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Using the national model of professional learning to plan high quality professional learning programmes

Last August, I left my substantive post as a headteacher in a large primary school, to start a secondment as the Leadership Lead within North Lanarkshire Council’s Scottish Attainment Challenge team. One of the first projects I was asked to undertake was to create and oversee a new leadership framework.

For several years, North Lanarkshire Council had been using the services of an external educational consultancy company to deliver all leadership programmes. Effective as these programmes were, I recognised that there was a wealth of talent, knowledge and expertise within the Council that could be utilised to deliver our own bespoke leadership programme. This, to me, was crucial as we are a large authority with a high level of deprivation, therefore topics such as equity had to feature prominently in any leadership framework.

After identifying a range of key personnel to assist with the planning and presentation of the programme, together we undertook a large consultation exercise with a range of stakeholders. Three distinct programmes were subsequently planned: a Principal Teacher Leadership Course, a Depute Head Teacher Leadership Course and a Head Teacher Leadership Course.

Based on research and discussion, we agreed core content and themes to be included within the course. We also had firm ideas of what the courses should ‘look like’ in terms of format, delivery, activities, expectations etc. However, we consciously left some flexibility so that further content could be added following the consultation process. 

Cohort 1 of each of the three courses ran in the academic session 2019-2020, as we were keen to get these up and running as quickly as possible. Our plan was to use ongoing feedback from each cohort to shape future courses for subsequent years.

However, knowing from experience the massive, positive impact that high quality professional learning can have on skills, knowledge and practice, I was really keen that our new leadership framework wasn’t ‘more of the same’ and that it was somehow quality assured or measured.

Enter the national model of professional learning! Working with the presenters, we used the model as a self-evaluation tool in the same way we would have used other self-evaluation tools, eg How good is our school? 4, to measure our new framework against a nationally recognised model and approach to professional learning.

It was a game changer and really made us rethink certain aspects. On a positive note, it confirmed that most of our original course content, themes, format and delivery would stand up well against the model, but it also made us realise that there were other areas that we needed to strengthen, moving forward.

Two of the key areas that we adapted, as a result of this self-evaluation, were collaboration and enquiry. Although collaboration was a feature in each course via built-in discussion time, what we hadn’t considered was how to ensure inter-sessional collaboration. Next session, we have added in inter-sessional challenge questions via Microsoft Teams to ensure an ongoing culture of collaboration exists within cohorts.

Reflecting against the model also made us realise that enquiry could be a much stronger feature. From next session, each cohort will be guided to adopt an enquiry stance and identify a suitable project that they can take forward within their establishment.

We found the national model of professional learning very useful, constructive and ultimately influential in our framework design. We believe our experience of reflecting against it has made our framework stronger and more focussed and we feel upskilled in the principles of andragogy as a result.

New courses are planned next session and our three existing courses will ultimately sit within a progressive leadership framework that will cater for everyone from class teachers to systems leaders. Needless to say, we will use the national model of professional learning again to ensure that any new courses within the framework fit well with the model.