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What do we mean by a coaching culture and why does it matter in an international school setting?

Coaching has been a part of the international educational landscape for many years; international schools have long since harnessed their own staff’s potential and helped their teachers to successfully coach each other.

This two-way dialogue is intended to genuinely involve both parties – the coach and the coachee – in finding solutions through a process of effective questioning and listening with an open mind.

The questions asked are designed to raise awareness within the coachee as to their goals, the current situation and options to move forward whilst also thinking about whole school development and how their own progress will assist with this.

Whether your school already uses this collaborative approach as part of ongoing professional and whole school development or whether it’s new to you, the below discusses the benefits of fostering a coaching culture in an international setting and the steps you can take to implementing it in your school.

The benefits of a coaching culture in an international school

There is no question that all head teachers want the best for their school; to ensure that they not only get good results but achieve it in a way that fits with a holistic philosophy; where every child counts, where the diversity of the school is celebrated and every child has an opportunity to explore and develop their personal strengths and talents.

Fostering a coaching culture can help with the above by creating:

  • Collaborative leadership;
  • Higher levels of performance and results;
  • Greater self-responsibility and accountability;
  • Increased motivation and engagement;
  • Enhanced learning and creativity;
  • Raised ambition and achievement;
  • Improved behaviour and better relationships;

The big question is how do we embed this culture into our international schools and achieve this aim? The answer is simple:

Coaching is the how-to of achieving outstanding performance.”

Coaching is both a philosophy and a process. The process is quite easy asking mostly open questions that invite people to think for themselves, listening with empathy to really understand individuals and giving effective feedback to enable learning and progress.

However, it is the philosophy underpinning coaching that is essential for it to work in an international school. It is a leadership style where the emphasis is put on asking and involving, rather than telling, where staff and children feel empowered firstly to be independent and then to be interdependent or collaborative. It is based on values such as trust and integrity and the belief that everyone has the ability and as a teacher or coach, we can help unlock potential.

Coaching is not a special tool to be taken out just for performance management but is an everyday method of solving issues and helping staff and children make progress. It can also be used for developing your School Improvement Plan, behaviour management, CPD, with parents and much more.

So the question to ask is – how does an international school go about making the change to embed the coaching culture?

One of the mistakes made in attempting to develop a coaching and high-performance culture is that it might be seen as a quick fix; the reality is that it takes time and commitment. However, the results are worth the effort and if every child and teacher does just a little coaching, it becomes transformative. The language in a school begins to reflect a new way of thinking, being and doing.

There are 5 key steps which I have identified that support the process of coaching in international primary schools:

Step 1 is ‘Scope the Opportunity’.

This is ‘The Why’ of building a coaching culture. It is very important that everyone has a clear understanding and rationale as to why you want to do this; being able to describe the vision is key and helps bring others on board. Without it, you will not get the buy-in you need from across the school.

Step 2 is ‘Prepare the Ground’.

Once you have understood your why you need to analyse your current situation and decide the culture you wish to create and the outcomes you want to achieve.

Step 3 is ‘Create a Plan’.

Without a clear plan, you will not be able to move forward. Treating it as a project with relevant timescales, training, case studies, research and a budget will ensure that the plan is and remains congruent with the priorities in your school development plan.

Step 4 is ‘Take Action’.

Nothing is ever achieved without coordinated and consistent action, and staff will need training if coaching is to become embedded and not just an added extra.

Step 5 is ‘Measure and Consolidate’.

As with all progress it needs to be measured and evaluated. One of the keys is to praise small wins and regularly review and communicate progress.

If you have an interest in taking your international school to the next level of performance, then creating a coaching culture in your school is a highly effective way of achieving that ambition.

To learn more about how you can foster a culture of coaching in your school, register to attend the upcoming Middle East School Leadership Conference, which takes place on October 8-9, 2019 in Dubai at the Le Meridien Dubai Hotel and Conference Centre. Visit or search @schoolleadersme on twitter. Alternately you can email for more information.

By: Les Duggan