Doing the NPQH made me a better headteacher: Part Two
In this story series we're following Mat Galvin, headteacher of Macclesfield Academy, as he embarks on the Teach First NPQ in Headship (NPQH). In part one, Mat shared some of the challenges he’s faced since taking on his first headship role, such as low pupil outcomes, poor parental engagement and a staff restructure. He also reflected on how the NPQH is helping him become a better leader as he tackles these challenges head on.
In the second part of our series, Mat shares how he’s making improvements to the school, taking inspiration from his fellow programme members, and addressing challenges with help from the NPQH and our partner Deloitte.
Tackling challenges as a school leader
Macclesfield Academy isn’t the first inner-city school I’ve taught at. I started teaching straight after university – over two decades ago – and in that time I’ve worked in inner-city schools across South Yorkshire. My last school had a high rate of pupil premium, with many students living in poorer communities, so I’m no stranger to challenges like those we’re dealing with at Macclesfield Academy – except now I’m tackling them as headteacher.
Taking on your first headship role can feel like an intense step up from deputy head. People assume you have this wealth of knowledge – it’s a lot of pressure. I was once told, ‘you will never know it all, so you have to make the leap’.
Here at Macclesfield Academy, I’m surrounded by lovely, capable and hardworking people. But at some point, you have to make challenging decisions and you can’t delegate that. There’s a lot I don’t know. So, having a network of people through the NPQ who you can ask advice from or share ideas with has been invaluable.
Working with the community
One of our biggest challenges before I started the NPQ was with parental engagement. Since implementing what I’ve learned on the programme, I’ve noticed a big difference already. Back then, engagement with parents had been very closed down – largely due to the pandemic – with limited opportunities to engage with the school environment and staff. Doing the NPQ has made me reflect on working with community stakeholders, rather than just directing what I think is the best next step.
We had a great networking session on community engagement – making sure the community has a voice and is part of decision-making. It was really useful to hear how other leaders got their communities involved with their improvement journeys. I’ve applied a lot of those ideas here.
Our recent parents’ forum – inspired by ideas from the session – was a turning point for us. I shared my vision for the school with the community and they had the opportunity to challenge it – which they did, respectfully. It was well attended and a real success, so we’re now holding them termly. The focus of these forums is on getting the parents’ voices heard and getting them more involved. They’re a key part of our strategy for improving community engagement with the school moving forward.
Another idea I’ve implemented from the session is tapping into the ‘Silent Army’ of parents. There are so many skills and services the community can offer, which has meant more parents are getting invested in the improvement of the school.
Before the programme, we were seeing declining numbers of pupils coming from primary schools, thanks to our ‘requires improvement’ Ofsted rating and competition from other, higher performing schools. Now, we’ve got a steady number of pupils coming in, and we’re aiming to see higher numbers moving forwards. The key values we’re focusing on to bring parents on side and increase those numbers are ‘learning above all’, ‘academic excellence’, and ‘known and valued’.
Perhaps our most radical change so far has been switching from 100-minute lessons to 60-minute lessons and remodelling the school day. It was a controversial decision, but parents have been very much involved from the start. It’s an exciting change, which we’ll continue to review over the coming months.
Focusing on talent management
It’s not just parental engagement that’s improved thanks to the NPQ networking sessions.
When I first took on the role of headteacher, financial challenges had resulted in capacity issues, meaning a staff restructure was needed – something I’d never gone through before. The networking sessions gave me the chance to talk through the process and share learnings. It’s been a success so far, and the reaction from the staff and parents has been really positive.
We’ve also hired some new staff, including some talented Teach First English, Science and Mathematics trainees. Without support from Teach First, we would really struggle to recruit – so it’s thanks to this partnership that the kids have these great teachers.
The NPQ has provided a constant reminder that standards need to remain high, and the Deloitte Impact Labs have been instrumental by providing that 360-degree view across the school, to help us prioritise building talent management into our system.
Building strong leadership
Over the course of my career, and especially since taking on my first headship role here, I’ve learned that leading a school is a privilege, as well as a huge responsibility – and strong leadership is essential. At one school I supported as Regional Science Lead in Hull, I witnessed it go from chronically failing, to achieving a ‘good’ Ofsted rating and eventually be well on its way to being rated ‘outstanding’.
The change was driven by really strong leadership at all levels. It helped inspire my own leadership journey – showing me the risks, but also the difference good leadership can make to pupils’ lives. It’s something that I aim to model here at Macclesfield Academy, and I feel that doing the NPQ is already helping me to become a stronger leader.
We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got work to do, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these changes will continue to improve our school and grow our relationship with the community over the coming months.
Stay tuned for the next instalment in Mat's NPQH journey.
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.