Doing the NPQH made me a better headteacher: Part One
The Teach First NPQ in Headship offers new and aspiring headteachers the chance to develop their expertise, learn from like-minded leaders, and create meaningful change for their schools. Plus, with an opportunity for additional support from our partner Deloitte, headteachers can develop their leadership skills even further.
Mat Galvin, headteacher of The Macclesfield Academy, shares how the programme has transformed his development and his school.
Results day, August 2022
The atmosphere was buzzing. Kids giving their teachers high-fives, parents giving out hugs. All the staff were delighted. You could see so much hard work paying off.
That feeling has rippled out into the start of term, too. My presentation to the staff body at the start of term was all about the better-than-expected results, and how that’s a springboard for the year ahead.
We can take this feeling of winning and high performing as we move forward into the future, but the challenge here is not to slide back into old patterns, as it hasn’t always been this way…
The history of Macclesfield Academy
Macclesfield is a town with areas that range from economically affluent to those that are significantly more deprived. On the one end, you have the influence of successful pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and the fact that the area is a commuter zone for Greater Manchester. While on the other, you see the poorer estates – albeit ones who have seen massive improvement over the past 15-20 years thanks, in large part, to the efforts of the community coming together.
The Macclesfield Academy serves the more economically deprived part of town, with a 30% pupil premium, plus a large percentage of families who are on the breadline and often in need of free school meals.
The school has a history and reputation of being a ‘struggling’ school in the community. We’re surrounded by schools rated ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted – all oversubscribed. The Macclesfield Academy, as it is now known, is the result of several ‘failing’ schools merging to form one large academy. Parents and others who have attended the school in the past, and haven’t necessarily had a good experience, still sometimes refer to it by its old names. It’s been difficult to find our identity, away from our past.
But, despite the pressures and financial challenges, there’s a lot of people in the community working hard to give the young people the very best education possible.
Ofsted: ‘Requires improvement’
In 2017, we received a ‘requires improvement’ Ofsted rating, followed by another in 2020. This triggered a shift in leadership, with the previous headteacher retiring and me stepping into my first headteacher role. The 2020 report stated:
"Although improving, pupils’ achievement has been limited by a flawed curriculum. In recent years, pupils have not achieved as well as they should."
Early on in my new role, I was met with several key challenges:
- The first of these was poor pupil outcomes – particularly in subjects such as English literature and science. Improvements were being made, but these needed embedding fully to ensure better outcomes for all pupils.
- Financial challenges led to capacity issues as we had to go into a restructure of staff soon after I joined – something I’d never gone through before taking on the role.
- And finally, declining numbers of pupils coming up from primary schools, largely due to our Ofsted rating and competition from other higher performing schools in the area.
Taking action on the NPQ in Headship
I was aware of NPQs, and the support they could offer, but had held off initially – largely due to financial reasons. The NPQs being fully funded and Teach First partnering with us was a real turning point.
My teaching and learning knowledge was strong, but my financial and business development knowledge was an area for growth. I wanted to address my own knowledge gaps, while getting the opportunity to network with other school leaders. Speaking to other NPQH programme members and sharing experiences has been invaluable. I also signed up for additional coaching from a Teach First Achievement Partner, Morgan, an experienced former headteacher, who has already taught me so much. I’ve built so many positive, honest relationships throughout this programme.
The flexibility of the NPQH means I’ve been able to fit it in between work and home. Doing the remote sessions and between-sessions work after school hours allows me to balance work with family life.
Teach First, as a charity, really appeals to me as it’s that same sense of mission and purpose that I’m driven by. I’m learning from people at the cutting-edge in education – from schools that are performing well in challenging circumstances, like those we’re facing.
Becoming better at decision-making
So much of being a head is decision-making. As a leader, I’ve always been the type to be on the ‘shop floor’. But the downside of that is not having the headspace to set strategic direction. The NPQ is helping me to challenge my own thinking, to step out and get that headspace. With good grounding in best practice, research and networks, it’s helped me validate my decision-making.
As a head, you need actions to take into the following week, so having that research and best practice, along with pieces of concrete practice from my coach has helped me make improvements straight away.
Taking part in the Deloitte Impact Lab
Something that’s supported my leadership style to become more collaborative and co-operative was the Deloitte Impact Lab I took part in earlier in 2021. I’d describe it as an intensive leadership masterclass – a brutal appraisal but completely worth it. It‘s like being under a microscope – but in a supportive way.
Ahead of the Impact Lab, Deloitte had interviews with my senior leadership team and my chair of governors which, if I’m honest, was quite nerve-wracking. They gave an honest review of my leadership and how the school is performing, from people I trust.
I think schools can have the tendency of being inward looking when it comes to development – but there’s so much you can learn from business and bring into the education sphere.
Looking ahead to further improvements
I’m excited to continue on this journey – especially with my programme cohort, who I’m looking forward to meeting in person soon. You’re meeting the same programme members each time, so you start to get invested in their journeys, too. I’m eager to keep learning from them and my coach as the months progress.
We wouldn’t be able to support school leaders such as Mat without the backing of partners like Deloitte. Find out more about supporting our work as a corporate partner.