Schools have experienced extraordinary turbulence over the past couple of years, with both staff and pupils facing a range of unprecedented challenges. School leaders have confronted particularly intense mental, logistical, and economic burdens, which they will continue to carry for the foreseeable future.

Eteach Education Advisers Operations Directors Éamonn Whelan and Tony Markowski have created this guide for Governors for Schools to help governors appoint external coaches to support school leaders during this difficult time.

What you can do as a governor

Research indicates that those in positions of extreme responsibility benefit from unconditional positive support and regard from an independent source. You can read more about this research at the end of this article.

Governors – particularly the Chair – will offer support and challenge to the leaders, but this may not be enough.

As mentioned in our Governors for Schools Wellbeing Report: One Year On September 2022, accredited coaching and mentoring services can benefit school leaders on both a personal and professional level. In this way, specialised support can enhance the learning experience of pupils and the quality of leadership and management in the school.

Finding and selecting the right coach and mentor

For coaching and mentoring to be effective, governors must seek independent and confidential leadership support.

Beware of unqualified and inexperienced providers. Look for coaching and mentoring qualifications such as the International Coaching Federation.

A good place to find quality assured support is Eteach Education Advisers and independent organisations such as the Association of Education Advisers.

Seeking assurance

Boards will need to take several factors into account when considering whether to appoint an external coach for school leaders. The questions below will help provide a starting point for these discussions and help deliver the kinds of assurances your board will need to successfully navigate the process.

Questions for governors to ask school leaders

  • How are you?
  • What support would you like?
  • What else can we do to help you?
  • Would you be interested in independent coaching and mentoring support?
  • Who do you talk to outside of work and family when you need help?

Questions for Governing Boards

  • How can we be sure that support is professional and effective?
  • What feedback will we get?
  • How will we know if the programme has been successful?
  • Are we getting value for money?
  • What is the impact on staff and student wellbeing?

Questions for Coaches

  • What are your coaching and mentoring qualifications?
  • Tell us more about your professional experiences
  • Describe recent coaching and mentoring case studies
  • What is your approach to coaching and mentoring?
  • Do you have access to supervision and training? What does this look like?

Research on the effectiveness of coaching

Éamonn and Tony have suggested these examples of research that help explain why coaching can have such a positive impact.

How Coaching Can Impact Teachers, Principals, and Students

Elena Aguilar

Developing your school leadership team – the case for executive coaching

Fiona Eldridge

A summary of a report for the NHS Leadership Centre by Dr Sandra Fielden

What do school leaders think about coaching?

Éamonn and Tony have shared some of the feedback from school leaders who participated in an Eteach Education Adviser coaching and mentoring programme. We’ve included this to demonstrate the impact coaching can have on school leaders.

This is one of several coaching and mentoring opportunities available to school leaders and we would urge any board considering appointing a coach to use the guidance and questions in this document to find the right support for their needs.

“I have found my coaching sessions so incredibly useful – possibly more than I could have imagined! Taking time out to discuss things you didn’t even realise were on your mind has been beneficial professionally, and in terms of my wellbeing. My sessions were very well-timed, following a particularly challenging period as a school leader. Thank you.”

“I was unsure to begin with, as coaching seemed like ‘just another thing to fit in’. I couldn’t have been more wrong! It has been extremely valuable both in terms of my development as a leader and in supporting my mental health. Thank you”.

“Coaching came at just the right time for me. It’s helped me focus on myself and see the skills that I have which had been buried or forgotten about. Colleagues have noticed a positive difference in me and I’ve shared helpful guidance with my senior staff. It’s been really, really helpful – thank you!!

“I feel I have learnt a lot about effective leadership since having the coaching. It has provided a safe place to share concerns without overthinking my comments. I look forward to the coaching sessions and I always come away with a new focus and with a little pressure lifted.”

Thank you to Éamonn and Tony at Eteach for helping to create this guide.