Research School Network: Coaching During Pandemic For many years, coaching has been an integral part of our school’s infrastructure.


Coaching During Pandemic

For many years, coaching has been an integral part of our school’s infrastructure.

by Billesley Research School
on the

For many years, coaching has been an integral part of our school’s infrastructure. It is something that we are incredibly proud of at Billesley Primary School and it is ingrained in our professional development offer for every teacher and teaching assistant. Creating coaching teams is a process that is carefully considered; looking at skillsets, experience and relationships to ensure that every member of staff is paired with a coach who will work positively with them throughout the year, to develop practice and meet the demands of new cohorts and curricular.

In the midst of a pandemic, there was concern about how coaching might work this year. How would we team teach if we were in separate bubbles? How would we observe our peers if we weren’t permitted into one another’s classrooms? How would we share effective practice if we were no longer allowed to talk and share spaces together?

Technology was the answer to many of these concerns. We found that through the use of Google Meet video calls and collaborative working platforms such as Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Sheets we were able to adapt our coaching resources very quickly to enable coaching to still go ahead in a Covid safe way. In fact, now more than ever, the coaching program has become a key support for the staff in our school. It not only helps them develop their teaching but also build a support network that creates opportunities to talk about the challenges faced in their bubbles and tackle them strategically as a team.

The pandemic highlighted things which were new to me as a teacher, including an impact on a particular child’s mental health. My coaching allowed me to feel confident in tackling the issue and guided me with what support I needed to implement. The coaching also gave me confidence to follow my own instincts as I knew I had someone to support me behind the scenes. Aside from the issues the pandemic had on the children, I feel that coaching only became more important and was not hindered by it at all.” Year 4 Teacher

Despite social distancing, my coach has been able to observe and support from the corridor (aided by some handily-placed windows), offer advice, and even model strategies by coming into the classroom only at times when children are seated and unlikely to be within two metres of her. She has got to know my class by supervising them during lunctimes (outside) and has therefore been able to offer meaningful feedback in relation to my classroom management and relationship with individual children.” Year 3 Teacher

Our leadership team also thought carefully about the role of the second adult and how Lead Practitioners could be used both as an extra pair of hands where required but also as a coach inside bubbles to develop provision for our new approach to mixed attainment teaching. In my role as a Lead Practitioner, I found the book The Role Of The Adult In Early Years Settings’ by Janet Rose and Sue Rogers really inspired me to reflect on the breadth of roles an adult can play in a classroom and how through coaching I was able to identify where adults can be used most effectively as unique strands of a plural practitioner. An example of this that we found was that whilst it can be tempting to address the challenges of mixed attainment teaching through multiple breakout groups, it can remove second adults from playing important roles in facilitating and assessing learning.

Even though we were faced with many challenges during the Autumn term, I feel that the support offered to me by my coach encouraged and enabled me to further adapt and develop my teaching across all areas of the curriculum. It was such a comfort to know that as and when I needed to, I could spend time with my coach discussing any issues that I was facing. At such an unusual time my coach proved to be a consistent pillar of support and was always willing to work alongside me.” Year Group Leader

Despite huge demands on our staff relating to the logistical challenges presented to them in the guidance for school reopening in September, the quality of coaching was in no way compromised. This year we adopted The Early Career Framework as our Core Standards for teaching and learning for all staff and found them to be an excellent starting point for exploring personal areas for development when coachees reflect on these in meetings. In addition to this, we used Leadership Matters to help inform coaching meetings for leadership teams.

Working one to one for coaching has been an extremely enjoyable experience. As it is one to one it was engaging and tailored explicitly for my needs, my coach was able to spend time working alongside me to find where my main needs were and together we were able to develop a specific plan to meet them.

Going back into a class in September, I was met with initial worries of whether I would be able to keep up with my planning responsibilities as well as ensuring that my planning was at a high enough standard for the children to make consistent progress. I felt so out of practice and worried that I was out of touch. We discussed what I felt I needed and would benefit from and the coaching was tailored around it.

We met officially on a weekly basis, but she was always available for any further guidance or to answer any questions. During the weekly meeting we would reflect on the general week, how the coaching had helped to develop me and where I wanted to aim towards next. I have found the coaching to be extremely successful and through my coach’s hard work I have found myself feeling so much more confident in my planning and as a result of this my delivery.

It has been such a valuable experience for me and I would definitely recommend spending that time with a coach to develop yourself, even if you have been in the profession for a number of years. The coaching has given me 100% more confidence in my planning, delivery and generally the feeling that it is ok to ask for help! I can not thank her enough for supporting me and putting up with my many questions, emails and more questions!” KS2 Teacher

After the success of all this, our coaching model was presented with another challenge when the most recent school closure was announced. How did our understanding of effective pedagogy translate into a digital platform? Are staff still able to engage with this professional development during times of such uncertainty and high alert? How do we manage the demands of remote learning whilst still ensuring every child is receiving a high quality curriculum?

Our reflections led us to the following key findings on remote coaching:

Sessions can be more easily postponed
Contact is often less frequent
On the shoulder’ coaching models with students present may not be possible
Sessions can feel more one-way
Communication can be more transactional
Coachees may seem/​feel less present’

Top Tips for Remote Coaching

Be Organised

a. Make a commitment for the regularity of sessions and create recurring calendar events

b. Send an email the day before to coachees to remind them of any actions from the previous meeting and an outline of the one to come. This will support them in feeling more present in the session. 

c. Create a space’ where materials will be stored and shared

d. Calendar yourself time to prepare for sessions mentally and physically

Be Prepared

a. A deck of slides can help to give the session structure including visuals that refer to the stages of the coaching process

b. Consider what resources could be used to scaffold a task and how these will also support staff when you’re not with them 

c. When sharing ideas or research, have it ready for coachees to see and engage with.

Be Clear

a. At the end of sessions, ensure coachees are clear on what they are doing this week. A coaching record can help with this.

b. If they require support outside of the scheduled times, what’s the best way for them to contact you and how available are you to help with this?

c. Keep referring back to the to the cycle to remain focussed in sessions

Be Kind

a. Time is precious, consider how can these sessions also give time 

b. Give time for social and emotional check-ins with coachees before starting the session. In person we will be able to assess this far more quickly from body language and tone; this is much harder remotely. 

c. Support the metacognitive demands of working remotely. Reading from a screen and listening for long periods of time can be draining. Limit session times and make them interactive where possible. Don’t forget to model!

Ellen Burgess
Lead Practitioner

Literature Review

DFE, EEF, January 2019, Early Career Framework
Sue Rogers, Janet Rose, 2012, The Role of the Adult in Early Years Settings
Andy Buck, 2018, Leadership Matters 3.0

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