NPQEL - The eve of the first steps

NPQEL - The eve of the first steps

Posted March 24 2019   Neil Jones

Return to Candidate Blog
View all articles by Neil Jones

The eve of the first steps

And so now I find myself consolidating my past experience to develop a stronger understanding of school leadership by undertaking NPQEL, the national professional qualification in executive leadership

As a summary of that consolidation and at the start of the next stage in that Adventure, I am putting forward here 3 things that are at the heart of what I feel makes for strong personal development. And this, I believe, becomes the core, the heart, of what it takes to become a more effective leader.

I have been a Head for some 12 years, in 3 schools and in 2 (perhaps 2 and a half) sectors - independent prep schools and a free school, state-funded and independent. This has given me a unique opportunity to learn how successful, sustainable schools can be developed and managed in both academic and business terms.

Today I travel to Birmingham to join the Spring cohort for NPQEL facilitated by Best Practice Network and Outstanding Leaders Partnership. As an experienced Head and a man of 50 years of age, I'm all over this right?

Well, not quite. There are still, inevitably, uncertainties and insecurities. Just like any learner - the four-year-olds forming their letters or my daughter completing her A levels - we share characteristics that make us both fragile and able to cope at the same time.

So in order to keep things in perspective and accurately document the journey that we are on as a cohort, here are 3 things to keep in mind as I start this next stage of my learning journey.

1. Avoid Hubris

Confidence is fine, over-confidence is catastrophic. Confidence is built on preparation, research and an awareness of self and others. We are none of us perfect and as leaders in schools, let alone this "new breed" of executive leaders, humility is a prerequisite. To place the needs of others - children, staff, parents - ahead of your own, is to be truly aware of what your school(s) need to grow and thrive. Whether it is prudent management of resources, being someone to moan at, litter picking or representing community interests to the local authority or even starting an NPQ, our effectiveness as leaders is enhanced with a confidence built on the knowledge of self, others and the world around us.

2. Nolan Principles

When I was a lad, the Nolan Principles suggested happy, harmonious family values where everything could be right with the world if we were just kind to one another.

Since 1995, the Nolan Principles guide those serving in a public office behave in a way that ensures public trust and confidence: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. Not too far removed from what Anne, Denise, Maureen, Linda, Bernie and Colleen were able to achieve with their cheery brand of 70s pop cuteness although perhaps without the same level of accountability for the use of public funds! Wouldn't it be great if, as leaders, we could enshrine both sets of Nolan Principles in our roles? Although maybe without so much singing.

3. People

By striving to create sustainable working relationships, our roles as parents, teachers, governors, Heads and so on, are greatly enhanced. I have a long-held passion for learning about people: how the brain works, about our social ecology, about language and communication. In understanding people in all their many and glorious forms, we are better placed to work with those around us for the good of the children in our collective care.

I am looking forward to documenting this journey and sharing what I continue to learn about myself, about the people around me and what it requires to lead and manage schools effectively. With maybe the odd song or too along the way!