National Award for Middle Leaders (NAML)

Middle leaders have an essential role in translating the school’s vision into practice and are often described as the ‘engine room’ of school improvement. Outstanding schools have high-quality middle leaders and seek to continuously develop and build these individuals into high-performing teams.

The National Award for Middle Leaders (NAML) offers ten course modules for delivering the foundations of successful leadership. These modules cover all the key middle leadership responsibilities.

The NAML is certificated by SSAT and provides routes to Masters level accreditation through the University of Nottingham and Lead Practitioner Accreditation through a 30 CAT points exemption for participants completing a minimum of 5 modules. Participating middle leaders are expected to complete a school improvement project and professional learning journal to evidence the impact of course learning.

To book module training, please complete an expression of interest form.
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Course modules

  1. Vision and values
  2. Developing your leadership approach
  3. Building a high-performing team
  4. Leading your team day-to-day
  5. What makes the most effective teaching and learning?
  6. Observation for improvement
  7. Using data for impact
  8. Fostering positive behaviour for learning
  9. Leading and managing innovation and change
  10. Supporting your team

Vision and Values

For an aspiring or existing leader in education, identifying and communicating vision is crucial to determining school and team success. The vision represents the aspirations of the school and summarises what it would like to achieve, securing its overall direction and development. A well-communicated vision radiates possibility, creating hope and belief in a better future. Educational research and inspections of schools have shown that where others commit to sharing a vision or purpose, the group as a whole achieve more than the sum of their individual parts.

The essence of leadership and team building is to serve a common purpose. A well-articulated and shared vision provides the framework for this to happen. It encapsulates the belief that the job is worth doing, with common approaches and goals increasing overall accountability and improving harmony. As a result teams are led to spectacular and well-deserved success.

A vision does not occur in a vacuum, it is the consequence of deeply held values that motivate and drive our actions.  The moral purpose of education is what brings most teachers (hopefully all!) into the profession. At its heart education is a moral activity and keeping this in view can energise and sustain us through the ups and downs, changes of policy and accountability pressures.  Our values are what we should keep coming back to and evaluate our decisions against.

Aims of the session:

      • To recognise the importance of a vision, that it affects all a school or team does
      • To consider the vision for the school, how this relates to its context, journey and stakeholder values
      • To formulate and further develop your vision for your own area in light of the above
      • To explore values as the source and underpinning of vision and moral purpose
      • To reflect on your own personal and professional values

Developing your leadership approach

The role of the middle leader is central in taking forward the continued development of learning and teaching in schools.

Middle leaders and the staff in the teams they lead are the engines for schools improvement. The focus in module is on leadership rather than management, because it is the effectiveness with which leaders lead their staff that determines the extent to which the vision and goals of the school and team are achieved.

Leadership implies ‘followership’, and this session will look at key concepts which school leaders need to understand and put into operation if they are to lead the learning and teaching of their staff and students effectively. It will cover the Hay McBer research on leadership styles and associated leadership characteristics and the research and practice into learning centred leadership.

Aims of the session:

      • To consider research into leadership styles and leadership characteristics and its implications for the practice of leadership in schools
      • To analyse the link between leadership styles, leadership characteristics and their impact on the organisation and the staff who work there
      • To consider the implications of this learning for your own immediate professional development in your role

Building a high performance team

Effective leaders know that they cannot lead and take forward their school on their own. The scale of the task is too large and too complex. It requires a variety of colleagues in different roles and with a range of skills and qualities.

For an aspiring or existing leader in education, identifying and communicating vision is crucial to determining school and team success. The vision represents the aspirations of the school and summarises what it would like to achieve, securing its overall direction and development. A well-communicated vision radiates possibility, creating hope and belief in a better future. Educational research and inspections of schools have shown that where others commit to sharing a vision or purpose, the group as a whole achieve more than the sum of their individual parts.

The essence of leadership and team building is to serve a common purpose. A well-articulated and shared vision provides the framework for this to happen. It encapsulates the belief that the job is worth doing, with common approaches and goals increasing overall accountability and improving harmony. As a result teams are led to spectacular and well-deserved success.

Effective leaders know that they have to work with and through others. They also know that people work better when they are not working in isolation but are part of an effective team. Effective teams are therefore essential to the continued development of an organisation and the professional growth of its members.

Aims of the session:

      • To understand the characteristics of effective teams and why teams are important to organisations
      • To evaluate and improve the effectiveness of the team you currently lead
      • To consider concepts theory on effective teams
      • To analyse the traits and behaviours of you and your team and how that can be managed to maximise performance

Leading your team day-to-day

Middle leaders must work strategically to implement vision on a daily basis. This requires careful reflection on all the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of middle leaders which can then help in scheduling and prioritising key actions.

For an aspiring or existing leader in education, learning to manage time well is crucial to planning work efficiently and ensuring deadlines are met. Good time management leads to a better work-life balance and reduced stress. The key to successfully managing time lies in the planning and then the protecting of the planned time, which often involves re-assessing ourselves, our environments, and particularly the expectations of others. Time management enables each of us to improve and be more productive and fulfilled individually, so logically the effects across entire teams are enormous.

Effective leaders need to be able to make good decisions. If this is done in a timely and well-considered way, then their teams can be lead to spectacular and well-deserved success. However, if there is a tendency to dither or make poor decisions, teams drift with accountability and performance severely compromised. Good time management and decision-making skills ensure leaders are effective, teams are skilfully coached and accountability is understood; so overall performance should be assured.

As an aspiring or existing leader in education, learning to chair and manage meetings effectively is crucial not only to your leadership credibility but also to meeting objectives, ensuring ownership of decisions made and enabling accountability to be clear and unequivocal. Where meetings are poorly run through bad planning, outcomes will not be met, resulting in confusion, low team incentive and reduced morale. This will, inevitably, impact on performance. Like good time management, well chaired meetings lead to a better work-life balance and reduced stress, and ensure more efficient use of time for all within the team. Effective chairing of meetings leads to robust decisions being made, which in turn contributes to a school’s overall success.

Aims of the session:

      • To consider the day-to-day role(s) of the middle leader
      • To develop a strategic approach to leadership and management
      • To recognise and ensure effective use of time and decision making for both you and your teams in order to improve planning, prioritising and performance
      • To understand how your personal leadership characteristics contribute to how you lead others
      • To understand the benefits of preparation, planning and follow-up in meetings

What makes the most effective teaching and learning?

It is clear from national and international research as well as from practice, that in order for the learning and teaching in schools to continue to develop, and students’ achievement and attainment to improve, learning and teaching has to be the core focus for school leaders. That should drive everything that leaders in schools do. It is for that reason that the most successful schools and school leaders are those who have this as their focus. This requires school leaders to have their own deep understanding about what outstanding learning and teaching looks like, and as importantly, to know what action to take as a leader to take forward the learning and teaching of staff and students in their school.

Aims of the session:

      • Set high expectations to inspire, challenge and motivate
      • Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils
      • Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge
      • Plan and teach well-structured lessons
      • Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of pupils
      • Make accurate and productive use of assessment
      • Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment
      • Fulfil wider professional responsibilities

Observation for improvement

Middle leaders are the key bridge between senior leaders and classroom practitioners. It is vital that they share messages and improvement information between the two groups. Their focus must be on making their area (subject department; pastoral team; TAs or other teams) be the best that they can so that pupils are supported and nurtured to achieve the best possible outcomes both in terms of skills and progress.

Aims of the session:

      • To have an overview of what the middle leader can do to ensure ongoing improvement in their area
      • To understand how to use lesson observation to improve teaching and learning
      • To know how to use Ofsted information to support improvement planning
      • To understand what mechanisms can be used to effectively monitor and evaluate the quality of teaching
      • To be clear about the relationship between performance management/ appraisal, CPD and area and school self-evaluation.

Using data for impact

It is clear from national and international research as well as from practice that in order for learning and teaching in schools to continue to develop, and students’ achievement and attainment to improve, then tracking students’ progress data and using this to inform planning and intervention is essential.

Teachers and leaders need to know where all their students are, where they should be, and how to act in order to maximise their learning and achievement. Particularly now, with annual tectonic shifts in the educational landscape, including: KS4 assessment and qualifications reform; KS5 qualifications and assessment reform; accountability; national curriculum; and funding, finance, pay and performance (to name but a few).

School leaders are constantly striving to stay above water in tracking and reporting on their students

Aims of the session:

      • To be able to understand the key aspects of the most commonly used data found in schools
      • To be clear about current changes and their implications
      • To be able to understand how to use data to inform planning and intervention at middle leader level that will lead to improved outcomes
      • To be able to apply this learning to the role of the middle leader

Fostering positive behaviour for learning

There is evidence, both anecdotal and research based, indicating that the most effective schools are those that identify and provide a variety of learning strategies for their students. A system focused on attaining standardised assessment results in itself will not provide for the building of ‘character’ in young people or the lifelong learning skills required for them to function in modern society. A focus on a raft of personal learning skills which will include 21st century skills, critical thinking etc. are key to students become self-regulating, independent learners.

Teachers must understand and be able to recognise the traits of effective learners; and provide opportunities for learners to work actively and collaboratively with a clear purpose. They should ensure the learning process is explicit in at least equal measure to knowledge and understanding.

Aims of the session:

      • To enable participants to articulate clearly their own understanding and beliefs about effective learning behaviours
      • To consider pedagogical research which informs the learning process and benefits of metacognition
      • To develop their understanding of the classroom strategies which engender effective learners
      • To be able to apply knowledge and understanding of effective learners to nurture and develop specific learner traits in their own departments/context

Leading and managing the innovation of change

Learning organisations need to be self-improving and to look for new ways to do things in order to do them better. Innovation should not be for innovation’s sake, but to bring improvement. Sometimes this means changing something that is good to do it even better.

Possibly the only certain thing about the future is that change will be constant and unrelenting. So effective leaders need to know how to lead their organisations in that environment. We also know that standing still is not an option. Organisations that do not continue to develop go backwards. Even if an organisation is relatively high performing, to maintain that level of performance requires constant development.

It follows then that senior leaders need not only to understand the changes and developments that their organisation is and will experience, both internally and externally, but they also need to know how to be effective ‘change leaders’. Not just in terms of responding to changes ‘imposed’ from outside but also how to lead the changes and development which they feel are necessary for their team and/or organisation. This is crucial because the negative effect on an organisation and its staff and clients if the leaders are not able to manage and lead change effectively are significant.

This module is an opportunity to open up some initial thinking and reflection about the change process.

Aims of the session:

      • To reflect on the meaning of innovation and why it is important
      • To better understand the process change in order lead and manage more effectively
      • To have an understanding and awareness of the main themes leaders need to consider when leading in a period of rapid change
      • To have considered specifically the work of key writers about managing change
      • To focus on the specific changes colleagues are currently leading and managing in their role, analyse the strategies they are currently using and consider how they may need to be modified and further developed

Supporting your team

An effective leader in education recognises the need to create a culture of collaborative learning and continuous improvement in performance in order to be assured of organisational success.

Leaders who understand the principles of coaching and mentoring foster such an approach, which assumes competence and promotes further improvement, focusing on future possibilities rather than past mistakes. Good coaching and mentoring programmes provide models of effectiveness rather than models of deficiency, and look to shift thinking rather than superficially fix problems. Such models create a culture of ownership and a proper understanding of accountability that is both supportive and challenging. An effective leader who understands the principles of good coaching and mentoring not only builds capacity and ensures sustainability within the organisation, but also enables others to realise their potential by helping them to take responsibility, be accountable and apply these principles to their working practices.

It is clear, from national and international research as well as from practice, that what John Hattie says is true: ‘Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this impact can be either positive or negative.’ Here, he refers to the impact on pupil learning, but the same is undoubtedly true when considering staff development and the continual professional learning of teachers.

Aims of the session:

      • To develop coaching and mentoring techniques, applying them to workplace situations as appropriate
      • To investigate how high performance teams encourage and manage challenge positively
      • To better understand difficult conversations and feedback as tools for continuous improvement
      • To link support and challenge in a high performing team with continuous professional development and performance management

More information:

SSAT professional development modules are designed to the highest quality and backed up by rigorous research. We know schools have limited opportunities to deliver training to staff so it is important for PD days and twilight sessions to have maximum impact with minimal travel or cover costs and no disruption to learning. You can select and combine the modules which are best suited to your needs and priorities and ensure you are providing the professional development your staff need.

Each module begins with a two hour training session delivered by an experienced SSAT trainer who will come to you. Also included with each module is a range of supporting resources and post-training tasks and activities which will support you in applying the training to the context of your school, ensuring you are able to go on to embed the learning into your everyday practice

Modules can be delivered to cohorts of up to 25 teachers.

The cost of this bespoke training is dependent on the number of modules you book and how you choose to have these delivered. We recognise schools have unique needs so we encourage you to have a look at the full suite of 27 modules we have on offer covering the key areas of Teaching and Learning, Leadership and Curriculum to build a series of twilight sessions or PD days that cover exactly the areas you need to address, allowing a more efficient programme for your school.

Further information about all of the modules available can be found here

For more information you can contact a member of the team by calling 0207 802 2300 or emailing schoolimprovement@ssatuk.co.uk

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