NPQH Diary Entry 2

So since my last residential back in October, I have been concentrating on three main tasks as part of NPQH: Establishing my school based project (Focused around improving homework practices across…

Source: NPQH Diary Entry 2


NPQH Diary Entry 2

So since my last residential back in October, I have been concentrating on three main tasks as part of NPQH:

  1. Establishing my school based project (Focused around improving homework practices across the school).
  2. Starting my placement school project (Focused around improving outcomes for vulnerable learners).
  3. Continuing to work my way through the online units- 3 out of 5 completed so far!

It was now time for residential 2. This was to take place on a Friday and Saturday with a focus on Finance and Governance and a side of curriculum leadership. There was also an optional day on ‘data’ on the Thursday. In for a penny, in for a pound… I decided to attend the Thursday.

I drove the 3 hours up to Wyboston lakes accompanied by 5 Live- West Ham V Manchester City and arrived at the hotel ready, and optimistic, about the training that lay ahead.

Before the training started, I was grateful to bump into some friends I had met at the previous residential. This is an underrated part of the course- You meet some great people who are all at about the same point in their own careers. I have become good friends with many of them and I suspect they will be on my list of who to call when I find myself with a difficult decision to make in headship.

Day 1- Data. I found myself planted in the ‘expert’ cohort! This came of something of a surprise but I had done my homework and felt prepared. The pre-course work consisted of analyzing another participant’s RAISE data and preparing some leading questions in the style of a SIA or mini OFSTED visit.  My own SIA experiences had left me well prepared for this task. I am fortunate that my coach is a bit of a maths genius and it became clear that my knowledge of how to read the various RAISE graphs and tables was probably better than most (largely due to what I had picked up from my coach). This task was of more use to some than it was to others. It was largely self driven so the usefulness was determined by how much prep participants had done. This was, in truth, mixed.

Anyway, I found the whole experience worthwhile. It refreshed my knowledge of RAISE and this will be useful in an interview situation. My tip- take up the offer of the data day. You or your school are paying for it so make the most of it. Tip 2- do the homework.

The Friday was centered around Finance and Governance. This sounds like the title to a documentary I would avoid at all costs. I approached the day with a slight sense of trepidation. Still, breakfast was good.

Governance was good. I consciously made the decision to be a governor at my children’s school because I felt it would give me a useful insight into the academisation process, the role of being a ‘critical friend’ and an opportunity to see how a different head managed her governing body. I’m so glad I did this… It has provided me with many useful learning opportunities- some of them (such as disciplinary hearings) unpleasant but all useful prep for headship. The training itself provided plenty of useful hints and tips for creating an effective gov body and I found the training reassuring.

I was worried that I would find Finance challenging. I did. If you are not a head then the chances are you will not have run a whole school budget before. For me, the training was pitched too high and there should have been a distinction between primary and secondary. This is becoming something of a theme in NPQH- too much is focused on secondary. It is too easy to say ‘This can be applied to primary’ before embarking on 2 hours of training entirely focused on year 7 onwards. The most useful learning I took from this day was from my fellow participants on the course. One of my new found friends is a current head in Kent and she talked me through her process of budget setting, forecasting and managing the budget. I was grateful for her time and it reassured me somewhat!

The Friday night was spent in the bar. There was some reverting to student days of drinking games and thumb master! I was sensible (pretty much) but there were some people looking a little the worse for wear over their bacon and eggs in the morning…

The Saturday began with curriculum leadership. I enjoyed this but again too much time was spent looking at secondary. Discussions between participants revealed just how little we know about each other’s curriculums. A good example is that secondary colleagues were at a loss as to why primary spend so much time ‘focusing on handwriting’. I explained that this was necessary due to the interim statements at the end of KS2. Secondary had never heard of these and it became clear that our desired outcomes do not marry up. A hugely under discussed issue in my view and perhaps one for further debate.

The Saturday afternoon (definitely the graveyard slot) was spent back with finance and budget setting. This was really disappointing in my view. I was optimistic as the presenter was articulate and clearly knowledgeable. However, again it was pitched too high and almost entirely secondary based. We were shown formulae for calculating student/teacher ratios which, for 99% of primaries, are simply not relevant. I’m afraid it then descended into a rather self absorbed display of excel expertise. I’m not on my own here. The feedback from our table was very negative and it was a shame to end the weekend on such a low. I hope the course facilitators learn from the feedback and put this right.

Right at the end, there was a quick run through of how we should be managing our three tasks and submission dates. This was really useful and, in truth, this should have been done in residential 1. The administration of the course is a bit untidy. For example, the dates given out in residential 1 for submission times etc were not the same as those declared in residential 2. This, combined with a clunky website, makes the task of doing the task difficult. It’s a bit like going for a run when someone’s always moving your trainers.

So, I have now booked submission of task 1 for May. I shall continue with my 2 tasks and slog my way through the online units. I have a day on HR and performance in London at the end of March and I’ve set aside time over Easter to write up my 2 tasks. Tip- Keep a rough running record/diary of your tasks and match this to the competencies. This will save time in the final write up. I hope.

I shall post again  in Easter.


NPQH Diary

Why am i writing this?!? Firstly, to help myself when I’m trying to reference what I have learnt in my project write ups. Perhaps also it may help someone thinking of doing NPQH or an equivalent level of CPD.

I am currently embarking upon NPQH! To be honest, my journey simply to get to this point has been rather a long one. I was unable to access the course at a previous school because of budget restraints so I was fortunate to be able to move to a new school who were fully supportive of my CPD… and able to finance it. The removal of bursaries from the National College seems short sighted and perhaps the first nail in NPQH’s coffin. In reality schools are now paying around £3000 to support the CPD of an individual who will, very soon, be flying the nest.

First step: Complete the application. Easier said than done. It is a long and testing process- as it should be I suppose. The 6 sections test your suitability for headship by asking you to assess your skills and experience against a set of key competencies. These competencies will come to pay a key part of our learning later in the process. Your evidence will need to be further supported by your sponsor. A tip- Give your sponsor a good amount of time to complete their sections. I sat with my sponsor for a morning to allow him the time to read through my sections and write annotated notes before he added ‘flesh to the bones’ himself.

Once you have submitted the application form there are some other minimal, and rather repetitive, questions to fill in online and then you await to hear your fate. There are 3 options: Declined, accepted or accepted on condition of a further interview. I was lucky enough to be accepted. So far… So good.

I was expecting torrents of paperwork to arrive over the summer but, with the exception of a couple of administrative emails, very little materialised. However, once September arrived the course started with gusto. A webinar led by the course administrator was very helpful and took you through the process step by step. This also provided an opportunity to ensure everybody understood the preparatory learning and tasks that had to take place before ‘Residential 1’.

Residential 1 ran from 9.00 Friday morning to 4.00 Saturday afternoon. I arrived on the Thursday evening just outside and to the left of the middle of nowhere. Suit packed, folder organised and laptop charged. Friday began with the beginning- makes sense I think. We went back to why we became teachers. Why we became leaders and why we want to lead a school. We discovered what kind of leader we would be and how this had to be driven by our own personal values. You can be influenced by others of course but fundamentally, if you are not being yourself then you will fail. This enabled us to form our own mission statement and then plan how this would permeate through and drive all aspects of school improvement.

Of course, all this rather nice fantasizing about our wonderful future schools was balanced out with a lecture on the ‘5 things you can get the sack for’. It turned out to be 7 by the way…

Friday night entailed much networking at the bar. Note to self, go to bed an hour earlier. The next morning started at 8.30. Ouch. Seriously, the evening is a great opportunity to make friends- don’t waste it. I met some great people who continue to help me in the course now.

The following day is no let up. You begin to iron out what you will do in your 2 projects: One at your own school and the other a placement. We examined models of change such as Koppler to help ensure these projects are effective. The final part of the weekend is a ‘real life’ task which is something reminiscent of The Apprentice. I won’t go into detail as it would be unfair for future cohorts but it is the hardest (and best) piece of CPD I have done!

4.00 Saturday- Drive home, greet wife, hug children, sleep.

I am now in the midst of delivering my first project and reading the online materials that support the delivery of this. I will need to reference my reading in the write ups of my 2 projects. Quite what this will look like I’m still a little unsure- some examples would have been helpful. The lack of a proper tutor makes asking for guidance a challenge so I’ve started a topic board blog within the facilitator’s website to see if we can help each other.

I’ll post again when I’m a little further into my project…

Making Change Happen

So, a valuable lesson learned today! So often, as senior leaders in school, we are tasked with changing something: making it better… solving the problem. But how do we do this?

It is easy I suppose to act like a doctor. First we diagnose the problem then we apply the plaster or pass around the medication (like we learned at medical school) and thus the problem is solved. At least until the plaster falls off.

There is a problem here though. First we are assuming that we really understand the problem. What if no-one else thinks there is a problem? Or they think it is a different problem? Secondly, our solution is just that… our solution. If we turned the problem into a question or a hypothesis then all our staff would be able to be involved in the diagnosis.

By facilitating this, our staff would then be able to drive that school improvement themselves. They would have full ownership over the idea and surely then the chances of energetic, enthusiastic and sustained improvement are more likely.

As a side point, if it is the teachers themselves driving the change then they are more likely to be open to being accountable for it.

So something to remember…



A Second Thought… Emerging from Early Years…

A brilliant presentation today by the Early Years Leadership and Learning Forum.

Baseline assessment will be statutory from 2016 but the sensible advice seems to be that you will need a really good reason not to do it in 2015. If you don’t baseline then that particular cohort will be judged solely on attainment without the ‘backup’ of progress: A dangerous game to play!

Best practice seemed to entail making sure you get your assessments in early therefore ensuring your target path does not come out too high. Schools seem to be trialling a range of assessments but DfE will publish a list of approved schemes in early 2015. I suppose the scheme we choose is up to us but my feeling is that we would all want to choose one that is ‘Early Years’ in nature i.e. based upon observations and age appropriate, as opposed to a ‘good old test’.

This baseline will mean that from 2016, the EYFS profile will no longer be compulsory.

Interestingly, the idea of ensuring that all the schools within a collaborative use the same baseline assessment was proposed. This would ensure some ‘safety in numbers’ and the opportunity to moderate and ensure clarity across the collaborative. A great idea and perhaps one that KS1 and KS2 assessment leaders might look to?

Emerging Assessment

Having recently attended Wiltshire Head Teachers’ briefings, I am now due to feedback to the Trowbridge Collaborative Deputy-Heads on the current state of play on assessment.

The first section of the briefings was given over to assessment with a presentation on how schools are approaching life without sub levels. The information delivered in the briefing really centered around 4 key points;

1. Schools decode how to assess pupils and track their progress in between key stages

2. Schools to have a robust system of tracking pupil progress in place.

3. Schools to be able to articulate what their assessment system is clearly and succinctly.

4. The driving principle is readiness for next stage of education

In truth, this caused a collective sense of frustration in the room. We all know and surely understand the challenge that faces schools. It seems to me that what we are really want is 2 fold. Firstly, we want an assessment tool to accurately gauge where the children are: a replacement for APP if you will. Secondly, we want a tool to track and analyse that data: something that would replace Wiltshire Tracker for many of us.

Interestingly, it emerged that advisers at local level have been clearly told by the DFE not to assist schools with the first challenge. It really is up to us to create our own systems. Some examples are available of course on the DFE website but the quality of these is questionable to me.

The AIR Index (Average Index Rating) linked to Wiltshire Super Tracker was introduced as a possible tool to track and analyse data but this is, without doubt, a complex and detailed system that would require real training needs.

So perhaps the most useful message is that, there ‘is no rush’! It is acceptable to maintain sub levels for this academic year as long as moves are afoot for September 2015. I would suggest that the closer schools work together and the more we share, the easier this 9 months of transition will be.