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Strong Coaching Culture

Embedding a sustainable coaching culture


What began as an initiative in 2010 to improve the quality of teaching and learning at Oak Hill Academy, quickly became the means to build a sustainable coaching culture, moving teaching from 50% good, to 100% good and 25% outstanding by 2014.

In 2019, almost 9 years on from their initial purchase, Oak Hill Academy continues to work with IRIS Connect to achieve great success. They now have 80% of teachers at good or better. Those not yet good are NQTs or teachers new to the school, who are on track to be graded as good by the Summer term.

“We continue to use IRIS Connect because it’s the most effective and impactful resource in a short amount of time – teachers are usually given a couple of weeks maximum to show improvements since their last observations. IRIS Connect is a way of recording and reflecting on the areas for improvement, holding up a mirror to their practice so they see what the observer sees and measure their own improvements.” – Lisa Middleton-Clifton, Assistant Principal

Oak Hill Academy Students


A visit from Ofsted in 2010 left staff at Oak Hill Academy feeling deflated and with a target to make at least 75% of teaching good. So the Principal at the time, Mandy Lancy began looking for ways to rapidly boost morale and standards. After doing some research, video for professional development seemed the obvious tool to employ, but she was concerned that staff would be apprehensive and reluctant to use it. She needed to find a system that would allow teachers to feel secure and safe because they’d have control over their videos.

How IRIS Connect helped

IRIS Connect instantly caught the eye of the SLT, and soon after adopting it the school started to see some great results, “It’s significantly impacted the teachers’ development, by boosting not only their skills but their confidence too,” said Mandy.

Once IRIS Connect was firmly embedded, the school decided to move their CPD up a notch and embarked on a 6 month remote and live coaching programme. With the help of Education Consultant, Mike Fleetham, teachers focused on specific areas of personal development and used remote coaching to insert new techniques in to their practice straight away, having an almost immediate effect on the learners.

After seeing considerable improvements in the teachers’ practice, Mike then began training some of them to become coaches themselves, so when he left the school they could sustain their own coaching programme.

Over the past few years the school have continued with the in-ear coaching program and use it both in their school and with their sister Academy, Oriel because: “We find that removing the senior member of staff from the classroom provides a truer reflection of the behaviour etc. in the classroom and therefore more timely and effective strategies can be put in place,” explains Lisa.

The school have also come to use IRIS Connect in a variety of ways. All staff ‘IRIS’ themselves half termly (minimum). Coaching INSETs are booked in one per half term and lessons recorded using IRIS Connect are a focal point of this. It’s also a key component of the schools NQT induction programme, as well as a way to share best practice within school meetings and with other academies in the Aspirations Academy Trust.

Results, return on investment and future plans

Since 2010 Oak Hill Academy have built a sustainable coaching programme, they’ve also exceeded Ofsted’s target to make 75% of teaching good. Their team now comprises of 80% of teachers at good or better. Those not yet good are NQTs or teachers new to the school, who are on track to be graded as good by the Summer term.

They have, and continue to, increase the capacity of their lead coaches: “We have built a strong coaching culture with IRIS Connect at the heart of it,” says Lisa. “Lead coaches love it. It helps them to do their jobs and improve the quality of teaching and learning in a varied way.”

Relationships among staff and pupils have been strengthened, teachers have gained new skills and become more confident, newer teachers are learning from old hands and vice versa. All helping to grow an open door culture and ethos of sharing and collaboration amongst staff.

“IRIS Connect has been an impactful tool for CPD and one which our staff have embraced; staff are willing to share their good practice to help each other to develop,” explains Rachel Saim, Principal of Oak Hill Academy. “It’s part of our everyday practice here at Oak Hill for improving both the quality of teaching across the school as well as Teachers’ and Teaching Assistants’ confidence. The in-ear coaching has been one of the most effective and efficient tools for improving the quality of teaching across our school.”

Lisa adds: “We would love to continue to evolve the use of IRIS Connect at Oak Hill and to be a school that champions it.”

Find out more:

IRIS Connect is a secure, personalised platform for teachers to record, analyse and reflect on their practice.

Teachers can take control and arrange their own professional learning experiences and resources. As well as share easily with each other to make collaboration simple, organised and effective.

Get more information about IRIS Connect:

“It’s the most powerful CPD tool I’ve used in my 20 years of teaching and my experience of using it has been positive in a number of ways; it’s strengthened my relationship with my class, developed aspects of my teaching and empowered me as a coach and mentor.” Sarah Boldero, Year 6 Team Leader

“Teachers have to keep up with the rolling changes that happen termly and IRIS Connect is quick efficient and helpful with that. Thanks to the system, when I have my formal observation ow, I’m able to block out the person with a notepad because I’ve seen my lesson from their point of view and feel confident in my abilities.” Elise Mason, Year 6 Teacher

Watch this video to hear from the teachers back when we first visited them in 2013:

See IRIS Connect in action…

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