In an education system that depends increasingly on schools working in partnership, it makes sense that the national professional skills programmes that school leaders need today should be created and delivered in the same way.
This is certainly the approach taken by Outstanding Leaders Partnership, the network of over 70 teaching school alliances, multi-academy trusts and schools that have joined together to deliver the suite of four National Professional Qualifications with the management and resources of Best Practice Network backing them up.
“Within a robust school-led system, one of the vitally important roles schools must take on is growing leaders at all levels,” says Sally Bishop, Director of West Herts Teaching School, Aspire Academies Trust and chair of the OLP Partnership Board. “The senior, experienced leaders in our schools are very well placed, not only to identify the upcoming leaders who would benefit from this critical professional development, but also to play a prominent part themselves in enriching the content of these programmes by delivering the National Professional Qualifications. It’s important that the NPQs are owned and promoted by schools. We are the ones who benefit directly from the high quality training that our leaders receive and they in turn strengthen the provision for our pupils and other staff”
How to become an NPQ partner
So what steps should schools take if they want to become partners and deliver NPQs? Sally has some advice.
Know your area. Is there an NPQ gap and need in your area or are there current providers? Check what provision is already there to make sure there’s no overlap with other providers.
Do you have the right set-up, the right resources to deliver high quality training? The ideal OLP partner is a teaching school, a very strong federation or a strong outstanding school as it is more likely they will have facilities and experienced facilitators already in place.
Do our values match? “It’s really important that partners share OLP’s values and aspirations in providing the highest quality qualifications that will improve school leadership” says Sally. “Partners are people who are very outward facing. They are people who are passionate about working with others for the benefit of the education system and most importantly for our pupils. They are people who are always looking at ‘growing green shoots’ and want to improve the education system and its leadership. They work at high quality, often outstanding schools and they are resilient with high expectations. They also have a good network and understanding of the needs of leaders in their local areas.”
- Do you have the capacity?You should have a good training space as well as senior leaders experienced in running CPD who are used to working in partnership with teaching schools or those who are keen to build their facilitation experience.
Partnership in practice
After initial discussions, and once a new partner has signed a memo of understanding ,they receive a pack containing application dates and marketing materials that can be tailored to local needs. Their chosen facilitators will be given training and then be supported by experienced facilitators who work alongside them for the first few weeks. Each partner also receives regular quality assurance.
New partners will often start by delivering one programme such as NPQML so that they can feel their way into the qualifications and see how the partnership works.
Benefits all round
The main benefit for an NPQ partner is the knowledge they are helping to create the leaders of the future, as well as making an investment in the professional development of their own local leaders, says Sally. “We are all about the growth and encouragement of new leaders, giving them confidence to take the next steps in their career development. The schools where they work can also be confident that they are enriching their own staff. Senior leaders who act as facilitators on the programmes also gain because the work really does help them stay on top of their game.” And, of course, delivery partners receive fees as a result of running the qualifications which provides a useful income stream.
For Sally and the team at OLP this aspect of working with NPQ partners is a special privilege. “It’s wonderful to work with leaders growing like that,” she says. “I saw a headteacher deliver NPQSL for the first time and he said that he could not believe the skills he was gaining during facilitation. New NPQ facilitators soon realise that there is a big difference between facilitation and teaching. With facilitation it is 80 per cent listening and 20 per cent teaching. It is what you do in that 80 per cent. They have to develop the skills to draw out a candidate’s existing knowledge and move them on. It is very powerful for all concerned. ”