How the NPQ in Leading Literacy is helping one school leader improve pupils' language skills

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Date published 18 September 2023

Deputy headteacher Caroline Hughes discusses how the National Professional Qualification in Leading Literacy is giving her the knowledge and skills to support her pupils after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Caroline Hughes is the deputy head teacher at Pennine Way Junior Academy, a large three form intake junior school. She’s been a teacher for 27 years in three schools. In addition to her duties as deputy head, Caroline is the head of lower school, co-lead on assessment, and is jointly responsible for literacy across the entire school.

“I tend to go to somewhere and stay put” she says, “and do lots of different things within that setting. I was appointed here as deputy head just over ten years ago.”

Caroline had previously completed an NPQ in Headship, and recently chose to complete a specialist NPQ to keep learning and continue her professional development. “I do like to keep improving. I like to keep developing my practice, and I like to keep my brain active,” she says.

This wasn’t Caroline’s only motivation. Having seen the impact of the pandemic on the young people in her school, she wanted to take action. “Before the pandemic we had rising attainment in reading and writing, but Covid set us right back.”

“It’s part of these pupils' backstory. Our lower school, our Year Threes and Fours have missed all that formative development. Play, social skills, reading and spoken language development have been impacted and it's going to take a long time for that to be built back in.”

“I don’t want our pupils to be compromised by a pandemic. I want them to have choices about their future, so it seemed like a natural progression to really take on literacy and push it forwards.”

Randal Cremer_ teacher reading with children

Caroline enrolled in the NPQ in Leading Literacy, a 12-month programme that aims to build the expertise of literacy leaders. The programme grounds them in the literacy knowledge and skills to allow all pupils to access the full curriculum. Drawing on the best available research and evidence, the NPQ in leading literacy covers the science of learning, spoken language, reading, writing and leadership.

“The programme signposts you towards the best practice and research,” Caroline says. “For me, it's providing clarity on the direction I want to go in as the literacy lead, and the avenues that I want to explore in more depth.”

“It’s possibly more in-depth than I expected coming into it, having done previous NPQs. With the Leading Literacy, you've got depth within the course content. It gives you more confidence in what you're doing as a leader, because you really look into the evidence and research.”

When asked about her experience on the programme, Caroline said: “The facilitator was fab - very clear, very helpful. She was knowledgeable and had clearly done the work herself. She was always well-organised, and really supportive.”

“I think it’s great that the facilitator is someone who's still working in school and knows where the participants are all coming from,” she said, “it adds more weight to a conversation when you know that their practice is current.”

In terms of the programme’s impact, Caroline says that the programme is “informing the changes to our School Improvement Development Plan actions. Particularly the spoken language side of it, which is an area that I don't think we have developed as much as we could do."

“We're really pleased with the progress we've made just in the last twelve months, but we need to keep making it.”

To express your interest for a National Professional Qualification, you can register your interest for yourself, a colleague, your school or your trust. To find out more about Ambition’s National Professional Qualifications visit our NPQs page

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