Interested in the NPQML? Emma gives her top tips.

The National Professional Qualification in Middle Leadership – How to tackle it

If you are an existing middle leader in your school or hold a post of responsibility, it can be an exciting opportunity to develop yourself to lead a team effectively.  With this in mind, I took part in the NPQML as acting head of the physical education department, stepping up from my role as assistant head of that department.

The course allows you to develop as a leader and make an impact when leading a team in your department or responsibility area. The face-to-face support, the distance learning from research and your overall submission piece make up the NPQML course. It can make you focus in detail on the type of leader you are, the strengths and weaknesses you have, and your ability to develop staff around you and hold them to account, one of the hardest tasks when being a leader.

I have created 8 easy to follow tips to help you take on the challenge of the NPQML and really make it worthwhile for your development:

  1. Understand what is expected of you

Attend the initial meeting having done your research first.  As part of the course, you need to attend face-to-face sessions in which you will gain the research and understanding behind how you lead and the elements that go into successful leadership of a team. It is an important resource to your overall project so make sure that you can attend the expected sessions. Be fierce in keeping the dates free and equally fierce in protecting and prioritising time to keep up with the reading and tasks.

  • Create a peer support group

The people with you on your course are a valuable resource and network.  Set up a small study group with them either via social media or face to face. They will be your support network in terms of comparing and sharing ideas and resources.

  • Do not try to change the world

You are not expected to change completely every aspect of your department and how things work. The importance behind the course is for you to develop as a leader and to focus on leading a team with an initiative that you have put in place. With this is mind, make sure they your challenge is attainable and something that is in line with your departments objectives or school development plan.  Get the idea right at the start and you will find preparing and implementing it just so much easier.  Seek help from your sponsor if you are not sure on what to focus.

  • Keep logs

Keeping on top of your project is the biggest piece of advice I can give you. Do not leave it all to the last few weeks before it is due to be submitted. Whenever you try something new, send an email, have a meeting, plan or reflect; make sure that you keep a log and provide evidence. Most providers will have created one of these for you already. This will aid you when completing your final write up. The submission form where you outline your project, results and evidence, is in separate parts with plenty of guidance: complete these as you go through the course rather than at the end to save you the stress!

  • Read the literature

Throughout your face-to-face sessions, you will be provided with key authors in literature that will support your project and articles that will develop your knowledge and understanding further of what it takes to be a leader. Although you will have an abundance of research to look through, it is important that you make yourself familiar with some of it. This will be important to not only help give a basis to your project ideas but also used as evidence.  Schools are busy places so prioritise time to read and stick to it.

  • Involve your department

Although this is your project, you are not alone. The whole point of the course is to develop your leadership throughout your project and the impact it has made as a whole. Your department will be integral to it working but can also hinder your progress. Be sure to discuss the ideas you have with them and involve them in the decision making process when you are deciding on implementing your ideas. A team that feels included in changes that are made will help make them easier to achieve.

  • Do not be afraid if things do not work

Your final submission and whether you pass the NPQML is not specifically based on whether your ideas and challenges changed the world!  It is the process that you need to be reflecting on, not just the outcome. If things do not work out as you plan, then change and adapt, reflect on why, evaluate to move forward to be able to lead change successfully.

  • Reflect

The biggest part of your project is to reflect on the impact that you have made, both with your initiative but also as a leader. The hardest part is modelling, inspiring others and having a self-awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses, recognising what kind of leader you actually are. Throughout the course, be sure to reflect and evaluate the impact you are having, as well as the impact it is having on your team.

Since completing the course and achieving my NPQML, it has allowed me to realise what kind of leader I am and, in turn, has affected my practice. The focus areas enlighten you to how you need and may have to deal with members of staff in your department when holding them to account for their actions, but also positively in how you inspire them. From the course, I have certainly learnt how to model and include others in the decision making process to allow staff to be more involved with the outcome, working as a team rather than a dictatorship. Moving forward I now feel that I am in a capacity to have those conversations, ensure change and inspire others to make an impact in my department and my school.