing. Find out more about how we can work with you to provide coaching for your students.

Internal school coaches

  • Trained school staff to coach students for improved wellbeing.  See our coach training course to train to become an internal student coach in your school or setting.
  • Trained students coach other students. The arrangement can be reciprocal (peer coaching) or the student can coach younger students. See our Wellbeing Ambassadors programme for more information on our peer-to-peer support interventions.

Coaching to Foster Academic Achievement

Coaching practices can also have a direct, positive impact on academic outcomes. By helping students set clear, achievable goals, understand the current reality of their situation, and explore the options available to them, coaching can serve as a powerful tool for academic planning and progress.

Students who receive academic coaching are more likely to take ownership of their learning. Instead of being passive recipients of information, they are encouraged to actively engage with their education, leading to increased retention and a deeper understanding of their learning and progress at school..

One of our recent Coach Training Course delegates Justin Clark who is training to be an internal coach for his school Crossfield's.  reflected on how coaching is helping his students develop academically

"I think they struggle with a lot with a bit of direction. So when they think I'm struggling in this subject, I'm struggling in that element of school, they don't know how to formulate a plan to get anywhere they don't know where to start.

And they're so being so used to being told what to do that when they're, asked to almost,  formulate their own ideas, or asked how do you think, what do you think you need to do. They they've no idea. They just have thoughts going around in their brain their stuck to know how to move forward independently"

Beyond Academics: Coaching for Student Wellbeing

Coaching, when applied to students, provides a safe space for them to explore their identities, values, and goals. In this capacity, a coach — often a teacher or a dedicated support professional — is more of a guide who listens, asks powerful questions, and helps students unearth their potential.

The conversational approach of coaching encourages students to express their thoughts, fears, and aspirations, which can foster a greater sense of belonging and self-worth. Furthermore, the one-to-one nature of coaching enables a more personalised approach to support, ensuring that the entirety of a student's wellbeing is considered, not just their academic performance.

Justin reflected that his coaching sessions often end up being about more than academic success

"I know of a couple of students it starts with academics. And then gradually, like, where do you want to be, it suddenly comes down and might be a friendship issue, it might be something at home, it might be something else outside the classroom, it might be a relationship with a teacher, it, there's all sorts of things.

So they come into [coaching] it thinking I'm not very good at a certain subject. But then you start breaking it down, and you find it actually, it's not the subject, it might be something else and that's what they need coaching on"

Cultivating Resilience Through Coaching

Resilience, the ability to bounce back from challenges, is a crucial attribute for success in school and beyond. Coaching encourages students to take a growth mindset approach, seeing challenges not as insurmountable obstacles but as opportunities for growth and learning.

Justin also reflected on how coaching helps develop resilience with students

"They're just confused, they're not resilient and they don't know where to find resilience, since they don't know how to put those little building blocks in to get themselves and where they are now to where they want to be. And half of them actually don't know where they want to be. It's, they're told what they need to do. But actually, they haven't thought about themselves and what they want to achieve "

Through the process of coaching, students begin to take ownership and accountability for their own achievements and outcomes rather than being dependent on staff or blaming others when things don't go well, both essential for the cultivation of resilience.

By building a rapport and trust with their students, coaches can provide the support needed to help the student manage their own levels of stress and setbacks. By doing so, students develop resilience that is sustainable and applicable to a variety of life circumstances, not just within the school environment.

Justin reflected on the process of how the students become more resilience

"They definitely become more proactive, I would say, do you think this will work? Do you think this is a good idea? What might this help with? If I do this, do you think that you know, is this going to help you get to that point? So rather than me telling them they're already starting to think about what the next step is little steps on the way to get to get to the destination where they want to be. So rather than waiting to be told, they're actually thinking, ' Yeah, I might try this.'  And a couple of them have tried, it hasn't worked. And they've gone back to you didn't like that. That didn't work particularly well. But I'm going to try this next time."

Strategies for Integrating Coaching into the Student Experience

The integration of coaching into the student experience can take various forms, from regular coaching sessions for a series of weeks or half a term to more informal, 'on the fly' coaching moments that arise in the school day. These interactions need not be time-consuming but can be incredibly impactful, such as a few minutes at the start or end of a lesson to engage in a reflective dialogue with a student.

Teachers and staff need not be professionally trained coaches to effectively integrate coaching strategies into their daily interactions with students. Although some degree of professional development in core coaching principles and approaches is required to integrate informal teaching into coaching these include active listening, asking coaching questions, a coaching way of being and understanding motivation and how to empower young people to take accountability.

One highly successful approach is solution-focused coaching this framework can structure conversations around student challenges and help them uncover their own solutions, fostering a sense of agency and control over their lives. Solution-focused coaching is one of the main theoretical approaches taught through our coach training course.

To find out more about how coaching can help students access our free Introduction to Coach training course.

Measuring the Impact on Student Wellbeing

One of the most exciting aspects of implementing coaching in schools is the flexibility to adapt and refine its application based on the unique needs of students and the school community. Schools that have introduced coaching programs have reported positive changes, not only in terms of academic progress but in student engagement, behaviour, and overall wellbeing.

Quantifying the impact of coaching on student wellbeing is challenging, as it is a multifaceted and subjective measure. However, the anecdotal evidence and the emerging body of research provide compelling testimony to the positive effects of coaching on students' lives.

Overcoming Obstacles to Coaching in Schools

While the benefits of coaching in schools are clear, for coaching to become fully embedded their are a few challenges to overcome. Resources, training, and time are all necessary to implement coaching effectively. However, with a commitment to prioritising student wellbeing, schools can begin to overcome these barriers with a phased approach, starting small with pilot programs, training one or two staff members and gradually expanding to a coaching ethos as the benefits become evident.

Justin has reflected on the barriers he has faced as he starts to develop the coaching offer for students in his school.

"Time, time is the big one, because I'm full-time timetable. It is a case of do coaching sessions at lunchtime, break times... that they actually shows that they want to do it, if they rock up in the first place.

You know, and there's pressure on me, if you're teaching lessons, your duties and you've given up that time after school. So time pressure is the big one. And external, you know, external school pressures"

When asked how the students perceive him as a coach and a teacher Justin reflected

"I mean, they do find it hard. I think because, because of the teacher, they see me as, for 90% of the day, I'm not being adaptive, but a bit more controlling of what happens in the classroom. And then suddenly, they come to see me, you know, a lunchtime or break time [as a coach] and that's a completely different approach."

The Road Ahead: Growing a Culture of Wellbeing Through Coaching

The road to a fully integrated culture of wellbeing through coaching is a long one, but many schools and educators are paving the way. By nurturing resilience and wellbeing through coaching, we can help our students build a foundation for lifelong success and happiness.

In conclusion, coaching in schools is not just about helping students achieve better grades or improving their life chances. It is about enabling young individuals to become confident, responsible, and equipped with the skills to flourish in life. It is an investment in a future where our students are not just academically prepared, but are also emotionally and mentally fortified to lead fulfilling lives in a rapidly changing world.

Find out more about coaching for your school

To discover more about coaching and our approach to young people to develop wellbeing and resilience access our free introduction to coaching young people training.

If you are interested in working in partnership with us to provide coaching programmes for your school or setting find out more here.

If you would like to train to become an internal student coach in your school or setting apply to join our next coach training course.

To train students to use a coaching approach to help their peers take a look at our Wellbeing Ambassadors Programme.

References

van Nieuwerburgh, C., and Barr, M. (2016). “Coaching in Education”, in Tatiana Bachkirova, Gordon Spence and David Drake (Eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Coaching. Sage.

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