In the next installment of the Ark Teacher Blog series, Joanna O'Byrne and Camilla Oscroft from Ark Academy in Wembley speak to us about completing the National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL) – run jointly by Ark and Ambition School Leadership. The year-long programme is a blend of face-to-face workshops and in-school impact initiative projects that focus on developing leadership skills and raising student attainment.
Can you tell us a little about your role, and the school where you work?
Jo: I’m an Assistant Head at Ark Academy Primary in West London, leading on teaching and learning.
Camilla: I’m also an Assistant Head with the additional responsibility of Inclusion Lead. My job is to ensure the needs of pupils with SEND are met, so I work closely with staff and parents as well as my pupils. The school opened in 2008 and is an all-through from nursery to sixth-form. It’s very ethnically diverse and there are high levels of deprivation in the area but it doesn’t affect the ambition we have for our pupils.
And what was your career journey to get here?
C: I always knew I wanted to be a primary teacher. I chose to do a BTEC National Diploma in Early Years at college as it meant I got 800 hours of work experience with children. I then studied Primary Early Years Education and worked as a teacher in Bristol before moving to Ark Academy, where I was promoted to Assistant Head after a year in the classroom.
J: I completed my PGCE at Edinburgh University, and did my NQT year there the year after, in a school with very high levels of deprivation. I joined Ark as a Year 3 teacher at King Solomon Academy, and after three years moved here to work with Year 6, before becoming an Assistant Head.
Why did you join the NPQSL course? What were you hoping to get out of it?
J: The head of our school mentioned the course to me – he had really enjoyed it and felt I would gain a lot.
C: I really wanted to develop my skills, knowledge and confidence in order to be a better senior leader.
J: Oh, and it was also a great opportunity to get to know teachers from other Ark schools!
Tell us a bit more about the course...
J: It was split into a 70-20-10 model. 70% of our time was spent on our in-school impact project, 20% was coaching in school and 10% of the time in workshops. The days covered a range of topics, from practical skills to do with data analysis or presentation skills, to more theoretical topics around teams. There were a variety of people on the course across primary and secondary schools and from all of the Ark regions. I think this added to the breadth of viewpoints which were shared.
And what did you take away from it?
C: My self-confidence and self-belief definitely grew. I learnt that trust is an essential value when leading teams and gaining buy-in.
J: I remember several times when it felt like I got light-bulb illuminating nuggets of knowledge! The course gives you theory, language and comparative references around short and long term situations in your role. This structure allows you to manage scenarios with some form of a framework. Previously, some management situations seemed to me to be successful based on luck – if personalities worked together or not, however, the course took away the idea that chance had a role to play, instead giving you strategies to use.
Would you recommend the course?
J: Yes, it was really enjoyable and thought-provoking. Everyone on the course seemed to feel like it developed them individually as leaders.
C: Absolutely – the professional development offered by Ark is outstanding. The leaders of the network do all that they can to ensure all staff grow and develop to become better educators.
Ark provides teachers across the network with great opportunities to learn new skills and progress in their careers. We offer twice as many training days as the standard number offered by schools. We also offer collaboration opportunities across schools and bespoke training tailored to our teachers. To see our current vacancies, visit arkonline.org/careers.