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Colin Marks, NPQH: Supporting with the demands of the job

Colin Marks photoColin Marks, Head teacher at Orton Wistow Primary School, is soon to undertake his final assessment on the NPQH. We spoke to him about the support the NPQH has offered him and why he is an advocate of the reformed NPQs.

Why did you sign up for NPQH initially and how have your learning objectives been met?

After being a Deputy Headteacher for thirteen years, I was ready for a new challenge and I had been looking for my first Headship for a while. The opportunity came up for me to complete the NPQH alongside a colleague in the Trust and after looking at the course content and structure, decided to go ahead. Having stepped up into the role of Headteacher in the absence of the employed Head at that time, on several occasions, I had been given the chance to learn a little more about the role and take on some additional responsibilities. The NPQH course with Teach First has really supported me at this time in my career to have a greater understanding of the role and prepare me for taking that next step. Whilst completing the course, I have been fortunate enough to take on the Headship in my existing school on a permanent basis. Going through the modules and having a chance to meet with others on the course regularly has helped me to cope with the demands of the job and learn from others. Every module has been worthwhile and it has been a good use of my time, helping me to grow in this new role. 

How have you applied the learning from the NPQH in your day-to-day job? Is there one piece of research that has really left its mark?

All the modules have been useful. As confident as I may have felt with any particular area, I have learned more about the role during each part of the course and it has helped me to reflect on my own practice and consider other ways of working. There are several parts of the course that have stood out for me but one of the most useful was module 10 - Implementation. We are going through a big change at my school with regard to how we support those with the highest level of need and the research and practical elements of this module have helped me to guide my way through this change, using an implementation plan and identifying the potential barriers to its success. The module focussed on SEND and my pre-arranged visit to another school to look at their practice (also part of the course) has also helped me see this plan through. The additional research and links to other schools' approaches have opened my eyes to other ways of working. I have now (alongside the SENCO) completed a thorough implementation plan and have made a strong start on this cultural shift in the school. We feel that we have considered all variables and tried to combat possible known barriers but we also feel confident about being flexible and adjusting our plan as necessary. 

As a headteacher, would you recommend the NPQs to your staff and others?

I completed the NPQSL course several years ago. This was not through Teach First and although some elements were useful, the course design and structure were not. Completing the NPQH with Teach First has been a completely different experience. The course design and website have been intuitive and easy to use. The regular face-to-face meetings after each module were great ways to embed some of the learning and those leading the course have been extremely knowledgeable, challenging (in a good way) and supportive. I would definitely recommend others to complete NPQs. I have just recently spoken with several members of my staff about which NPQs could be worthwhile for them.