Laura Stagg, an Achievement Coach working with schools who are part of London Fostering Achievement, tells us more about her role..
Q. In a nutshell, how would you describe the role of an Achievement Coach?
A. Being an Achievement Coach means working in partnership with schools. I provide support and development, through a coaching approach, in four areas: leadership, teaching and learning, parent or carer engagement and wider outcomes.
As an Achievement Coach, I support each school in a bespoke way. Each school identifies a School Champion who is part of the Senior Leadership Team. I work with the Champion to identify the priorities for the individual school and to develop an action plan to improve outcomes for vulnerable pupils.
Q. What does a typical day look like for you?
Achievement Coaches visit schools between 12 to 18 times a year. I am currently working with 11 schools but the number does vary, as well as the size of the school. Visits to schools are really about coaching: listening to the issues and supporting schools to find solutions.
As the programme is tailored to the individual school, a typical day for me can be very different depending on what the school wants and needs. For example, I might be running training for staff, tracking and analysing data, working with the school to review what they are currently doing or running focus groups with pupils and parents to listen to their views.
Q. What made you decide to become an Achievement Coach?
I’ve always been passionate about improving outcomes for children, in my work as a primary school teacher and as a leader. I find that the coaching aspect of my role is powerful and fulfilling as it ensures a long-lasting impact and empowers schools to continue to develop. It is a rewarding role as you see the positive impact it makes on pupils, parents, carers and staff.
The programme also really focuses on the whole child. Reading, writing and maths are really important, but I like the fact that the programme recognises that wider outcomes and social and emotional factors are an important part of achievement too.
One of the children reported that they felt listened to for the first time and felt able to speak, unlike in their Personal Education Plan (PEP) meeting, where they did not get the chance to hold the floor.
Q. What impact do you feel the London Fostering Achievement programme is making in the schools you are working with?
I can see it making a difference. In one school I am working with, there has been accelerated educational progress and attendance has improved from 91% to 100%.
We’ve had very positive feedback from carers, pupils and staff following the first structured conversations. One of the children reported that they felt listened to for the first time and felt able to speak, unlike in their Personal Education Plan (PEP) meeting, where they did not get the chance to hold the floor. For their carer, there was a lack of trust, as things in the PEP were previously agreed, but did not seem to be happening. The structured conversation enabled the child, the carer and the school to unpick what had happened and where the communication needed improving in future, and as a result, relationships have been much more positive.
Q. What advice would you give to a school looking to effectively support a child who is looked after?
It sounds simple, but talking and listening is really important. I would advise schools to discuss what they are doing to support children who are looked after at the moment – look at what carers and children are telling you, your PEPs, transition plans, exclusions, inductions and so on, then work together to improve provision.
Sometimes, even if all the right processes are in place, there is still a gap. Discussing with colleagues what you are currently doing can help you to challenge what you accept and become complacent with, and to set high expectations and aspirations for children who are looked after. It is important that staff don’t say ‘that’s ok’ and make excuses – carers and schools both need to have challenging aspirations in education.
Q. What would your message to foster carers be?
Engage with schools, communicate often and build a relationship. Schools have a duty to have high expectations of the child or young person in their care. It’s really important that foster carers know what a school can offer, and what to expect from them.
When schools, carers and pupils work together the results are incredibly powerful.