National Professional Qualification
for Middle Leadership

The NPQML programme has now been discontinued by the Department for Education and has been replaced by three specialist NPQs. Please visit our NPQ page for more information about the currently available NPQs

The National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML) provides recognition of leadership development and professional achievement for middle leaders.

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 face-to-face events.

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. 

NPQML 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?

NPQML is suitable for middle leaders with responsibility for a team including Key Stage leaders, subject leaders, and curriculum leaders, and also heads of department or pastoral leaders.

You can view our programme metrics here.

What are the benefits?

  • Facilitation and support from serving school leaders in outstanding schools
  • Purpose-built virtual learning environment enabled for mobiles and tablets
  • Delivery at local venues
  • Guaranteed support to pass the final assessment
  • Content contextualised for your locality and updated to reflect national developments and legislation
  • Regular progress updates for mentors and headteachers

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 face-to-face events.

Event Content

Each day is facilitated by experienced serving school leaders.

Event 1: Strategy &
• The qualification framework and assessment criteria
• Outcomes of the 360° diagnostic
• School improvement project planning
• Analysing school data and identifying strategies for improvement
• Effective leadership of change strategies
Event 2: Teaching
& Curriculum Excellence
• Reflections on Teaching & Curriculum Excellence
• Applying learning to PISA data 2015
• Considering Prof Robert Coe’s questions about school improvement with impact
• A US Navy model of leadership
• Strategies for managing your own well-being
Event 3: Managing
Resources & Risk
• Assessing individual performance and capability
• Establishing relationships and structures and/or processes to mitigate barriers
• Analysing the financial and staffing implications of plans
• Evaluating the impact and cost-effectiveness of professional development in terms of pupil outcomes

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 NPQML
360 leadership diagnostic 2
Face-to-face events 18
Online courses 60
Online briefings 4
Performance coaching N/A
Exec/Head-led webinars N/A
Peer challenge groups N/A


Leading an improvement project (4,500 words)
Candidates must lead an improvement project within their team, lasting at least two-terms, to a) improve pupil progress and attainment b) the capability of their team. A written account of the project covering the design, implementation and evaluation must then be submitted for assessment.

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 NPQML 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

NPQML Spring 2021 event dates and online course facilitation windows 

Engagement window Programme element
Today – 12/02/2021

NPQ Course Preparation and Welcome Pack Release

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

08/02/2021 – 12/02/2021

Canvas Welcome Message and Login Details Release

[Start of Induction Stage]

01/03/2021 – 26/03/2021

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

(20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

[Start of Development Stage]

26/04/2021 – 07/05/2021

NPQML Face-to-face Event 1 (or Distance Learner Equivalent Activity)

07/06/2021 – 02/07/2021

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

05/07/2021 - 16/07/2021

NPQML Face-to-face Event 2 (or Distance Learner Equivalent Activity)

22/09/2021 – 15/10/2021

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

(20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

06/09/2021 – 17/09/2021

NPQML Face-to-face Event 3 (or Distance Learner Equivalent Activity)

[Start of Final Assessment Stage]

How is it delivered?

Candidates will usually complete the qualification within 12-18 months and benefit from our following learning models:

Our blended learning model

  • three face-to-face training events
  • three guided online courses working alongside peers
  • regular online conferences to support and complement learning
  • access to two 360° leadership skills diagnostics
  • support from a nominated in-school mentor
  • facilitation from serving school leaders in outstanding schools
  • local and flexible access to high-quality leadership training
  • dedicated online tutor to support school improvement project planning
  • mobile-enabled virtual learning environment enabling flexible access to course resources and support community
  • option to accrue 40 credits to contribute towards an MA in Educational Leadership with Chester University

The Online Elements of NPQML:

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



Level 3 Early Years Educator (EYE) Apprenticeship

Early Years Lead Practitioner Level 5