Witton Park Academy is a mixed secondary school for children aged 11-16 in Blackburn, Lancashire. Commissioned by an enlightened Headteacher, Oasis coaches partnered with the senior team to build trust, confidence, and relationships.
Headteacher Dean Logan said: “Pupils and parents are very positive about school. Our reputation has grown over recent years. The relationships we build with pupils are fundamental to us, and the one-to-one development is an extension of that. It is about developing relationships and giving people confidence. Coaching gives people a good opportunity to reflect on some of what we do, and it fits in with our culture of developing relationships and developing trust.”
He said: “Once you realise something is good and determines improvements in what you are doing, then you should model that. I realised the benefits of coaching for myself, and I want to model that behaviour through school and enable others. You cannot underestimate the value it places on people.” Dean wanted to encourage, support, and inspire senior managers to:
Take more ownership of their roles
Distribute leadership more broadly
Help move the academy towards an Ofsted “outstanding” judgement.
“It was about middle leaders growing in stature and expertise and beginning to have difficult conversations, being able to hold people to account, and to do that in a way that they can sustain and build relationships rather than people being fractious with each other,” said Dean.
One of the key aims was to develop the Academy’s middle leaders so they could hold other staff to account. It was identified early on that people found facing confrontation and holding others to account – for example, those not meeting expectations or with unacceptable attitudes – to be a drain on their personal resources.
Dean said: “I wanted the coaching to encompass that type of decision making where the staff were held accountable by middle leaders. Because without middle leaders growing in their expertise and ability to lead their teams, we will not become an outstanding school.”
There were a variety of key themes that arose through the coaching. Some managers wanted to learn how to motivate others, how to develop management skills and how to prioritise workload. Others needed support with communication, managing conflict and gaining confidence. Managing people – whether that was dealing with personalities, having difficult conversations, or dealing with conflict – was highlighted as the most challenging aspect of the senior role.
There have been positive changes in both the workings and the culture of the Academy.
Ofsted has noted strong progress in the school finding them good with outstanding features.
“Leaders have successfully developed a culture that fosters continuously high aspirations, harmonious relationships, self-discipline, and the mutual respect of all members of the school community. This culture is evident in every area of school life.”
The inspectors particularly noted the investment in the professional development of leaders: “Leaders invest heavily in the professional development of middle leaders. For example, the school commissions 10 hours of one-to-one coaching for twenty-one middle leaders per year. The leadership of teaching and learning is a significant strength of the school. They have in place high-quality mentoring, coaching, and training to support improvement that teachers willingly access.”
Those receiving coaching have noticed an improvement in collaboration with better conversations taking place. They highlighted the positive impact of the sessions – including learning a greater range of strategies for communicating with colleagues, coping with stress, and achieving a work/life balance.
By giving managers the opportunity to reflect, they found insight and different perspectives. This led to increased self-awareness, finding their voice, being more pragmatic, more positive, and more effective.
Oasis evaluated the service using questionnaires to gather anonymous data. These showed that the service is seen as having a highly positive impact on the individuals and on the school.
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