‘Our development is their development’ - why I’m doing the NPQLTD: Part One
The Teach First NPQ in Leading Teacher Development (NPQLTD) gives aspiring leaders the confidence, tools and expertise to effectively plan and deliver a high quality Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme in their schools - inspiring teachers and transforming outcomes for pupils.
Meg Vernon, Head of PSHE and Social Sciences at Bedford Academy, is one of our current NPQLTD programme members. We’re following her journey as she embarks on the 15-month course. In our first instalment, Meg shares how she’s finding the NPQ, what she’s learned, and how she’s implementing it at her school already.
Summer term, 2022
I’ve had a lot of development in school, but it’s not been without help. There’s always someone I could go to and say ‘actually, I need some help with this’ or ‘can you give me some advice to help me with this situation?’.
Introducing Bedford Academy
Bedford Academy is in a deprived area of Bedford. We’ve got a lot of pupil premium, free school meals, SEND and EAL students – so, a really diverse group. We’re located just outside the town centre in a busy, urban area.
The school is going through a bit of an expansion at the moment – our Year 7 numbers were in the low two hundreds; we're now taking in 240-260 students each year. With nearly 1,500 students, we’re one of the biggest schools in Bedford. We've got an incredible sixth form, which is where I mainly teach. I started here in 2018 and I've been here ever since. Choosing teaching
I did law at university, but after my first year I realised that I didn’t want to go into law. But I didn’t know what else I wanted to do.
I ended up doing work experience in a secondary school while I was at university. I really enjoyed it –and I felt that maybe that was the route for me. And it’s worked out ever since. I love teaching!
After I graduated, I did my PGCE in Citizenship and then started at Bedford Academy as a newly qualified teacher (NQT). In January 2022, I took over as head of PSHE, which is taught school-wide. And then, in April, I took over social sciences as well.
A culture shift
When I started, a new head was just taking over. He’s done an incredible amount to change the school – not just policies but culture as well. There used to be a culture of not trying, but our standards have tightened a lot more now and I think going through that transition with new leadership has created a lot of positive change, which has filtered down to our staff and students.
Focusing on development
In our school, our approach to CPD has been different every single year. In the past, we’d do an after-school session for everyone, and the staff wouldn’t want to be there – they weren’t engaged. Making a session useful for everybody is really tricky. I think what’s key is having direction as well as people supporting you and helping you figure out where you’d like to develop and how to get there.
This year, we’ve done something totally different with our CPD – leaving it to department heads to tailor it to their staff and department needs. It’s better, but it’s still challenging. One department will do one thing and another department will do something totally different.
That’s our challenge at the moment – figuring out the ins and outs of our CPD offer and making sure it’s really robust, and that staff want to do it.
Discovering the NPQs
I first heard about the NPQs when our Head of History had just finished doing her NPQ for Middle Leadership – before it was replaced by the NPQ in Leading Teaching, NPQ in Leading Behaviour and Culture and NPQ in Leading Teacher Development – and I was talking to her about what she’d done. It felt like the right next stage for me in terms of my career progression and professional development. I was about to take on a head of department role and I thought, ‘I need to be effective in what I’m doing as a leader’.
I particularly wanted to do a Teach First NPQ. We’re a Teach First school, we’ve got Teach First trainees, and we were a big part of the Teach First docuseries during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we have a really positive relationship.
One of our deputies did his NPQH with Teach First and absolutely raved about the whole programme, saying he felt really supported and that it was purposeful the whole way through. And that’s what I wanted – not just to do it for the sake of doing it, but to get something out of it. I’ve got a clear end goal and, since starting my own NPQ, there’s been support the whole way through, which for me has been key.
Choosing the NPQLTD
I’ve always been interested in teacher development. I wanted to grow in areas that weren’t necessarily my strengths – which is why I decided to do the NPQLTD. I’ve never really had that opportunity to look at Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and figure out what is good. How do we help staff develop? Whether that’s trainees and ECTs or staff who have been teaching for decades.
I’d never had any training on how to do CPD. So, the difficulty for me was in figuring out ‘how do I do this? How do I make it more useful?’. Which is what got me interested in this NPQ. As someone who is now leading a department, I need to make sure that my staff are being upskilled and are delivering quality-first teaching.
Life on the programme
I’ve been doing my NPQ for about four months now and we’ve had group seminars and one-to-ones, both of which have been really useful. To be able to speak with people who have the same goals as you, and share ideas, thoughts and resources is something that I really benefit from. I’ve really enjoyed the way everything has been conducted – there’s a point to every session. We’re not just doing this to tick a box. We also have a Teach First conference which I’m very much looking forward to, especially the chance to meet some of my cohort face-to-face.
One of the things I’ve really enjoyed is having a mentor. Our Development Leads are excellent at what they do and they’re very good at helping you work through things. Not just on a problem level but also helping with solutions and coming up with different ideas. In a recent seminar, we were talking about when we first started teaching, all of our teaching pitfalls and common misconceptions that we experienced. It was encouraging to hear from others’ experiences, and then to really get back to the root of ‘what is teaching?’, which is something I think Teach First does really well; stripping everything right back to basics, going back to what we learned as ECTs and NQTs and how that impacts us now as people who have been teaching for a while. That was something that I found very beneficial.
There are so many things that I’ve taken from the course already that I maybe wouldn’t have considered or thought about had I not had the opportunity to look at it or discuss it. I’ve read so many interesting articles and engaged with different things that I might not have done before. The NPQ has given me the space to recognise how I can develop, and the ability and the drive to want to do it as well.
It sounds boring, but one thing I’ve really enjoyed about the NPQLTD is having extra reading and resources, because it’s good to read outside your comfort zone. It’s given me heaps of ideas of things that I can implement in my every day practice. For now, I’m most looking forward to being able to create and develop really effective CPD - when I can put everything I’ve learnt into practice, and come out the other side of it and have something that I’m really proud of.
With CPD, you always have to give that space to reflect and recap on everything. And I think that’s something else we need to work on at Bedford Academy - making sure we’re giving people the time, space and know-how to do that. Because, ultimately, our development is student development.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of Meg’s NPQLTD journey. Find out more about applying to our National Professional Qualifications (NPQ).