Teachers never stop learning. Those within the educational world always seek to update and widen their knowledge and skill set.
From the start of their career, teachers take part in CPD, respond to feedback, learn from peers and engage in a wide range of courses, which often lead to qualifications. Teachers have a thirst for knowledge about how they can improve their practice.
What are the options?
For those looking to formalise this development, completing a National Professional Qualification (NPQ) or master’s degree provides additional training and gives you a recognised qualification at the end.
Investing in training for leadership is widely seen by academics as essential preparation for readiness to take on more senior roles within education. Neither course should be taken on out of a sense of duty: both courses will require genuine dedication and enthusiasm.
Many providers use online platforms for distance learning. Therefore, teachers should look at the course structure and its accessibility to ensure it can be completed from a distance, at a suitable time for them.
I completed a National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) in 2009 and gained my first headship in the same year. I had been inspired and encouraged by my headteacher while I was a deputy head. The connections I made with peers on the course, and with my placement school, proved invaluable and a constant source of support in my first years as a headteacher.
Currently, I work as head of primary at a school in Hong Kong. I actively encourage staff to undertake a leadership course as, from my experience, it’s incredibly valuable CPD.
How do you know which to pick?
So if both qualifications are respected and rigorous, how does a teacher pick between an NPQ and a masters? We take a closer look at both from the perspective of an international teacher.
What do you study?
The NPQ enables you to take a more in-depth look at your leadership style. Colleagues will complete a 360 diagnostic assessment at the start and end of the NPQ to help you reflect upon and develop your leadership through the course.
The 360 diagnostic gives you a fantastic insight into you as a leader and how you could grow and improve during the course.
An international course facilitator guides you through the online modules covering: leading teaching and learning, developing and leading effective teams, leading on communication, leading strategically and developing partnerships in a global context.
How will you study?
The NPQ set of courses has been developed and redesigned over time. Each is designed for teachers within specific job roles.
The NPQH is designed for those intending to become a headteacher and is perfect for deputy heads, assistant heads and also current heads who wish to upskill themselves. The NPQSL is designed for aspiring or current senior leaders; the NPQML is designed for aspiring or current middle leaders.
The course has clear time frames of 12 to 18 months for completion, so plan carefully. For the international applicant, there are usually five face-to-face days mixed with online learning.
What are the benefits?
A vital aspect of the NPQH course, and key difference from both NPQML and NPQSL, is that you have an experienced coach. The coach helps you to further your thinking to find solutions. They do not provide answers but they do enable you to think about how to solve problems and develop school improvement.
Providers for international candidates tailor the course to international school leaders and the school improvement challenges they face. You get to work alongside peers during online modules and benefit from a mentor within your school.
An NPQ course is very practical. The NPQH contains two assessed school improvement projects, which are linked to the school development plan. One is based in the candidate’s school and one in a placement school. The NPQML requires a cross-team project and NPQSL requires one school project.
NPQ International Providers
What will you study?
Master’s degrees (MAs) are postgraduate courses designed to prepare educators to pursue their career in a range of educational settings. This can be wide-ranging and not solely exclusive to schools or headship.
Similarly to NPQH, teachers who are interested in an MA need to find a course that allows them to select and specialise in specifically chosen areas, within an international setting. It is a good idea to research providers carefully and check what previous students felt about their experience.
MAs are time-consuming and costly. Therefore, it is better to begin with a good idea of how the course will run, what area of study you might wish to research and how you might go about it.
How will you study?
Your study will enable you to take an in-depth look into action research and research of peers. By undertaking a master’s degree, you will be required to apply the conceptual, theoretical and methodological advances in social sciences and humanities to do an analysis of aspects of international educational institutions and their policies.
Master’s degrees typically have two-year time frames, but this can vary. If you’re not dedicated and following a schedule, there can be a temptation to stop and start.
You will complete different modules during your studies. There will be set modules and some to choose from. Be aware: there will be deadline’s to meet and careful time management is critical to enable you to research and form your thinking.
As highlighted before, providers are now using technology to enable international students to complete their MA from other countries. They are using online modules and video conferencing. Online modules will provide video clips, links to educational articles to encourage reflection and response.
Having spoken to colleagues who have completed their MAs, they said developing a good working relationship with your tutor is essential. They will give you honest feedback and advice.
The final piece of work for your MA is your thesis and here it is important to ensure the focus of the thesis is rooted in key areas for development in your school. Once completed, your thesis will give you a huge sense of achievement, and empowerment will make the time worth it.
What are the benefits?
Having spoken to colleagues who have completed their MAs, it is clear that they come with immense personal satisfaction and a massive sense of achievement. It develops your thinking and understanding in the educational field.
Choose your focus for your master’s carefully; it needs to interest you. Think about the area within the educational field you want to specialise or develop. The MA will help you understand your school better and how the children, staff and parents feel.
You will improve your knowledge of education through extensive reading and research. It will help develop you as a teacher, middle/senior leader or as a headteacher. Increasingly a master’s degree is on the desired criteria of the job section form, especially in the international world.
A worthwhile investment
Preparing yourself for school leadership is worth investing in. You are going to be working with teams that inspire and enable young people and school communities for the future.
There isn’t any getting away from it – whether you do an NPQ or an MA, it is going to be time-consuming and costly. However, the good news is that whichever course you pick you can be sure that that it will be worth it and rewarding. Both courses provide a range of opportunities for you to grow and develop in flexible ways that suit different learners at different points and places in their career.