About Learning Cultures

On a cold and dark December day Learning Cultures was born

Eleven years ago, on a cold and dark December day I sat on a seat looking out to sea on a long ferry journey back from France following a wonderful five- day break to celebrate my husband’s birthday. I was about to lose my job as National Programme Director for a high-profile government funded coaching programme for teachers that myself and my large team had spent three years developing and refining. I had decided that the only way forward was to take the fantastic knowledge I had gained as part of this programme and continue to offer schools and colleges across the UK coaching training.

It took most of that journey to choose a name for this new venture. Learning had to be a part of it, but what else would help to convey the power that coaching has to transform practice and ease change successfully across a school or college?

I had witnessed many organisations embrace the coaching programme that we had developed and the culture change was so evident that after many false starts and pages of possible names, Learning Cultures seemed to say exactly what I wanted.

At first, it was just myself and a small group of two or three trainers who built on the original programme, we now have over twenty consultants and trainers, a suite of offices that includes training and coaching spaces and a dedicated administration team.

Coaching is at the heart of every course we run

Coaching has remained at the heart of everything we do and the training and development menu has continued to grow and evolve as policy changes, OFSTED demands and school systems alter. My vision was and still is to ensure the CPD we offer is relevant, challenging and will provide delegates with resources and activities that they can take back to share with others.

Whatever the challenges that have required fundamental change in schools and colleges it is coaching that can support the management of the changes that are necessary to ensure staff are confident to find innovative solutions, motivate staff and stimulate learning. Many changes to policy, the role of the inspectorate and the focus of the research community have impacted our own thinking in terms of course structure and depth and breadth of content but we have never wavered from the belief that it is coaching that will ultimately be the key to success.

Major educational change in 2014 and beyond

A new National Curriculum came into being in 2014 along with far-reaching changes to assessment in both primary and secondary schools and in further education. This gave us here at Learning Cultures the opportunity to review some of our content and create a suite of curriculum courses that really focused on the challenges emerging as a result of a new and highly knowledge-focused curriculum model.

A new OFSTED Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman came along in 2016 with the intention of creating a huge shakeup in how the curriculum was to be planned and delivered. She wanted to see the curriculum take centre stage in how schools saw their role in creating high-quality education outcomes for all pupils whatever their starting point. Of course, as educators, we all know this to be the priority but the accountability issues surrounding the importance of test and examination results meant many were a little guilty of practices that emphasised achieving high grades and subsequent positive data.

Once again, the curriculum team at Learning Cultures set about creating a powerful range of courses and programmes for both primary and secondary schools focusing on new and important language. Including, building on prior learning, sequencing the learning, focusing on assessing the impact of curriculum content on learner outcomes, the need to plan towards clearly defined outcomes and creating cohesion not just in subjects but across the curriculum through evidence of professional conversations and deep dives into subject expertise.

We had an exciting time following the research, designing new courses and building new activities and resources to stretch and challenge and to shape new thinking and new ideas for how to ensure there is sufficient evidence that the curriculum sits at the very heart of teaching and learning and delivers high-quality outcomes for all.

Launching our Certification Programme and some on-line products

In the autumn of 2019, we moved forward into new territory with the launch of our coaching certification programme. this is for schools who are looking for a sustainable model that will train several of their staff to be coaches and who can work together to develop a coaching culture across the school. This approach is all about gathering evidence over time through the development of a portfolio of evidence and learning through a series of training sessions that will help to build the coaching expertise of those who attend.

We also created an on-line programme of courses ‘CPD in A Box’ that allows greater accessibility to some of our training.  We always wanted as many school leaders, teachers, managers and support staff to have access to our outstanding training and this is one way that we can reach out to those schools that genuinely do not have the funding to send their staff out for training.

There will always be a place for the off-site course. It provides an opportunity for interaction with other professionals and comes with a good lunch as an essential! However, we knew that for many the cost of the course, travel and cover was and remains prohibitive.  Learning Cultures embarked on another journey, this time it was virtual, but nevertheless, our pursuit of high-quality training meant that we would still provide the same excellent materials and expert knowledge that face-to-face courses offer.

And then the world was turned upside down

Little did we know in the later months of 2019 and the early months of 2020 that our plan to put some of our training onto an online platform would be much more than a choice for schools to make. The unfolding news in the first three months of 2020 of a killer virus that was sweeping the world disturbed us all. I remember hearing that Japan had closed all their schools and felt a tremor of disbelief that this could happen here. When it did happen here it was pretty devastating for Learning Cultures.

We had built our business on close liaison with schools and colleges to determine their CPD needs and deliver support through training courses, professional development programmes and face to face support. Suddenly schools were all trying to grapple with how they could continue to educate school pupils and students remotely while continuing to teach the pupils of key workers in the health service and elsewhere in the classroom.

I came so close to believing that we could not continue as a business. I genuinely thought that CPD would be way down the list of priorities which would leave us with no sustainable way forward. It almost seems remarkable now looking back but I didn’t give up, I sat down with several of my wonderful colleagues (remotely of course) and we looked at what we could do to salvage the situation. After all, we are all coaches, solutions focused and determined that we can solve the unsolvable.

Everything went online, all the courses that were filling up for the rest of the spring and summer term, meetings we had scheduled in schools and colleges, INSETs large and small. We found ways to change the structure of the courses so that they ran over two half days rather than one full day. We couldn’t do much about lunch in a nice venue but we will find a way in the future. If you buy one of our off-the-shelf courses, we do put a box of chocolates in with the materials!

We are still here and building a fabulous future for CPD for educators

It is now the spring of 2022 and for the first time in a long time, myself and three of my colleagues are sat around a table looking to the future with real excitement. We have developed a new look website that reflects the significant changes we have made to continue to offer online courses as well as some face to face events as we venture back into the world of face to face CPD.

Schools around the country and some internationally are looking for ways to ensure that their staff have the professional development that will support them to build confidence in learning and create the right strategies that will ensure the education community can learn from their experiences and believe that with high-quality pedagogy, a substantive and sequential curriculum and high regard for well-being and self-esteem we will all be the stronger as a result of living through this extraordinary period in history.

Thank you to the best profession in the world.

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