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In brief

Coaching Solutions: Practical ways to improve performance in education

By Will Thomas and Alistair Smith

Network Educational Press pound;17.95

Education professor Michael Fullan once said that too often 25 years in teaching was one year repeated 25 times. His point was that schools have not always been good at providing genuine professional development.

Teachers could adopt bad habits early in their working life and then, stalactite-like, freeze into them for the rest of their career.

That's where direct intervention ("coaching") comes in. Coaching Solutions comes from two of the maestros of coaching: Will Thomas (formerly with Marks and Spencer) and Alistair Smith (founder of the admired accelerated learning model). In a generally accessible A4 booklet they take us confidently through the rudiments of coaching. The book starts with mind maps and a story, and ends with a summary of key points and a personal masterclass. I suspect everything you need to know as an introduction to the subject of coaching is here.

So why did I feel a little disappointed? I occasionally found the format distracting. The target and arrow watermarks across every page created complication when what I needed was clarity. The diagrams did not always help. I found myself confused by the switching from coaching pupils to coaching teachers. We would all welcome advice on coaching our disaffected and disappointed students, but I suspect the rules and language are different; the topics could have been addressed in separate sections. But there's no doubting the comprehensive nature of this book, with attention to the skills we need as coaches, plus a host of useful approaches to draw the best performance from the people we work with.

Geoff Barton is headteacher of King Edward VI School, a training school in Bury St Edmunds

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