Debbie Foolkes (Headteacher), Woodlands Secondary School

[Coaching Headteachers] Coaching Stops Head “Drowning” & Delivers Sustainable Results

[Coaching Headteachers Transcript] - Presentation on Coaching in Schools Programme to other Headteachers

– So, what difference has it made to me?

I think for me this programme came at exactly the right time because I picked up another school and there was a lot of work to do there.

And I think had I not done the coaching programme I would’ve struggled to find a way forward.

But actually, I coached myself when Amanda wasn’t coaching me and did one task at a time.

So, I’ve set myself, right, this week I am going to do this, and I worked, quite sadly, through the coaching model. And I did it all myself so that by Friday I had achieved what I had set out to do. And I ticked it off my list. Because the list was massive as far as the sort of paperwork, and the systems, and all the things that weren’t in place in the school.


I think it saved me in September because I think I would have drowned if I didn’t have that clarity and that approach to use.


Working with Amanda was great because we come from very different schools, very different backgrounds.

And actually, as a Special School if you go on courses nine times out of ten, 90% of them are irrelevant!

But actually, this is 100% relevant to Lea Manor in the same way it’s 100% relevant to Woodlands.

And I think that has been a real revelation to me, actually. A revelation to this staff as well, because they’re now doing it with Lea Manor and they’re like, how can that work?

But actually, it works.

It works across both settings.


So, how have I used the skills?

I’ve used the skills a lot!

I’ve used them here at Woodlands, but I’ve also used them at the other school to gain some clarity and to get things done, because they’re not finishers.

And this helps finish because of the deadlines and the short time scales. I use it every day at the other school and every week here.

I still need the sheet. I’m still not confident to do it without the sheet.

But if you stick to the script, it works. And that, as Amanda said, the simplicity of the model is the key to its success.

It genuinely works, and it genuinely moves forward.

And I have some difficult characters that I have struggled with over the years that I am moving forward at the moment in a way that I didn’t think was possible.


What difference has it made in school?

I think because, as Amanda said, my senior leaders and my middle leaders are doing this, it’s really helped them feedback.

And there is a consistency across the school. So we’ve done a round of lesson observations and learning walks this term.

Prior to doing that, as a teaching body we sat down and drew out the seven key features of an outstanding lesson.

You put them into your format for us, and everybody is doing that, and we are looking for those outstanding features being fully evident, partially evident, or not evident.

And actually, teachers like that.

They like that they’ve never been able to move away wholly from being graded, have they?

They want to know what the lesson is.

But if you can say that the key features were fully evident in their lesson, then by default their lesson is outstanding.

So, it’s got us round that hurdle as well.

It’s helping people give difficult messages, and therefore it’s moving people on, and therefore it’s having an impact on teaching and learning.


And in a nutshell, how would I sum it up?

I would say that, like Amanda said, in its simplicity is its key, and it helps people.

It is a script that helps people deliver difficult messages, and therefore it helps move people forward, and therefore it’s sustainable

And the staff love it! They do, and I think the impact will be long-term, which is what you’re looking for in anything you’ve invested in at school, isn’t it?

And it’s infinitely applicable to a Special School, which, as I’ve said before, not everything is.

So, thank you, and thank you, Amanda, because it’s been a journey, has it not?


– [Annie] Well done.


Congratulations to Debbie who has led both of her schools to 'Outstanding'.
Not only has she 'self-coached' (by using the skills and model learned on the Coachinginschools programme), but she's also helped others by successfully coaching Headteachers and School Leaders to grow professionally and drive school improvement.

Huge thanks to Debbie for sharing her story, coaching Headteachers, and playing a pivotal role in developing coaching in schools.

She’s set up several joint Coachinginschools Training programmes with other schools and put all of her Senior Leaders & Middle Leaders in 2 schools through the Coachinginschools programme.

If you’re a Head who’d like to learn these skills too, or if you’d like to discover how coaching headteachers works, the next step is to book in a consultation…