Spotlight On: Abingdon School’s academic coaching programme

Posted on: 05 Feb 2021
Posted by: Jessica Burns

Jessica Burns, partnership coordinator at Abingdon School, explains how students from independent and state schools across the town are benefiting from an innovative coaching project.

Despite the pandemic, partnership activity in Abingdon has continued and staff and students have adapted well to the new working conditions we find ourselves in. One example of this is Abingdon Edge Academic Coaching. This programme started last term as a collaboration between state and independent schools across Abingdon, and the aim of the project is ‘for staff and students across the town to build stronger relationships and greater self-awareness while supporting younger students.’ The project came about as a result of historic collaboration between the schools and the obvious need for further student support due to the pandemic and COVID restrictions on schools.

The first phase of the programme focused on developing Year 12 students’ leadership and coaching skills. These training sessions were delivered by skilled professionals from Oxfordshire Youth and Desborough College, covering topics including ‘What makes an effective leader?’ and ‘becoming a role model’. ‘Forming a coaching relationship’ and ‘effective goal setting’ for students were also important topics covered within the training. Due to COVID restrictions these sessions have been delivered online, overseen by staff members from each school. Over 50 Year 12 students from John Mason, Abingdon School, Larkmead, Radley College, Fitzharrys and Desborough College have been taking part in weekly sessions.

The second phase of the programme is still to come. Once all training – including a safeguarding session – has been completed, and once the Year 12 students feel confident in their coaching and leadership abilities, they will apply what they have learnt and begin coaching Year 9 students from across the town. Students will embark on a six-week block of coaching sessions with a younger student, where they will identify and work towards a specified goal together. This one-to-one coaching will support students to develop effective goal setting strategies, as well as developing study skills, organisation and self-motivation. Coaches will use their personal knowledge and understanding to help coachees reach their potential and succeed in their learning, and will form a mutually beneficial, supportive environment for each student.

As we begin the second phase of what has been an encouraging and positive project amidst difficult times, we look forward to seeing the personal development and confidence of all students involved grow. The benefits of this programme have already proved positive but will also be long lasting and far-reaching. Leadership and coaching skills are highly sought after by employers, as are qualities such as compassion, resilience, confidence and ambition. During the programme, students will reflect on their personal development and work to enhance these skills. The academic coaching programme requires flexibility, commitment, understanding and a high level of integrity from all involved - all great assets for future employability and success.

Throughout the programme, the sessions have been evaluated and feedback collected. Impact will be measured using software from ‘ImpactEd’ to ensure successes are evidenced. We hope that this will be a repeatable process and create leadership opportunities and support for many students for years to come.

Staff from partner schools have said the project gives students purpose and it is great to see students work collaboratively. One student said: “I found it really fun to have the opportunity to meet and work with people from other schools who I would never come across normally.”

Another wrote: “The collaboration with other schools learning how to lead and to coach has been insightful. There have been healthy discussions and some great takeaways from the experience.

“The coaching discussion has reshaped the way I think about it, no longer is it taking on the decision-making responsibility and burden of their problem but it's about letting them take ownership of their challenge and of course creating their own solution.

“It has been great to collaborate with other schools on such interesting and current subjects. The process has been enhanced by different perspectives people offer.”

Another student commented: “The coaching aspect was very informative with smaller group work helping us to develop social skills in preparation for the real thing.”

It has been a pleasure to work with such highly motivated individuals on this project. Staff and individuals from across the town have formed relationships and collaboration continues to flourish. Giving students the opportunity to collaborate across the town in these challenging times has been a real highlight.
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About Jessica Burns

Jessica Burns is partnership coordinator at Abingdon School.