Solution Focused Coaching in Schools

Solutions Focused Coaching in Schools (SFCiS) enables staff in school to develop the skills and knowledge to provide early help for children with complex social, emotional and behavioural needs, adding something different to established pastoral and behaviour management strategies.

Conventional strategies pay close attention to the problem, to find out what went wrong and suggest to the child what they should do to put it right. Solutions Focused Coaching is different, creating a positive pathway to solutions by finding out what’s already working, through a cooperative inquiry involving child and adult.

Solution Focused Coaching is a conversation, an inquiry into hopes and strengths and successes, powered by the natural optimism of children and empathy in relationships.

Key Features

  • SFCiS strategy and materials produced by a qualified expert in the field
  • Online self-paced learning tailored to the school term and staff availability
  • Planned and on-demand support and supervision by SFCiS professionals
  • School policy development to integrate SFCiS into current policy & practice
  • Membership of a growing SFC community for peer-led support and development

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Foundations & SFE in Action

When a child or young person comes up against a difficult problem you can focus on the problem itself or on the solutions to the problem:

      • Problem Focused – call on an expert in the particular problem type who’ll ask questions in order to analyse the problem, to suggest what caused it and propose what might be done to put it right.
      • Solution Focused – child and adult work together to uncover the child’s best hopes, how things would be with the solution in place and the problem weakened or gone. The shift mindset brings the child’s hopes, resources and successes into the open, building their sense of optimism.

SSFE is grounded in these ideas:

      • SFE brings out the best of everyone in the school community, where the adults and children all have something to offer when they work together.
      • Optimism is the key to wellbeing and mental resilience; it can be learned, pessimism can be unlearned .
      • The idea that the child is successful, hopeful and resourceful, doing their best even when it might not seem like it. Change is always happening, learning is inevitable.
      • When a challenge comes up concentrate on the successful future, on finding the solution without diving backwards into the problem; you can change the future, you can’t change the past.
      • A problem always has a crack in it, that’s where the light gets in – it’s the solution already happening the small step that opens up the pathway to big changes.
      • When you know where you’re going it’s more likely you’ll get there. Sharing your hopes brings them into focus – solution focus.

Once the main SF principles are understood SFE comes into action across the community:

      • Whole school approaches to support staff and pupils in developing high standards of teaching and learning ( see: Solution Oriented School Programme, Rees, 2005)
      • Individual Solutions Focused Coaching with children and young people
      • In class agreeing a project for change work, finding out what is working and doing more of it
      • In any meeting where change is a hoped-for outcome, with adults and children
      • For continuous professional development to engage people’s best hopes and their capacity for growth
      • In professional and case supervision and reflection practice
      • In organisational development, to make outcome focused plans with achievable goals

SF Brief Therapy & SF Coaching

There is some confusion over the meaning and approach of SFBT and SFC because of the widespread use of the terms ‘solution’ and ‘therapy’ which I’ll try to clear up:

      • All problems have two parts, the problem and the solution to the problem. The common assumption is that the solution lies somewhere within the problem, so focusing on the problem makes sense from the problem-focused perspective. For example; someone turns up at the doctor’s surgery with a painful arm. Pain shows that the problem and its solution are somewhere inside the arm, so that’s where the doctor goes looking – by taking a history (what happened?) a physical examination and x-ray (what’s gone wrong?) and having found a break in the bone, immobilising the arm (solution) to allow it to recover. Psychological therapy is commonly understood to mean getting to the historical roots of a problem. The assumption is that current illness is rooted in past experience of trauma. The mental pain and injury of past events is revisited in the hope of rewriting the script. This is ‘therapy’ focused on the client’s deficits and the therapist’s expertise. In contrast in SFBT and SFC, solutions are assumed to be happening already anywhere, perhaps in quite different parts of a person’s life.


      • is future-orientated, looking for what’s already working to bring the client’s goals into being
      • focuses on the client’s best hopes for life without the problem rather than the problem itself
      • sees the client as hopeful, resourceful and successful, looking for strengths and abilities that move them closed to their preferred future, the expert in their own life
      • is a conversation in which the client talks about their best hopes for the future and notices positive changes already happened and happening as a direct outcome of their strengths, competence and resilience
      • enables the client to express their sense of agency as a self-motivated learner and change-maker
      • shows an improvement in children’s behaviour (when they are the client) as their needs for safety and self-control are met and their sense of optimism revives

SF effectiveness evidence: