The Journal for Executive and Governance Leaders

Leading a Self-Improving Workforce: 3 Great Opportunities for MATs with the New NPQs

As part of a huge swathe of policy on teacher recruitment, retention and development, the government has announced a new suite of National Professional Qualifications (NPQs). These new qualifications will offer specialist routes for teachers to complement the existing and well-established management and leadership pathway. In this article I lay out how these new qualifications offer a huge opportunity for every Multi Academy Trust.

International Roots
Singapore has often been touted as one of the best places to be a teacher and a pupil. Their professional development is legendary and they have structured career pathways. (Fig 1)


Figure 1 – The Singapore Teacher Career Tracks  Singapore Ministry of Education

What is smart about this structure is that it recognises that some teachers want to master and lead their general practice, others want to specialise in management, while others wish to master and lead a particular specialism. While they describe these as tracks, there is, in fact, plenty of movement across tracks as teachers progress through their careers.

New policy for England
The Department for Education is looking at doing something quite similar. The following diagram is taken from the recent policy announcement documents:

Figure 2 – Teacher career pathways (Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy page 27) – Department for Education

The influence of the Singaporean model is clear. We have general pedagogical tracks, leadership tracks and specialist tracks. The adoption of this model by government is of huge benefit to Multi-Academy Trusts as they develop their own career path offers, with heavy government investment going in to fill some of the gaps in training and qualification that currently exist.

The adoption of this model by government is of huge benefit to Multi-Academy Trusts as they develop their own career path offers, with heavy government investment going in to fill some of the gaps in training and qualification that currently exist.

David Weston

The stated priority for development is the new National Professional Qualification (NPQ) in Teacher Education, intended to develop senior leadership capacity to create a quality environment for newly-qualified teachers to develop and thrive – this complements the release of the new Early Career Framework and the funding that will free up NQTs to have a lighter timetable for two years (instead of one) and to have protected and funded time for mentoring.

This will be followed by the development of further training and qualifications in subject specialisms, assessment, curriculum design and behaviour management.

A game changer for trusts
The potential here for MATs is huge, for three reasons.

  1. Developing capacity to improve CPD, Teaching and Learning. The new NPQ can act as a driver to grow a new generation of leaders who can – both within and across schools – transform the culture, processes and leadership of development at all levels. With a robust national framework in place to underpin this, along with the common pedagogical framework that is the Early Career Framework, MATs can generate collaborative energy within and across institutions that result in a much faster-improving teaching workforce.
  2. Specialist collaboration. While many MATs are already creating cross-trust collaboration around subjects, the new NPQs can give a more formal framework in which to differentiate between the leadership of subject administration versus the leadership of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. It opens up the possibility of subject co-ordinators being supported and enriched by a team of subject content and pedagogical experts. Where one focuses on allocating resource and line management, the other can act more as a lead practitioner, modelling teaching, enriching curricular resources and supporting intervention with the most challenging children.
  3. Harnessing a trust’s distinctive leadership, curriculum and pedagogical models to become a system leader. The underpinning frameworks of NPQ delivery typically allow enough flexibility to customise the content and delivery. This gives an opportunity for a trust to develop its own distinctive suite of training which can be offered not only internally but also outwardly. This opens up great opportunity for MAT-to-MAT collaboration, as central teams decide to specialise in certain areas and buy-in the very highest quality provision from a nearby trust with exceptional provision.

Making it happen
Ultimately, any qualification or training only has as much impact as the participants’ school environment allows. My charity, the Teacher Development Trust, is working with over 200 organisations to explore how school leadership, culture and policy are working together to help or hinder the improvement of staff. The differences in effectiveness between MATs – and indeed within the schools of any one MAT – can be quite stark as we unpick the barriers that are stopping improvement of CPD, teaching and learning.

As I always say at the end of my seminars – the key to system improvement is for leaders to take the learning and progress of staff just as seriously as they take the learning and progress of pupils. We can welcome the government’s recognition of this area – now it’s time for MATs to step up to this exciting challenge.