- (Briefly) The growth of APS as a company.
- The application of coaching/coaching psychology in schools.
- The development of coaching in the profession of Educational Psychology.
APS as a company
- The team. APS has grown from just me and my bike to a small team of five, comprising myself, an Associate Senior Psychologist, and three Associate Educational Psychologists. Each person brings their own individual strengths and experiences to the table, while working in a way that reflects the APS company values. I feel grateful for and proud of the team we’ve put together so far.
- Systems and processes. We now have a range of systems and processes that ensure standards of service delivery while supporting the psychologists in the team and contributing to the maintenance of a culture of collaborative learning in the service. This includes: termly team meetings; work swap (in which we share completed pieces of work with each other so as to make our practice visible and learn from each other); quality assurance (which allows psychologists to receive feedback on their work while ensuring consistency/coherence of practice across contexts); termly coaching for each practitioner to support their performance and wellbeing; and an evaluation system in which clients submit online feedback regarding completed pieces of work (this supports our learning and enables us to check/demonstrate that we are making a positive difference).
- Impact. Our evaluation feedback indicates that over the last five years we have made a positive difference in over 280 individual cases, as well as supporting schools with a range of work at other levels (e.g. improving transition processes, developing and facilitating a SENCo cluster, providing training for staff).
So far we seem to be making a positive difference and we will work to ensure that continues. As new challenges present themselves, we will tackle them by focusing on the next step in front of us while ensuring that our practice and behaviour reflects our values.
The application of coaching/coaching psychology in schools
- Provided over 300 hours of coaching support to individuals and teams in schools. Our focus to date has predominantly been providing support for adults (teachers, support staff, leaders) to support their performance, development and wellbeing.
- Supported six schools to introduce or further develop coaching as way of working.
As well as (according to our evaluation feedback) making a difference to the performance and/or wellbeing of those we have worked with, this has provided us with valuable experience and learning about coaching practice and some of the opportunities and challenges that can be encountered when trying to apply/develop coaching in schools. Sadly, a pattern that we have noticed over the last few years is that schools in our area are experiencing increased budgetary pressures, and as a result have needed to prioritise spending in areas other than providing coaching support for staff. Understandably, when schools are finding it difficult to even fund the support children need, the reality is that the provision of coaching support for staff may not be considered a priority.
At the same time, while acknowledging this practical reality, we would argue that coaching is needed in education now more than ever. The mental health challenges facing children and young people in today's society are well-documented (DfE, 2017), and coaching could represent a valuable proactive intervention for enabling young people to access support, problem-solve difficulties, and learn strategies for maintaining their own wellbeing. Indeed, evidence is already emerging regarding the potential benefit of coaching in this respect (Green, Grant & Rynsaardt, 2007; Pritchard & van Nieuwerburgh, 2016; Robson-Kelly & van Nieuwerburgh, 2016). It has already been argued that the UK government’s proposed strategy for addressing young people’s mental health needs to be more far-reaching and should include a greater emphasis on proactive and preventative approaches to supporting young people’s mental health and wellbeing (Education and Health & Social Care Committees, 2018). In our view, finding ways to increase access to coaching for young people could be a valuable part of a strategy for achieving this.
As regards the adults in schools, a recent survey by the Education Support Partnership showed that nearly a third of education staff overall (29%) and more than a third of senior leaders in education (37%) said that their job had made them feel stressed “most or all of the time in the past few weeks” - a figure that is in contrast with 18% of UK employees overall (ESP, 2017). As the proportion of working age teachers leaving the profession continues to rise (Worth & DeLazzari, 2017), mechanisms for supporting the wellbeing of staff are crucial. While a high number of significant wellbeing issues and frequent turnover of staff may indicate the need for broader systemic or contextual changes, regular psychology-informed coaching for practitioners could provide staff with a valuable outlet to proactively and preventatively explore and address issues that may impact on their wellbeing.
Coaching in Educational Psychology
My hope for the future is that this momentum can be maintained, that the practice of coaching will continue to embed across Educational Psychology, and that more practitioners will become engaged in shaping the development of coaching in our profession. Indeed, in addition to the demand for coaching CPD across EP services, there are some other indicators which suggest that this may be beginning to occur, for example:
- Two Trainee Educational Psychologists that I am aware of have focused their Doctoral research on coaching. In my view we need more of this type of research to expand our knowledge base about coaching in educational contexts and, more specifically, in Educational Psychology practice. I would ideally like to see more coaching-specific papers written by Educational Psychologists.
- A forthcoming ‘Leading Edge Day’ at University College London is specifically focusing on Coaching Psychology and Possibilities for Educational Psychology Practice. (This one-day event on October 16th is only open to active course members on the CPD Doctorate in Educational Psychology).
- I am in discussion with the Division of Educational & Child Psychology about the possibility of developing a short-term working party to inform the development of coaching in Educational Psychology practice.
These are small green shoots, admittedly, but isn’t that how all strong plants begin?
- Consolidating our existing team and maintaining our standards of service delivery while safeguarding the future of the company.
- Increasing the extent to which young people can access coaching, either from external coaches or from trained/supervised practitioners in schools.
- Equipping young people with psychology-informed tools that can help them to solve problems, achieve goals, and experience enhanced wellbeing.
- Further use of coaching in education to proactively and preventatively support staff performance and wellbeing.
- Continuing to raise the profile of coaching so that more EPs are engaged with coaching as a practice.
- And, as well as the above, personally developing an improved work-life balance so I can be more available to my children in these crucial years (our son is nine and our daughter is thirteen).
The last five years have led to some pleasing outcomes, certainly, but there is more to do. Onwards, together.
With grateful thanks to our clients (without whom we would not exist), and to the other psychologists who either work or have worked with APS and supported its operation and development
- What is your vision? Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
- To what extent are you on-track to achieve your goals?
- What else might you need to do over the coming year to take some steps forward?
Education and Health & Social Care Committees (2018). The Government’s Green Paper on Mental Health: Failing a Generation. Published on 9 May 2018, House of Commons.
Education Support Partnership (2017). Health Survey 2017: The Mental Health and Wellbeing of Education Professionals in the UK. YouGov.
Green, L. S., Grant, A. M. & Rynsaardt, J. (2007). Evidence-based life coaching for senior high school students: Building hardiness and hope. International Coaching Psychology Review, 2(1), pp. 24-32.
Law, H. (2009). Coaching psychology in education – an introduction. DECP Debate, Edition 132, pp. 18-21.
Pritchard, M. (2016). The perceptual changes in life experience of at-risk young girls subsequent to an appreciative coaching and positive psychology interventions group programme: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. International Coaching Psychology Review, 11 (1), pp. 57-74.
Robson-Kelly, E. & van Nieuwerburgh, C. (in press). What does coaching have to offer young people at risk of developing mental health problems? A grounded theory study. International Coaching Psychology Review, 11 (1), pp. 75-92.
Worth, J. & DeLazzari, G. D. (2017). Teacher Retention and Turnover Research – Research Update 1: Teacher Retention by Subject. Retrieved from https://www.nfer.ac.uk/teacher-retention-and-turnover-research-research-update-1-teacher-retention-by-subject/.