National Professional Qualification
for Executive Leadership

NPQ applications for Spring 2021 are now closed. 

If you would like to express an interest in joining our Autumn 2021 intake, please click the 'Express Interest' button and complete the short form. 

The National Professional Qualification for Executive Leadership (NPQEL) provides an opportunity for headteachers taking the next step to executive leadership with responsibility for more than one school and enables candidates to take strategic responsibility for leading across several schools.

Overseeing multiple schools with different cultures, priorities and challenges requires a different set of leadership skills than those required of a headteacher. Accessing peer support, specialised knowledge and experience from other sectors, as well as the support and challenge of executive coaching, can make the transition much easier.

Due to social distancing guidelines, NPQ face-to-face events are currently being delivered online through facilitated online workshops, extra tutor support and study packs, find out more

Although face-to-face events are currently suspended until a review in the summer, candidates will still be grouped according to either their location or the delivery partner they signed up with. 

NPQEL is recognised as a contribution towards entry onto a full Masters programme. Find out more about the credit exemptions available here.

Who is this for?

NPQEL is suitable for colleagues aspiring to, or already in, leadership roles across more than one school. This includes headteachers, executive headteachers, and directors of school improvement.

To find out more about the NPQs that we offer and to see a side-by-side comparison, please click here. 

You can view our programme metrics here.

What are the benefits?

The fully blended learning approach with HEI backed content (meaning that participants can put their NPQEL work towards postgraduate qualifications with a university), combined with executive coaching and enrichment activity from within and outside the education sector, make this an exciting and valuable opportunity for executive leaders.

Benefits for candidates

  • National and international networking
  • Increased awareness and understanding of self and of the behaviours needed to lead across multiple organisations
  • Time to reflect on leadership practice and ability to check learning and development needs
  • Increased capability and capacity to take on a multi-school organisation - having the skills, knowledge and understanding to do the job more effectively

Benefits for schools

      • Increased national partnership opportunities and insight into the systems, sectors and sources of effective leadership practice
      • Increased commitment to building relationships with a range of stakeholders within the organisation and the wider community
      • A professionally aware and informed leader who can make evidence-based strategic decisions and approach new challenges in an effective and efficient manner
      • The ability to review and evaluate practice in order to bring about change and get the best for young people and staff within the organisation


    Why did you sign up for the NPQEL with OLP?

    What has been a highlight of the NPQEL programme for you?

    Has the programme made a difference to you personally as a leader in terms of behaviour?

    One element of the NPQEL is the cross-school project – could you please tell me about your school improvement project?

    Programme outline

    Qualification Schedule

    Please note, due to current guidelines from the DfE Spring 2021 starters will now have to complete their NPQ within 12-15 months. 

    Qualification Content

    The qualification covers 6 content areas which set out what a leader should know or should be able to do and 7 leadership behaviours which set out how the best leaders operate. The content areas have been embedded within 3 online courses, with the leadership behaviours explored during the facilitated events.

    Event Content

    Each day is facilitated by two experienced facilitators with support from experienced executive leaders.

    Residential (Day 1) • Qualification insights, qualification organisation, and development expectations
    • Navigating the transition from school leader to executive leader role
    • Characteristics and context of executive leadership
    • Reshaping self to meet the characteristics of the role in the light of the 360 diagnostic
    • Developing collaborative approaches to school improvement projects
    Residential (Day 2) • Understanding the range of organisational structures involved in complex organisations
    • Challenges for sustainability and growth: leaders’ first years in executive leadership
    • Answering 2 big questions: what are the strategic challenges? Have we sufficient personal capacity/competence?
    • Effective workforce: creating a sense of belonging and identity with autonomy
    • Using informed research as an evidence base to guide strategic change direction
    Strategy &
    Improvement (Day 3)
    • Models of strategic school improvement emerging from multi-school organisations motivating
    and uniting a wide range of people across organisations around visionary goals
    • Identifying and developing an organisational structure to achieve cross-organisation goals
    • Finding the right approach to raise and sustain standards: building a clear business development strategy
    • Creating strong partnerships beyond the organisation to drive improvement
    Teaching & Curriculum
    Excellence (Day 4)
    • Embedding a well-articulated vision for school improvement
    • Trust-wide data systems: tracking progress and performance, and reporting on
    the impact of the provision on pupil outcomes
    • Using international research and evidence to create strategies for improving groups of schools
    • Quality assurance and accountability for provision excellence
    • Appreciative enquiry: maintaining positivity and creativity alongside accountability
    Residential (Day 5)
    • Financial sustainability
    • Organisation accountability and governance
    • Managing and deploying talent: succession and capacity building
    Residential (Day 6)
    • Curriculum modelling and efficient staffing structures
    • Maximising resources in support of organisational well-being
    • Risk leadership
    • Professional growth and executive leadership development
    • Project assessment readiness

    Online Course Content

    Strategy & Improvement Teaching & Curriculum Excellence Managing Resources & Risk
    Module 1 Context for change & strategic development Context for change - teaching & learning reality Financial efficiency & effectiveness
    Module 2 Creating the vision & strategic improvement environment Creating the learning culture for effective teaching and learning and curriculum opportunity Accountability & Governance

    School-led partnership and impact
    Module 3 Establishing credible relationships & effective collaboration Growing talent and quality momentum Staffing recruitment, retention and performance
    Module 4 Transforming the culture for improvement & impact Transforming lives and opportunities for improvement and impact Transforming schools through school-led
    partnership and impact

    Guideline Study Hours Breakdown

    Component NPQEL
    360 leadership diagnostic 3
    Face-to-face events 36
    Online courses 60
    Online briefings 4
    Performance coaching 6
    Exec/Head-led webinars 6
    Peer challenge groups Peer-led
    TOTAL 115


    Task 1
    Candidates must design a sustainable business development strategy for their organisation, analysing the benefits, costs and risks of different options. They must then present their chosen strategy to their governing board and submit a written account of the project covering the design, implementation and evaluation.

    Task 2
    Candidates must lead a project to improve progress and attainment in several schools. They must present their plans to a group of relevant stakeholders and submit a written account of the project covering the design, implementation and evaluation.

    Project scripts and supporting evidence are assessed in accordance with a mark scheme provided by the DfE and are subject to national moderation.

    In order to achieve NPQEL candidates must:

    • complete 3 online courses and associated core tasks 
    • engage with practice-based events
    • pass final assessment within 15 months of starting the qualification

    NPQEL Spring 2021 event dates and online course facilitation windows. 

    Engagement window Programme element
    Today – 05/02/2021

    NPQ Course Preparation and Welcome Pack Release

    (Official start of Engagement with Preparation Activities)
    [Start of Preparation Stage]

    01/02/2021 – 05/02/2021

    Canvas Welcome Message and Login Details Release

    [Start of Induction Stage]

    08/02/2021 - 12/02/2021

    01/03/2021 - 05/03/2021

    NPQEL Face-to-face Event 1

    [Start of Development Stage]

    08/03/2021 – 02/04/2021

    Strategy and Improvement (S&I) Online Course Facilitation Window

    (20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

    26/04/2021 – 07/05/2021

    NPQEL Face-to-face Event 2

    14/06/2021 - 09/07/2021

    Teaching and Curriculum Excellence (T&CE) Online Course Facilitation Window
    (20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

    06/09/2021 – 17/09/2021

    NPQEL Face-to-face Event 3

    22/09/2021 – 15/10/2021

    Managing Resources and Risks (MR&R) Online Course Facilitation Window

    (20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

    18/10/2021 – 22/10/2021

    01/11/2021 – 05/11/2021

    NPQEL Face-to-Face Event 4

    15/11/2021 – 26/11/2021

    NPQEL Face-to-face Event 5

    [Start of Final Assessment Stage]

    How is it delivered?

    Candidates will form Peer Leadership Challenge Groups and undertake a joint improvement project which will then lead on to a course of study that will incorporate the key skills around strategic planning, organisation change and business development required of executive leaders. The focus will be on developing leadership behaviours of commitment, collaboration, personal drive, resilience, awareness, integrity and respect.

    The three modules, each facilitated within a 4-week period, are:

    • Strategy and Improvement
    • Teaching and Curriculum Excellence
    • Managing Resources and Risks

    The NPQEL is delivered through a flexible combination of blended learning, face-to-face support, peer group support, a dedicated personal tutor and leadership coaching. The learning materials have been designed and developed by leading experts, both within the education sector and the wider business sector, and form a challenging portfolio of effective executive practice.

    Our blended learning model

    Candidates can benefit from the following online learning as part of our blended learning model:

    What does it cost?

    School Type Fee payable
    All state-maintained schools, academies and independent schools in the UK


    International schools

    Click here

    How to apply

    NPQ applications for Spring 2021 are now closed. If you'd like to express an interest in joining our Autumn 2021 intake, please click the 'Express Interest' button in the right-hand column and complete the short form. 

    You will be asked to upload the following as part of your registration:

    It will save time if you have this before you start your online registration.

    DfE Scholarship Funding

    Groups & Locations

    Distance Learning Model

    Eligibility Requirements