A new report published by the Ark academy network includes a call for weekly one-to-one coaching sessions for teachers to improve the quality of what happens in the classroom.
The recommendation is one of a number contained in the Lessons Learned report commissioned by Ark in a project with King’s College London.
According to the report, teaching is one of the few professions which does not have regular opportunity for contact and feedback – relying instead on termly assessments and professional development days.
Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, who leads a US charter school network, said in the report that “learning to be an excellent teacher is no different from becoming a professional footballer”.
He added: “When school leaders take the football approach to training teachers, observing them in action and paying close attention to their actions – such as how they respond when students stumble over challenging questions – they revolutionalise their impact on instruction and learning.”
In his work across the world, he said he had discovered that “nearly 95 per cent of schools… can get to a ratio of 30 teachers or fewer per coach if all leaders are brought on board”.
Scheduling 10 to 15 minutes to observe each teacher is “usually sufficient” and giving feedback and coaching afterwards “needn’t take longer than about half an hour”, he said.
Principal of Ark Globe Academy in south London Matt Jones said he has implemented a full-scale coaching programme in his school.
A former professional footballer and coach, Mr Jones said he decided to do this after visiting Uncommon Schools – the US network of schools managed by Mr Bambrick-Santoyo.
All UK teachers are required to have one lesson per term observed, after which they are given a set of areas to improve upon by the next observation.
But Mr Jones said this was like “Arsene Wenger turning up at Arsenal’s training session in September, telling them what to improve upon and then not turning up to any matches until January”.
The report also recommends a number of changes to early years provision, including more school based nurseries – which it says are found to offer better pre-school provision in disadvantaged areas.
Venessa Willms, who is director of primary at Ark responsible for primary schools and nurseries, said the attainment gap needs to be closed before primary school.
She said Ark had found that nurseries co-located with schools “are able to offer some major benefits to children”.
Other recommendations in the report include support for a “mastery” approach to the curriculum and learning, particularly in maths, a more focused approach to the use of technology in schools and a chapter from Professor Becky Francis arguing for an expansion of the pupil premium programme.