A new approach to leadership development

Providing great leadership development has always been the National College’s priority and we’re very proud of the opportunities we’ve been able to offer school leaders over the last few years.
Much has changed in recent times and the role and influence of school leadership has increased as our schools and school leaders have started to take up the responsibility for school improvement not just in their own schools, but right across the system.
To reflect these changes, NCTL leadership programmes have undergone an exciting transformation, not only in the way they are designed, but also how they are delivered.

The leadership curriculum
Our leadership curriculum was launched at the beginning of this year and is designed to be a flexible and coherent approach to leadership development, supporting school and academy leaders at every stage of their leadership career. Based on five levels from leading a team (level one) through to leading beyond an organisation (level five), it offers a suite of leadership and management topics that can either be studied on their own or combined to achieve a national qualification. National College qualifications can also be linked to CATS points so that you can use them to contribute towards a Master’s degree.
These national qualifications include the redesigned National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH), alongside two new qualifications – the National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML) and the National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL). They replace our existing programmes such as Leadership Pathways, Middle Leadership Development Programme and Tomorrow’s Heads.

Modular approach
Our aim in creating the leadership curriculum has been to provide leaders with a clear and comprehensive structure for career progression, but with the freedom to choose professional development most relevant to them, at a time when they need it.
To gain a qualification, you study a number of essential modules on subjects such as leading teaching (at level one); closing the gap (at level two); and leading an effective school (at level three).
You can also get to choose from a number of additional elective modules to enable you to tailor your development to your own interests, expertise and context. Examples of these modules include change for improvement, leading staff and teams, school self-evaluation, effective partnership working and leading professional development.

Leadership development delivered by schools
As well as transforming what our leadership development offer looks like, we have made big changes to the way it is delivered, moving away from a centralised approach towards one where schools take the lead. This new approach acknowledges the move towards a school-led system and also recognises that some of the most effective leadership development takes place in a school-based learning environment.
And we are delighted that schools and academies have welcomed this approach and have applied and been awarded licences to deliver the College’s leadership development offer to individuals and schools right across the country.
These licensees are some of our very best schools and academies, together with universities and other training providers, who have proven track records in developing and supporting both current and future leaders. These include national teaching school alliances, federations of schools and chains of academies.
Cabot Learning Federation is one of our licensees. Executive Principal Sir David Carter describes getting involved as “an opportunity to build succession for the region so that we generate a talent pool of our best leaders who are energised and ready to take on a range of school leadership roles that ultimately provide students with a quality educational experience.”
Licensees deliver the essential and elective modules that make up the leadership curriculum and our qualifications. They also have the flexibility to deliver the elective modules as standalone courses, which can be banked and used towards a qualification at that level for up to three years.
Licensees can also create and design their own, supplementary learning materials, enabling them to draw on specialisms, and local priorities and needs, ensuring that the offer is personalised, innovative and responsive.
Despite the change in delivery model, the signature characteristics such as the emphasis on learning on the job and learning from and with peers, are still very much in place.

Quality assurance
Although we are moving away from delivering leadership development centrally, our goal is for these qualifications to be recognised as the first choice for professional development – professional development that really makes a difference, meeting the demands of school leadership both now and in the future.
We are confident that our licensees have the commitment and experience to deliver these qualifications and we are working closely with them to ensure what they offer meets the high standards we expect.
All our qualifications and modules are based on a set of key principles which take account of the needs of leaders and the education system; draw on the very best international research and evaluation evidence; ensure both academic rigour and leadership practice; involve leaders in the creation of materials; and provide opportunities for modules to be adapted to reflect different contexts.
Completing a qualification also involves a final assessment process where participants are required to complete tasks such as school improvement projects, and demonstrate the impact of these tasks in school, along with how their learning from completing the modules has been applied in their working practice. These final assessments are led and managed separately by a national provider, ensuring national standards and leadership competencies are met.
It is still early days but so far licensees have recruited over 8,000 participants to undertake qualifications and a further 200 for standalone modules. And of the feedback ratings received, 96 per cent of participants on NPQSL, 95 per cent on NPQH and 94 per cent on NPQML said they would recommend the modules to colleagues, with one participant describing the offer as “excellent quality and provision… that definitely improves your understanding of leadership.”
This is really encouraging and we look forward to receiving more feedback as our new approach takes shape.

Further information