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How NPQs inspired a culture of professional development across a trust

Rebecca Underwood spent 21 years as a teacher and senior leader before becoming School Improvement Lead for Teacher Development at Avanti Institute.

She remembers the “ineffective and 'one size fits all' continuing professional development” (CPD) she received earlier in her career. “It was a process that was done to you, rather than alongside you or with you.” This is why, in her role overseeing professional development at 12 schools across the country, she is determined to promote teacher agency and ensure that all staff are motivated to succeed when it comes to accessing quality CPD.

The trust has encouraged over 50 teachers and leaders through National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) delivered by Ambition Institute. This is made possible by the strong belief within Avanti Schools Trust that everyone can improve. This process of continuous improvement is very important to the trust and key to retaining quality teachers and improving pupil outcomes.

Avanti Schools Trust set up Avanti Institute in 2021 with the aim of enabling teachers to thrive through professional development. The results so far have been very positive, with big changes in staff culture and an important growth in understanding of the need for CPD for leaders. “Before we began engaging with Ambition's NPQ programmes a couple of years ago, there was a misconception of what CPD was,” says Rebecca. “It was perceived as uninspiring and rarely led to positive change. Now, staff feedback linked to CPD opportunities has vastly improved. Staff are listened to and encouraged to access evidenced informed research linked to the range of NPQs available.”

Rebecca herself has completed the NPQ in Leading Teaching Development (NPQLTD), which has supported her in embedding principles of effective CPD across the trust’s schools. “My role initially was to embed that culture and to ensure that we had the right mindset when it came to what effective CPD looks like,” she comments.

“Of course, first there’s the planning and the listening stage, and then the processing. I did a lot of needs-based research in each of the schools to really understand their requirements, because the schools are all at different stages of professional development.”

She notes that Ambition's emphasis on the theory of change and the importance of careful implementation heavily influenced her approach. “Everything is carefully and meticulously planned, ensuring that teachers’ prior knowledge and expertise is captured.”

It’s not been without effort. “It’s taken a while - at first there was negativity around change and something new,” she explains. “But now there’s a shared language around learning mechanisms, active ingredients and cognitive science in CPD,” all of which are core to the NPQs. Rebecca says, “Ambition, and that whole NPQ approach, really influenced my delivery.”

One of the trust’s aims in engaging with NPQs is to motivate, value and retain staff. It wants to offer them ownership of their future learning and development. And so far, Rebecca notes, staff have fully engaged with the NPQs.

As a Trust, we want to thank all of the staff who have embarked in an NPQ over the last 4 years. Improving - not prove.

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