National Professional Qualification
for Executive Leadership
Our application window for Autumn 2020 is open.
Apply now to secure your place.
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.
Groups are hosted by our national network of trust and teaching school partners and finalised following the registration deadline. You can view a map of our previous group locations to find where your nearest group is likely to be.
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.
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?
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.
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
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
|360 leadership diagnostic||3|
|Peer challenge groups||Peer-led|
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.
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 18 months of starting the qualification
NPQEL Autumn 2020 face-to-face event dates and online course facilitation windows
|05/10/2020 – 11/10/2020||
NPQ Welcome Message & Introductory Briefing Recordings Release
(Official Start of Engagement with Induction Activities)
02/11/2020 – 15/11/2020
NPQEL Face-to-face Event 1&2
|16/11/2020 – 20/11/2020||Strategy & Improvement Online Course Facilitation Window (20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)|
|04/01/2021 – 17/01/2021||NPQEL Face-to-face Event 3|
|18/01/2021 – 14/02/2021||Teaching & Curriculum Excellence Online Course Facilitation Window
(20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)
|15/03/2021 – 28/03/2021||NPQEL Face-to-face Event 4|
|19/04/2021 – 16/05/2021||Managing Resources & Risks Online Course Facilitation Window (20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)|
|05/07/2021 – 18/07/2021||NPQEL Face-to-face Event 5&6|
|23/08/2021 – 06/09/2021||1st Final Assessment Submission Window|
|03/01/2022 – 24/01/2022||2nd Final Assessment Submission Window|
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||
How to apply
Please complete the online registration form in the right-hand bar to apply for a place.
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
Candidates from schools that sit within a Category 5 or Category 6 area are eligible for fully funded DfE scholarships. Candidates from schools within MATs or dioceses where at least one school sits within a Category 5 or Category 6 area are also eligible. Contact us with the name and address of your school and we will be glad to look up the Category of your school.
The DfE has put no limit on how many scholarships can be claimed per school. However, we encourage schools to ensure they have sufficient capacity to provide each colleague with a school-based mentor, a suitable school improvement project they could individually lead on, and ensure they have the capacity to support colleagues being out of school for the face-to-face events.
If you are eligible for a scholarship simply enter "Fully funded by scholarship/government funding"in the invoicing section of the application portal (as per the below image). Our back-office team will then apply to the DfE for your scholarship. In this instance, the rest of this section can be left blank.
No. If you work in a school which is in a Category 5 or Category 6 area neither you nor your school will be invoiced. Once your application has been accepted we will immediately apply to the DfE for the scholarship.
DfE funding for the National Professional Qualifications is available to leaders or aspiring leaders in schools located in Category 5 and Category 6 areas. These are areas with persistent underperformance, where not enough children have access to a high-quality school place and where there is insufficient capacity to drive improvement.
This is part of an ongoing initiative by the DfE to strive for excellence in deprived areas of England. You can find out more information about how these areas were determined in this DfE publication.
Groups & Locations
We will always endeavour to let you know of your group arrangements and course schedule no longer than 2 weeks after the recruitment window has closed. However, if recruitment demands are high and/or the application window is extended (which you’d be made aware of), the date of this course arrangements’ announcement is subject to change.
Candidates who feel their group allocations are not sufficiently convenient are free to change group or withdraw from the course at no expense to themselves. We also have a distance learning model that allows candidates to complete the qualifications by attending webinars and taking part in online discussions instead of the face-to-face events (see Distance Learning Model below).
Distance Learning Model
The Distance Learning Groups engage with additional online activities and briefings in lieu of attending face-to-face events. Overseas candidates are grouped according to time zones to meet each learner’s scheduling needs. The online replication of each training event involves:
- 1 hour online briefing covering the key learning and introducing the supporting activities
- 2 weeks of online activity - Completing a selection of activities covering key themes and ideas of the face-to-face events
The web conferences and online discussion activities will typically fall 1 or 2 weeks after each training event has been held. As such, you will virtually be on the same schedule to complete the course.
Your time-frames for final assessment would remain unchanged at 18 months and you would still be expected to engage with, and complete, the three essential online courses alongside other candidates.
NPQML & NPQSL: You will need support from, and access to, a school setting, as a key requirement to be offered a place in the qualification. Furthermore, as part of your NPQML/SL qualification, you are required to work closely with an in-school mentor. Your mentor will be critical in providing support, advice and feedback as you work on your school improvement project. All candidate applications must be supported through the completion of a Headteacher Declaration, this declaration must be signed by your Headteacher and confirms that they support your place on the training and will provide the necessary time and support needed to successfully complete the qualification.
NPQH & NPQEL: You will need to be supported by a sponsor who will be closely involved in supporting your application to join the qualification, your subsequent development and in the final assessment process. This should be someone with a detailed and thorough professional knowledge of your work and professional characteristics as well as the demands of headship, the associated leadership behaviours and the requirements of the content areas. For example, your existing Headteacher (NPQH), Executive Head, School Improvement Partner, or the Chair of your accounting body.
We at the Outstanding Leaders Partnership pride ourselves on the support we offer our candidates. For the entirety of your leadership journey you will be supported by the following members of the team:
|Title||Purpose of role|
|Facilitator||To facilitate face-to-face training events,
which consolidate the learning undertaken online and during in-school activity.
|Online Tutor||To support you through your online learning
experience; ensuring you are active and engaged in the programme.
|Coach (NPQH and EL)||To provide expert coaching to participants
throughout their qualification.
|Mentor||To provide support, guidance as well as
challenge you, ensuring you have the capacity to complete your qualification.
|Assessor||Undertake an assessment of the final written
submission and supporting evidence.
|Candidate and Partner Support (CAPS) Team||All logistical support queries (events, resources, groups, dates etc.) should be directed to the Candidate and Partner Support (CAPS) Team at Best Practice Network (firstname.lastname@example.org).|
Our NPQs are delivered through a blended learning model consisting of a combination of face-to-face events, online courses & briefings and, for NPQH and NPQEL candidates, individual performance coaching. A detailed breakdown of the guided learning hours candidates can expect can be found in our soon to be published qualification specifications, but overall candidates will receive the following:
|Qualification||Guided learning hours|
An NPQ certificate branded by the DfE*
*if you do not have a valid TRN you will still receive an NPQ certificate but not branded by the DfE.