Headship Programme with NPQH: taking an evidence-based approach

Feb. 10, 2020
Marc Thompson

Marc Thompson

Associate Headteacher, Mandeville Primary School

Marc Thompson, a participant on Ambition’s Headship with NPQH programme, reflects on the course’s evidence-based approach, and the impact it has already had on his practice and his headship journey.

It was never a goal of mine to become a headteacher. But the reason I got into teaching was to have an impact on young people, and it soon became clear that if I was to have more of an impact, on more young people, the only way was to progress to headship.

Getting into senior leadership as a black male can be challenging – I think statistically it’s clear that there are more barriers for people like me than for others – so I was keen to gain the NPQH qualification to have as many strings to my bow as possible. A colleague recommended Ambition’s Headship with NPQH programme, and I immediately knew it was the right fit for me – the focus on developing leaders working in challenging contexts really appealed to me.

"The impact of the programme was noticeable from day one."

I’m only part-way through the course, but it’s definitely something I’ve already benefited from in numerous ways. I always look forward to the sessions regardless of the topic because I know that the quality of training is really good, and I’ve come away from each residential or day course with something positive and practical that I can put into practice.

Immediate impact

The impact of the programme was noticeable from day one. In my first Inset day after the start of the course – and my first as an Associate Headteacher – I used an icebreaker that we’d seen in one of the sessions. It was fun and it got people engaged, and was just the first of many things I’ve learned on the programme that have had a direct impact on my job and journey to headship – I’ve taken the ideas, used them, and they’ve worked.

Evidence-based approach

The impact of the course has been wide-ranging; from changes to my day-to-day practice, my knowledge and a regular engagement with the research. I’d found myself reading less and less over the last few years, with family and work commitments getting in the way. I’d got caught up in just working really hard every day, without taking the time to see areas for development, or how we could do things differently.

But the Headship programme helped me get into a rhythm of taking a more evidence-based approach and being aware of developments and new ideas in the sector that I can embed in my practice and in my school. Having wider reading areas to focus on for each session on the course, and having a curated reading list, have helped immediately.


I’m trying to take what I’m learning on the programme and apply that to the way I develop my school’s teaching and learning. I’m taking a research-driven approach to the way the teachers, and everyone in the school, develop themselves, and I’m trying to make it a goal for the school leadership team to develop together. Rather than having separate conversations and exchanging ideas from our own wider reading by chance, we are now taking a more constructive approach.

Support network

It’s helpful to have the support of other senior leaders and headteachers on the Headship programme, as well as those in my school’s network, never more so than when a student passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.

In all my time of working with young people I’d never experienced anything like that. I’d never had any conversations about it and I had no idea what it would be like, no expectations, no preparedness for it. When I became a school leader this is the last thing I’d thought about how to deal with.

But being able to draw on the strength and experience of Ambition’s network is invaluable, and I will continue to draw on the support of the network both during the rest of the course and beyond.

Job application support

It was a great help being on the programme when an opportunity came up to apply for the Associate Headteacher position at my school. I know that my application was much stronger because of the support that I got on the course. I had more clarity and guidance on what schools are looking for, was more aware of where my skills and strengths lie, and the programme leads helped me identify useful experience that I hadn’t thought of sharing before.

"Being able to draw on the strength and experience of Ambition’s network is invaluable."

I was thrilled to be offered the job, and to be able to play a bigger role in steering the direction of the school and making an even greater difference to the lives of the next generation. The impact the Headship with NPQH programme has had on this journey has been significant, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to progress to leadership in a challenging context, and keen to drive evidence-informed school improvement.

Find out more about Ambition's Headship with NPQH >

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