Cliff Jones guides CPD leaders/coordinators on how to add value for aspiring heads.Introduction

One of the interesting tasks facing CPD coordinators/leaders is how to support the CPD of colleagues who hold posts further up a school hierarchy than they are themselves.

I can remember team teaching with a colleague on a programme for middle managers in further education (the word ‘leader’ was not then in widespread use in FE). His first question to the group was simply to ask them to attempt a definition of the word ‘management’. Without exception everyone thought it was something you did to people below you in the structure of the college. And yet, when asked to describe the actual managerial tasks that they undertook on a regular basis, they all talked about having to ensure that people above them made good decisions: having, in other words, to manage and lead the boss. They also were very much aware of how crucial it was to manage their relationships with people of similar status. If we put this into a CPD context it becomes the role of the person responsible for CPD to ensure that all colleagues, including senior leader/ managers, are participants in planned professional development and sense making and that this process addresses both personal and institutional interests and concerns. It would be strange if the only group of professionals in a school whose development is disconnected from that of colleagues were the senior leader/managers.

In this issue I look at the National College for School Leadership (NCSL) programme for aspiring heads: the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH), focusing on how value can be added to it.

Getting NPQH credits towards Masters programmes

A few years ago the NCSL approached the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) with the idea of enhancing the value of NPQH by adding an academic experience in which there would be more theoretical literature and more critical reflection. In other words, the plan was to make it possible for applicants to Masters programmes to be given credit for successful completion of NPQH if they also completed a ‘bridging’ assignment designed to address the academic and theoretical deficits (NCSL’s words) of NPQH. Part of the plan was also the idea that if someone already had a Masters degree (or part of one) in educational leadership and management they would be able to avoid doing all of NPQH.

There are several thousand participants attending NPQH programmes and there are many HEIs that are funded to provide Masters-level programmes in leadership and management so it is logical to try to fit them together. The National College for School Leadership agreed with UCET to inform all regional centres and NPQH offices of HEIs that are willing to consider awarding prior credit for Masters programmes in this way. It is also possible to find out how to contact your local HEI by going to and then ‘list of members’. Some HEIs will be prepared to offer up to 60 postgraduate credits for a successfully completed bridging assignment plus all the other evidence for professional development acquired as a result of the NPQH programme.

If, as CPD leader, you have colleagues who have already completed NPQH and who would like some postgraduate credit towards a Masters degree then completion and submission of this bridging assignment, together with the evidence presented for the achievement of NPQH, would be regarded by many HEIs as an appropriate APL claim. In other words, it would be considered for the accreditation of prior learning and count towards the credits needed for a postgraduate award.

In order to obtain maximum value from linking NPQH and postgraduate professional development, however, it is probably best to embark upon the bridging assignment at the outset, rather than leaving it to the end of the programme before thinking about what has been learned. NPQH participants will be likely to do a better bridging assignment to present to an HEI if they have clear and early notification of what is required. And, I guess, better quality NPQH work will result from an understanding of how useful the academic and theoretical insights can be in a professional context. Simultaneous registration for both NPQH and a postgraduate award will also provide academic support.

Whether you are supporting colleagues after the event or from its outset, however, this article is intended to help you.

The bridging assignment or critical commentary

So, how do you support those of your colleagues who are embarking upon or have completed NPQH?

It might be best to think of this bridging assignment as a critical commentary upon the learning that has either taken place or is about to take place.

In terms of words an appropriate critical commentary should not need to be more than five thousand words or less than four thousand. It should concentrate upon the professional development undertaken for and during the NPQH programme, engaging not only with the evidence of professional development generated during the NPQH programme but also, where appropriate, with other relevant professional development. In other words, although the commentary is between only four and five thousand words, it will interrogate an evidence base much larger that has been generated by the participant on the NPQH programme. That evidence base is likely to include the school improvement project work carried out for NPQH.

You might have many ideas about how to structure such a critical commentary but the version agreed by the NCSL and UCET is used as the basis for what follows. In each section of the structure I have also set out in italics the relevant role of the CPD leader and the more I think about it the more clear it becomes to me that the role is, in this case, that of a mentor who also needs to know how their CPD policy is operating. You might, therefore, find it useful to look at the mentoring and coaching material available at

Structuring the critical commentary

Section one: the background and professional purpose lying behind the decision to undertake the NPQH programme. This might, for example, outline the personal, professional and national background or environment that provides an individual with reasons for embarking upon this kind of professional development; and it might include the intended personal professional outcomes that the participant had at the outset.

For the CPD leader, responsible for the construction and delivery of the school’s policy for professional development, it will be important to discuss this with the NPQH participant. Having an awareness of the links and missing links between the professional development intentions of an individual and the school is always important but particularly so when the individual involved has a role in the strategic leadership and management of the school. By ‘missing links’, by the way, I do not mean that the plans of the individual should always be made to fit in with those of the school. It is often the case that institutional thinking lags behind that of the individual.

Section two: a description of the key features of the programme and critical factors affecting its completion.

Talking this over with the NPQH participant helps the CPD leader to ensure that there are no blockages within the school that get in the way of successful completion of the programme.

Section three: identification of relevant literature. This might include: regulatory, official and inspection literature such as the National Standards and Ofsted frameworks; and professional literature such as school policy documents; but it must include academic literature in order to gain the kind of insights that HEIs would expect a participant to have if being awarded credit.

While it is clear that this part of the structure, and some of what follows, will benefit from the participant having registered with an HEI and so obtaining this kind of expertise, the role of CPD leader as mentor or critical friend can also be very useful here. Learning is often enhanced when made part of a sharing process and providing support in identifying relevant literature will increase the knowledge of the CPD leader as well as the NPQH participant.

Section four: evidence of engagement with literature rather than a simple listing of the views or statements of authors. In other words a participant should be able to gain insight to the NPQH programme by the use of academic and other relevant literature and also be able to make use of professional experience to challenge such literature when appropriate.

The point here is similar to that made above but we can add that participants sometimes have to overcome the idea that they are not simply required to learn what various authors have said but to show how they bring their own professional experience to bear when making sense of literature. This can be hard to do for people who are not used to calling upon their own experience and expertise when grappling with theory. Sometimes all that is needed is a boost to the confidence.

Section five: identification of key concepts and general principles based upon evidence and the use of academic and other literature. The ability to examine the nature, strength and significance of evidence is likely to be crucial for all participants on Masters programmes.It is now also crucial for completion of the self-evaluation form (SEF). Again, discussion helps all parties to examine evidence for its meaning.

Section six: discussion of and critical reflection upon what has been learned. This should allow for consideration of unexpected evidence for unintended outcomes. It should also employ the insights gained from literature and demonstrate an awareness of the limitations of the professional development undertaken.

It is often the case that participants on CPD programmes only look at evidence to see if it matches what they set out to do. The role of the CPD leader here is to encourage their colleague(s) to look at all the evidence that has emerged from the programme and not simply to stick to evidence that targets have been met. Before disregarding evidence always look to see if there is any professional penicillin.

Section seven: reference to how what has been learned from the programme will lead to future professional action and further study.

And a good CPD policy needs to be informed by this.

Section eight: a list of sources used in the assignment.

These will also be useful to other colleagues. They are also likely to include sources of information other than the literature.

Assessment criteria

In order to further help your colleagues try asking the following questions of the completed work (remembering that it is not simply the bridging assignment but will also include work done on and because of the NPQH programme).

Is there evidence of: – systematic understanding of relevant knowledge – critical awareness of and insight to the current professional environment – use of academic techniques of enquiry – communication of well grounded conclusions to an appropriate audience – a personal professional voice

– independent learning and potential for further development?

These are the kind of questions an HEI would be likely to use when assessing what is really very similar to a portfolio of evidence for impact (the evidence generated because of involvement with the NPQH programme) plus, instead of a critical journal of professional development, a critical commentary focused upon the professional learning from this specific programme.

Nationally the TDA, UCET, the GTCE, the NCSL and the DfES all see the benefit of mapping across the variety of CPD programmes, both accredited and non-accredited. In terms of the role of the leader of CPD in a school, making such links also demonstrates a well-designed CPD policy working to the benefit of all.

It is also not too soon to begin thinking about how the CPD policy of a school can interact with the SEF. A school that has members of staff participating in NPQH will surely not wish to disregard useful evidence for self-evaluation that emerges from it. How much more useful, then, will be the kind of assignment outlined above?

In a future issue CPD Update will look at a similar model for the Leading from the Middle (LftM) programme of the National College for School Leadership.

It would be strange if the only group of professionals in a school whose development is disconnected from that of colleagues were the senior leader/managers

The role of CPD leader in this case is that of a mentor who also needs to know how their CPD policy is operating