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Steplab Coaching Hubs
News • 28 Aug '23
Ania Townsend

Visiting a Steplab Coaching Hub is one of the best things coaching leads can do to kickstart or reignite their coaching programmes. In this article, we explain what they are, how they can help you successfully implement instructional coaching and how you can get involved.

Meet Simran and Jo

Simran is a headteacher of a primary school in Yorkshire. She is planning to launch instructional coaching at her school next term. Simran has read lots of research showing how powerful instructional coaching can be in improving teaching and started to use Steplab. But, Simran’s teachers have never done anything like this before. Simran is a little unsure about how to get started, especially given some of the staffing constraints in her one-form entry primary. Simran really wants to talk to other primary school leaders who use instructional coaching and find out about some of the potential pitfalls and possibilities.

Jo is the professional development lead at a large secondary school in Norwich. They launched instructional coaching in their school in September. Engagement was initially strong, but Jo is now concerned that action steps are not turning into habits. Jo wants to make some changes to their programme as a result but doesn't know what might help. They would really like to connect with other local professional development leads and get some advice about how to improve implementation.

Instructional Coaching really works, but implementing it is not easy

As a coaching lead, Simran and Jo’s challenges may resonate.

Instructional coaching, like many other powerful levers in education, is not a silver bullet. Getting coaching right is a matter of careful implementation, but implementation is tough (Fixen, 2005; Rowan, 2007).

For instructional coaching to have the impact you want, four key ingredients need to be in place:

  1. The right professional culture
  2. The right training
  3. The right systems design
  4. Responsive Leadership

But what is ‘right’ for your school?

The fact is, there is no one right way for a school to implement instructional coaching. The approach you take, the training you provide, the systems you build, and the support you offer are shaped by your context. There isn’t one recipe but the recipes in the most successful schools do include all of the key ingredients.

And, the best way to work out the precise recipe for your school is to draw inspiration and learn from colleagues who have explored the challenges of implementation already.

This is why we are excited to be launching Steplab Coaching Hubs. ___

What are Steplab Coaching Hubs?

Steplab Coaching Hubs are schools from around the country that are using Steplab in successful, novel and interesting ways to power great instructional coaching programmes. They’ve navigated the challenges of contextual adaptation, implementation and culture-building: it would be a shame not to share some of their magic with other schools.

How do Steplab Coaching Hubs work?

Every term, Steplab Coaching Hub schools open their doors for leaders who want to learn about IC, Steplab and implementation. Whether you are a current Steplab user, or are just interested, get in touch with us to book a visit.

You’ll see great systems, like those set up by Alex Evans at St Luke’s CofE Academy, Exeter. You’ll be able to walk the corridors, look in the classrooms, watch coaching, talk to coachees and unpick the most powerful components of their instructional coaching programme with other coaching leads.

You’ll have the chance to deconstruct the practice of coaching leads like Sarah Dickinson and Anya Thomas at Woodham Academy, County Durham. You’ll see how they’ve aligned their wider professional development programme with instructional coaching and hear about their journey: what’s worked, what hasn’t worked and how they’ve tried to address these issues.

At Primary Schools like One Degree Academy, you’ll be able to ask Maria Craster how she analyses Steplab data and uses this to train her coaches and hone their practice.

You’ll also have a chance to reflect on your visit with other coaching leads. You’ll work through your problems, plans and next steps. You’ll build a network that can support you in the next stage of your implementation.

All of the Steplab Coaching Hub schools are finding novel and interesting solutions to the challenges of implementing a great IC programme. If there’s not a school near you, please do let us know. We’re adding new schools all the time.

When and where are the next hub visits taking place?

Our hub schools will open their doors for the Summer term from the 29th April 2024 in these locations:

  • Oasis Academy South Bank, London (Secondary) - 29/04/24 - 8:40am - 1:10pm - COMPLETED
  • Manchester Communication Primary Academy, Manchester (Primary) - 21/05/24 - 9:00am-1:30pm - COMPLETED
  • Headley Park Primary School, Bristol (Primary) - 03/06/24 - 8:20am - 12:00pm - COMPLETED
  • One Degree Academy, London (Primary) - 07/06/24 - 9.30am-3.15pm - FULL (waitlist only) - COMPLETED
  • Thurstable School, Essex (Secondary) - 11/06/24 - 11:00am-4:00pm - FULL (waitlist only)
  • Farnham Heath End, Surrey (Secondary) - 12/06/24 - 9:00am-2.25pm
  • St Luke’s CofE School, Exeter, Devon (Secondary) - 12/06/24 - 9.25am-1.45pm
  • Ridgeway High School, Wirral (Secondary) - 19/06/24 - 12.30pm - 4:30pm - FULL (waitlist only)
  • Marine Academy, Plymouth (Primary) - 21/06/24 - 10:00am - 2:15pm
  • Manchester Communication Primary Academy, Manchester (Primary) - 27/06/24 - 8:45am-1:30pm
  • St Marks CofE Academy, London (Secondary) - 02/07/24 - 07:45am-12:00pm - FULL (waitlist only)
  • Woodham Academy, Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham (Secondary) - 03/07/24 - 8.15am-2.00pm - FULL (waitlist only)
  • One Degree Academy, London (Primary) - 12/07/24 - 9.15am-3.15pm - FULL (waitlist only)

How do I get involved?

Send us an email [email protected] to enquire or sign up or complete the registration form here. Tell us which school you’d like to visit, and we’ll let you know about the next available dates.

Important note: This is for UK Steplab partner schools. We hope to offer Steplab Coaching Hubs in other regions soon.

What do visitors say about their experiences?

  • "This day was a game changer! Came away inspired at seeing the impact instructional coaching can make to a school culture alongside so many helpful and practical ideas about how to scale our instructional programme and how to use steplab to drive our school development priorities." Sarah Shepherd, Grace College
  • "A very interesting day at a welcoming school where my thoughts were challenged by the prospect of change for a real and valid purpose." Julie Backler, Milton Park Primary School
  • "What a fantastic opportunity to hear about a school’s journey using instructional coaching to transform teacher practice and student outcomes. It has been so useful to network with other school leaders and troubleshoot key issues with other teaching and learning leads." Cecily Aldington, Chiswick School
  • "It was great to visit a Steplab Coaching Hub. It provided very real insight into implementation of Steplab and instructional coaching in the school. We were able to see the impact of Steplab in the classrooms and observe some coaching conversations, which was really helpful when considering how we implement this within our own organisation!" Paul Usher, Inspiration Teaching School Hub

Want to know more?

Here's an overview of Instructional Coaching, plus some of the articles we’ve read, written, or contributed to that informed this blog.

  • Fixsen, D.L. & Naoom, Sandra & Blase, Karen & Friedman, Robert & Wallace, F.. (2005). Implementation Research: A Synthesis of the Literature.
  • Grossman, P., Compton, C., Igra, D., Ronfeldt, M., Shahan, E. and Williamson, P.W., 2009. Teaching practice: A cross-professional perspective. Teachers college record, 111(9), pp.2055-2100.
  • Rowan, B & Miller, R. J. (2007) American Educational Research Journal June 2007, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp. 252 –297
  • Sims, S., (2019) “Four reasons instructional coaching is currently the best-evidenced form of CPD” Sam Sims Quantitative Education Research Blog,
  • Sims, S. and Fletcher-Wood, H., (2021). Identifying the characteristics of effective teacher professional development: a critical review. School effectiveness and school improvement, 32(1), pp.47-63.

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