Next Stop, Knowledge
By Reece Bhatoe
ATTI Fellow and Area Leader of Geography at Bristnall Hall Academy.
I sometimes compare myself to a fish. Specifically, to a fish in a plastic bag, that has just escaped the dentist’s surgery and landed in the ocean, like that final scene in Finding Nemo. Having clicked ‘submit’ on my M.Ed dissertation, I found myself asking: “now what?”. Throughout my teaching career I have always wanted to be a better teacher and leader for the people I work with. But, having completed my Masters, I found myself at an impasse. Whether it was in the early stages of my teaching career on the Teach First leadership development programme, or in my role as an Area Leader of Geography I have always found fulfilment and motivation in engaging with research to improve my practice. I had not even considered that an NPQ might be my next step until the routine sign-up reminder email dropped in my inbox. I must admit I had forgotten that NPQs existed. After considering all the options, and struggling to narrow them down, I settled on the NPQSL, partly because of my ambition to become a senior leader, but mainly because I am indecisive, and it seemed to cover everything.
The NPQSL covers themes including:
- School culture
- Effective teaching
- Supporting curriculum and assessment development
- Additional and special educational needs
- Professional development
- Organisational management
Impact on My Practice
Engaging with contemporary research from the Education Endowment Foundation for the duration of the course supported all facets of my work in school. The implementation, culture, curriculum, behaviour and professional development units helped me to ensure that I was more effectively leading my subject area in as a middle leader. The course allowed me to sense-make implementations focussed on disciplinary literacy and curriculum/assessment development that have not only supported staff to improve their teaching capacity but have also had significant impacts on pupil outcomes. It is a genuine truth to say that the NPQSL has played a role in the brilliant outcomes that our exam cohort will achieve in this summer’s examinations, complementing the hard work of our staff and copious amounts of Cadbury’s chocolate-based bribery.
Furthermore, the professional development research has enabled me to implement change more effectively at both the whole-trust and whole-school level. The research-informed practice and GROW coaching on the NPQSL have helped me to develop the delivery of social mobility opportunities across the school by ensuring that implementations have been delivered with better research, design, and implementation, leading to more sustainable change, a reduction in staff workload and more enriching opportunities for the young people in our care. My learning on the NPQSL has enabled me to better establish the conditions for organisational learning around careers education, supporting staff to deliver work experience opportunities as well as developing strong partnerships with external agencies that will have a lasting impact on the experiences that inform our young people’s decisions regarding Higher Education.
The support and expertise of the facilitators and participants on the NPQSL cannot be understated either. The NPQSL provided a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with leaders from a range of contexts and backgrounds that have provided invaluable insight into the complexity of school improvement. In times where en masse industrial action and a recruitment crisis make the profession seem like it is imploding, it has been a privilege to work alongside such committed leaders. I found myself consistently striving to match the dedication of the facilitators of my NPQ. Such is the inspiration I have gained from participation in the NPQSL, that I am now facilitating an NPQ (NPQLL) myself. As the saying goes: “If you can’t beat them, join them”.
Next Stop, Knowledge!
So, if you find yourself in floating in a plastic bag in the harbour of professional development limbo, thinking ‘what now?’, I strongly urge you to consider undertaking an NPQ. They offer a unique opportunity to comprehensively enhance your practice and enact real change in your school contexts. As Mr Ray would say in Finding Nemo: “Hold on, here we go! Next stop, knowledge!”.