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In this blog series, we shine a spotlight on the NPQ courses we have on offer in partnership with Teach First, including showcasing some of our fantastic programme members.



Growing Together NPQ Spotlight - Dawn Barlow-ward

Today’s post is a spotlight on… the NPQH (Headship) with Dawn Barlow-Ward who is a School Improvement Partner for Aldridge Education.


We are delighted to have Dawn in the spotlight today. As well as being a facilitator on the NPQ for Leading Literacy (and featured in the Teach First course materials!), she has recently embarked on her own NPQ journey with the NPQH.  

What drew you to work in the education profession? 
I didn’t always want to work in the Education sector. I originally had a vision of training to be an interpreter and so studied German at College. Unfortunately, I had one of those experiences where my teacher was very clear that I wouldn’t make it. I ended up passing German despite this, but it really made me second guess my ability to achieve this outcome. Fortunately, I had a really positive role model at high school. This was my English teacher. She was strict but always fair. She helped me learn to love English as a subject. More than that though, she was also a good person who encouraged me to achieve my potential in English. Because of her, I decided to continue with English, alongside languages, at college.

This thread of continuing with English continued into University and I started a degree in Drama/film. It was a new course and interested me because it was about the theory of film – deconstructing mixed media using theory and then re-creating it based on theory. One of the units was focused on using drama and film to teach in schools and, because the university I was at also did 4-year subject/PGCE pathways, I was surrounded by teachers in the making. This became a focus for me, and I found that it was a part of the course that I loved and thrived at.

Following a bad car accident in my first year, I had to start again and enrol closer to home. By this stage, I was clear about what I wanted to do. I completed a PGCE in English, Drama and Media and have never looked back. To this day, I am thankful to my Secondary English teacher for making me see the power that a good teacher can have and that has always stuck with me.

Why did you want to complete an NPQ? 
To be able to close gaps in my own knowledge and skill. The NPQH is going to help me with really specific areas that I would like to learn and grow in. It’s not that I am looking to be a principal in the next two years; it’s more that I want to be able to support the people I work with in the most informed way. The NPQH will help me to do that. I feel lucky that the people facilitating my course are experts in their areas so this NPQ at this particular time is exactly what I want as I know it will help me take the next step in my own expertise.

How has your NPQ impacted on your work in school? 

It’s early days yet! From a different perspective though, being in a very privileged to be able to support the facilitation of the NPQLL. This is valuable to me and has had an impact on my work. The way that the modules are broken down and the theory that I engage with regularly makes me smarter in my work, even though I am not on the course as a participant. I consider it excellent professional development for myself, and I am growing in my delivery skills (and also my ability to use the technology better). I like the way the course is set up, and now that I am on an NPQ myself, it is familiar for me and so I feel quite lucky that I get to experience it from both sides.

What are you hoping to do next with what you have learnt from the course? 

I want to apply it to my current role. I want to be better equipped to support the colleagues that I work with. I want to be able to take the up-to-date research and apply it to my work with more confidence and clarity.

What is your biggest piece of advice for someone who is considering applying to the course? 

Decide what it is you want to gain from it. Looking at the modules and the breakdown of the course helps. I have enjoyed my experience so far, both as a facilitator and a participant. Working with Teach First has been another great experience and so I know that each course has been really well researched and thought through. This gives me confidence that I am going to get great benefit from completing my NPQ. My advice would be, if it’s going to have a positive impact on you and/or your career, do it!


Dawn will be continuing her NPQH until spring 2025. She is also a co-facilitator for cohort 3b of the NPQLL launching in February 2024 – we still have places to join and share in Dawn’s wisdom!

Does this sound like the next step in your career? Or could there be a different leadership course for you? Find out more information about our courses and how to apply here: or get in touch with a member of the Growing Together team at

By joining one of our NPQ courses, educators can unlock their leadership potential and make a significant impact on education, empowering students and shaping the future of learning. We offer a range of NPQ courses, including NPQLT (Leading Teaching), NPQLL (Leading Literacy), NPQLTD (Leading Teacher Development), NPQLBC (Leading Behaviour and Culture), NPQSL (Senior Leadership), and NPQH (Headship).

So, no matter where you are in your career, we have a course that's right for you. 

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