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Reuben Moore
Executive Director for Programme Development at Teach First

Our NPQ programmes: How we’re succeeding and what’s on the horizon

Following recent evaluations of our NPQ programmes, these learnings are key to building confidence in our approach and setting the next steps forward.

There’s never been a more difficult time to be a school leader - and we’re here to support you on the frontline. Teach First is working with over 1,000 school leaders across the country, developing their expertise and impact in challenging environments. Our full strategy reveals how we’ve refocused our efforts to get teachers and pupils the leadership they deserve.

As part of this strategy, we’ve continued to deliver our NPQs programmes (launched in 2018) - which are open to current or aspiring school leaders, motivated to make a difference in their schools. Our first external review by Tribal - combined with our own internal evaluation - reveals the successes and learnings from carrying out these programmes, which are a vital part of our school leadership focus.

Below you’ll find the key findings from both of these evaluations, which we are committed to take forward to improve our programmes. However, we also know that it is important to celebrate what is going right, and how we can expand and apply those lessons to areas that need more work.

Our NPQ programmes: What’s going well

Putting emphasis on curriculum and design

Just as with teaching pupils, we know that teachers and leaders need a clear and well-sequenced curriculum to support their development. This is at the heart of all our programmes and we work closely with schools and current leaders to test that this works well. The curriculum also needs to marry research and practice to support everyone to manage the short-term and the long-term. Here are the key findings in this area:

  • Our design of content was recognised by Tribal as "exceeding expectations".
  • Our report recognised that our design is “underpinned by [our] core values: developing effective school leaders and promoting school improvement”. 
  • Our programme members fed back that the curriculum is “engaging and stimulating”, particularly the opportunity to engage in theory and “deepen understanding” of improvement strategies.

We know that leaders need the opportunity to engage with research and the theory but also to focus on practising precise strategies, and our design is based on both. We will continue to ensure that in the future. 

Flexible support for programme members

All schools, but particularly the schools that we work with, are busy places - and never more so than this year! It is vital that our programmes are flexible and support leaders to learn in the best possible way. It was great to have this recognised with a top score for support for participants – who are “extremely well supported throughout their programme. From online resource, live learning events to the personalised support by Development Leads, participants remark how supported they feel”. 

Feedback has shown that our Development Leads (former school leaders who support our programme members) are a “particular strength”. They offer personalised support and expertise, but are also able to flex to enable the best possible wellbeing of participants, and to manage workload. When times are uncertain, flexibility is key to ensure people can give their best. 

Listening and responding to our schools

We know that the quality of our programmes rely on great feedback and input from our schools. We work hard to listen, and it was great that the report recognised that both our engagement strategy and our approach to continuous improvement exceed expectations:

  • We have “close partnerships with education providers to understand the challenges school leaders face today, particularly those serving the most disadvantaged communities”.
  • We are “highly committed and passionate about the continuous improvement of the NPQ programme”.

Over this last year, we’ve been listening to and working with schools to consider how we flex our NPQ programmes to best support leaders dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, as well as other changes in the world. This has included how projects can support urgent improvements in a pandemic, and how leaders can plan within uncertainty. 

We have also added content on leading an anti-racist school, as we are committed to addressing systemic racism - supporting more diverse leadership in schools, and supporting our leaders and teachers to consider their contexts and roles. We know we have a way to go on this, but want to build up our knowledge and share it with our community.

Our NPQ programmes: What do we want to do next?

We are restless to improve further for the benefit of those we serve on our programmes. As you would expect, we are putting plans into place to do just that.  Here are a few areas we are focused on:

Specialisms in leadership

It is great to see the new NPQ frameworks which have more focus on the key domains of leadership, as well as three specialist NPQs focused on the specific expertise needed for ‘leading behaviour and culture’, ‘leading teacher development’ and ‘leading teaching’. 

Great leadership development helps leaders refine their learning to ensure focused, precise steps that can be practiced and improved. This is how great habits are made. We’re building on how we can do this even more effectively and, by working with leaders in specialist roles, this will be embedded even further into our programmes.

Addressing the challenges of COVID-19

We know that teachers and leaders are on the frontline dealing with a constantly shifting environment. Teachers’, and particularly school leaders’, wellbeing is under real strain. We are looking at ways in which are content can support, ways that we can signpost great resources, and also looking to make sure our programmes work in the best way for programme members as they navigate this year. For example, we provide all our programme members with free access to an assistance programme that includes access to counsellors and therapists.

We have also updated the structure of the programme, with fewer large, live events, so that leaders can access the content in a way that is flexible to them. The content has also been adapted to reflect the current national context, such as one-to-one support and examples of how planning and mitigating for risks can support you to deliver improvements in this changing context. We will continue trialling the best way to make our sessions and support available – which is also a recommendation from our review. 

Keep Moving Forward 

Given the ‘turbulent waters’ ahead, the more feedback we get from you, alongside a strong curriculum and support model, will ensure that we stay on course.  A big thank you for all your input so far - we want to keep hearing from you to make sure our programmes are supporting you with the most important job in the world.


While we are determined to take specific action on the results of these evaluations, we’d also love to know what you think we should be improving.

Our NPQs

Browse our leadership programmes

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