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Judith Barton

A coaching culture to improve well-being

How mentoring and coaching offers a well-being solution to pupils and teachers

Posted by Alice Savage | May 31, 2017 | School life

Judith Barton, Director of Studies at British School of Coaching (BSC), explains... 

When thinking about the main functions of schools, one immediately thinks of lessons, school rules or uniforms. Actually it’s the health, the safety and the well-being of pupils that are the most important functions of a school. Schools
that prioritise well-being are those where pupils
achieve most.

In recent years, my education coaching and mentoring strategies and techniques – aimed at developing school leaders, teachers, their pupils and parents – has improved organisational well-being and raised standards. Specifically, developing a coaching and mentoring culture within a school supports its efforts to provide learning opportunities and the best possible outcomes for pupils of all ages and abilities. These strategies are linked to providing an environment where young people feel safe, are happy and, moreover, are keen to learn. Student wellbeing is created by developing resilient and confident learners who are prepared to lead their own learning. In such environments, where staff enjoy their work and pupils look forward to going to school, outcomes are better.

Reflecting on my work, it’s a privilege to be invited to work with a school, to meet so many enthusiastic practitioners, all keen to deepen their own understanding of well-being and share their experience. There is a clear sense of wanting to improve. Modern schools develop at a fast pace with practitioners embracing new methods of teaching. One of the key drivers is the need to develop and to differentiate pupils in order to help them stand out in the competitive environment of college or work. Coaching and mentoring assist individuals to go from good to great through a healthy, balanced ‘mind set’ and create marginal gains.

Crucially, I need to make it clear that coaches and mentors are not counsellors or therapists. Coaching and mentoring are now very much embedded within schools’ well-being policies and culture. It works well in schools because everyone wants to improve, there is a thirst for learning and creativity and there are those brave enough to want to try new things.

Coaching and mentoring are now very much embedded within schools’ well-being policies and culture

In response to employers’ and university calls for pupils to be prepared for work or further study, the first professional qualification for 14 to 24-year-olds was launched last year by BSC. The Young Leaders Award recognises volunteering, develops leadership, confidence and resilience and is now an alternative for some young people to existing established initiatives. The first cohort of Young Leaders in July 2016 included Ben Davidson, a Year 11 student from Dubai College. Ben was embarking on choices that would affect his exam subject choices, university selection, future work and his life. Ben said, “I realised that these were the first real steps to being an adult and what a challenge it is to be faced with some pretty important, and possibly life-changing decisions.”

One of the best personal outcomes for Ben was talking to Michael Lambert, Headmaster at Dubai College. Being told by the headmaster that his achievement was “impressive”, instilled pride and motivation to achieve more.

Clearly, schools and colleges need to add extra value to student outcomes. Too often they attempt to improve by doing ‘more of the same’. More classes, more tests, more homework. These, in turn, can create stressful situations for everyone. Coaching and mentoring offers a well-being solution both for pupils and teachers. By giving the pupils ownership of the learning process, coaching and mentoring gives the learner strategies to identify their strengths and weaknesses. They learn how to move forward and become confident self-developers on the pathway to life-long learning. In schools with a coaching culture, teachers become facilitators of development, learning and enhanced performance at all levels. 


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