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Case study: Astley Primary School, investing in people

We spoke to Jen Goakes, Headteacher at Astley Primary School.

Astley Primary School has placed Continuing Professional Development (CPD) at the heart of its recruitment and retention policy. Jen Goakes, Headteacher, believes that schools are fundamentally there to invest in people, because investing in staff ultimately positively impacts on pupils. This value permeates through the school and is perhaps most visible in the shared language and understanding of implementation planning delivered through National Professional Qualifications (NPQs). All teaching staff, except for current Early Career Teachers (ECTs), have undertaken one of the new suite of NPQs, and the school has benefitted from this in many ways.

Staff now think about the implementation cycle before undertaking any change or intervention, no matter how large or small. Everyone considers what the school needs, what problem must be solved, and how this can be prioritised while not adding to workload. This shared understanding means colleagues are well-informed, buy in to change as their norm, and embrace challenges as they know they have been considered carefully. Thinking outside the box is encouraged and recognised.

The school recognises that staff development feeds into wellbeing and that while fitting in an NPQ on top of teaching and other commitments can be challenging, it is also a great way for staff to carve out time for themselves and their learning. Jen, who is also an NPQ facilitator for the Julian Teaching School Hub, doesn’t want staff to feel overloaded.

NPQs feed into the job: you learn alongside your school role, and it helps you do your job more effectively.

As the asynchronous learning can be done in small chunks or larger sessions, “they offer flexibility in how you engage with them. They offer the right balance, and are well thought out and designed.”

Within the school, participation in NPQs is a joint decision arrived at through appraisals and consideration of the school’s School Improvement and Development Plan (SIDP). Looking at which NPQ is the right fit for a staff member is crucial: it isn’t just about the course, it is also about where that person is in their career development and how much capacity they feel they have. With Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) not being required to participate in an NPQ, Astley is also keen to develop other members of staff, such as a Forest School Leader starting the NPQ in Leading Behaviour and Culture (NPQLBC) in spring 2024.

Astley has also seen the benefit of multiple staff undertaking the same NPQ at the same time. At one point, three members of staff were all on the NPQ in Leading Teacher Development (NPQLTD). While this could have been logistically challenging, careful planning and flexibility overcame any possible barriers. Most of the sessions are online and outside the school day, reducing the need for cover, and when face-to-face days did happen, knowing the dates far in advance allowed the school to put cover in place and think creatively about moving classes and staff around. The three participants were able to support each other, acting as a mini community of practice. They shared their thoughts and interpretations of the course materials and were able to cascade their work more effectively across the rest of the school.

“Everyone should do them!” is the view of Lilly Wreford who is currently undertaking her second NPQ, this time in Senior Leadership, having achieved a promotion to the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) after successfully completing her NPQLTD.

Jen recognises that NPQs are “a fantastic opportunity and empowering for staff”, but also that this opportunity to keep learning and developing may result in staff leaving as they look for new career opportunities. Jen’s take on this is that “it’s sad obviously, but also brilliant: we are here to develop people.”

By recognising that staff development may eventually lead to staff moving on, and planning for it, Jen is not only future proofing her own school leadership team, but helping to support the wider educational community.

Find out which NPQs we offer here.