Case Study - Children as coaches

The year 6 coaches training new coaches

Yr 6 children train the new coaches
“I have seen a huge difference in the Year 6 children; in their confidence, in the way they interact with the younger children, how they communicate with their class teacher and adults and how they have really become leaders. "

In 2013, Liz Scott Coaching and Training was brought in by Woodlands Park Primary School in Ivybridge to help introduce and develop an innovative coaching programme for pupils.

The programme sees Year 6 students trained as coaches so that they can work with younger Year 3 pupils at the school. Already, it is being seen as transforming the self-confidence of children who are shy or under-achieving.

What Challenge Partners say …

It has been such a success that an independent report in 2014 described it as “having an impressive and profound academic and emotional impact in both Year 6 coaches and Year 3 and 4 coachees”. The report by Challenge Partners added: “This is an area of excellent practice that should be shared with other schools.”

The idea to extend coaching training to pupils followed a series of training sessions for the school’s teaching assistants by Liz Scott Coaching and Training. Seven children were selected to be trained as coaches following a taster session and an application and interview process. They then received professional training from Liz Scott and the school’s senior teaching assistant Liz Aspin, who heads up the children’s coaching programme.

Throughout the 2013-14 academic year, the seven spent 45 minutes each Tuesday afternoon with seven-year-olds from Year 3. They then trained Year 5 pupils to carry on the work in 2014-15.

What the senior teaching assistant says …

Liz Aspin, who underwent training from Liz Scott Coaching and Training, explained: “We wanted the Year 6 children to have the experience of being a coach, of learning leadership skills and of working with younger children who perhaps need a little bit of extra support. Sometimes they respond better to other children, rather than to adults. In the selection process, we were looking for children who were good listeners and good communicators.

“The older children have worked on a 1-2-1 basis with younger children and although Liz and I are on hand if they want to come to us for guidance, they have been responsible for their coaching programme.

“I have seen a huge difference in the Year 6 children; in their confidence, in the way they interact with the younger children, how they communicate with their class teacher and adults and how they have really become leaders. I can see future head teachers in some of them.”

Each of the younger children is coached for up to a school term and in the first year, over 20 pupils were coached in this way. The biggest benefit has been in drawing out some of the school’s shyest pupils who lacked self-confidence or self-esteem.

Liz Aspin said: “The younger children have loved it. One boy also won a certificate for concentration and he said it was because of the coaching.”

What Year 3 pupils say

Class teachers selected the Year 3 children who they felt needed some confidence-building. Among these were Jack Ryder, Ben Privett and Molly Lynch, who said the coaching had brought her out of her shyness: “It’s given me more self-confidence and I get to meet new friends. It’s also given me someone to talk to and share my ideas with. I am less shy now.”

For Ben, it has helped him with his learning: “It’s really good because I’m more confident now and it’s nice to be helped by the older children. I want to keep on doing it and then I want to be a coach when I’m in Year 6.”

Jack said he can now concentrate more in class: “I’m very energetic but because of the coaching I’m better at listening now so it has helped me with my learning. And it’s great fun.”

In July 2014, eight new coaches – four girls and four boys from Year 5 – received coaching training from the final year students before the latter progressed to secondary school. This time, the selection process was carried out by the Year 6 pupils, who were best placed to know what skills are needed for the role.

What Year 6 students say …

Three of the coaches, Bria Smith, Matt Squires and Immogen Pope, said the coaching had helped both them and the younger children. Immogen said: “It’s helped me because rather than just say ‘it works this way’ you learn to find out why and you develop answers. The coaching involves lots of different skills. And it makes me feel happy to know that I’ve helped someone.” Matt has noticed a difference in all the Year 3 children who have been coached: “It’s fun to see them getting more self-confidence and I think all of them have improved lots this year.”

What parents say …

The changes have not just been at school. Bria’s mother Alison said Bria was now much more organised at home: “Her confidence has grown no end and she has developed organisational skills and life skills so she can sort things out herself without me having to nag her. She has learnt a lot about herself and she interacts more with her peers and older people as well as the younger ones. She now has a lot more skills and is better prepared for secondary school.”

What the headteacher says …

Head at Woodlands Park Primary School, Heather Hanrott, said the first year had been a great success, culminating in the external review by three members of Challenge Partners which suggested the practice should be shared with other schools. She now intends to embed the pupil coaching programme within the school.

“Little if any research has been done in this field at primary schools so it was something of an experiment and we didn’t really know what to expect,” said Heather.

“I think we’ve always under-estimated the abilities of children of this age in terms of their depth and understanding of other’s social and emotional development. The coaching has built up a trust between the children and if you give children a voice, it develops their self-esteem which means they are better able to learn, which is the end point.”

For Liz Scott Coaching and Training, it has been extremely rewarding to see how the programme has developed so successfully. We’ve heard from teachers, parents, Year 6 and Year 3 pupils how beneficial it has been for the children, who have also thoroughly enjoyed it. The life skills they have learned will be with them throughout their education and beyond. We believe this “excellent practice” can benefit other children and schools, too.