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The National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML) is accredited by the Department for Education (DfE). The qualification is delivered by the Outstanding Leaders Partnership (OLP), a collaborative partnership of schools, teaching school alliances and multi-academy trusts, managed and supported by Best Practice Network.

Entry Requirements

NPQML is for those who are, or are aspiring to become, a middle leader with responsibility for leading a team such as a key stage leader, a curriculum area leader, a pastoral services leader, a subject leader or a head of department. This includes those who are, or are aspiring to become, middle leaders with cross-school responsibilities, for example Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs). In order to be accepted onto the qualification candidates must have their application endorsed by their Headteacher via a signed Headteacher declaration that is uploaded as part of the candidate’s application.

Benefits for candidates

Improved outcomes for pupils in candidate areas of

Increased awareness and understanding of self and of the
behaviours needed to lead a team

Time to reflect on leadership practice and ability to check
learning and development needs

 Increased capability and capacity to take on a leadership
role - having the skills, knowledge and understanding to do
the job more effectively

Benefits for schools

Support the succession of school leaders and build cohesive,
effective teams

Evidence-based sustainable school improvement undertaken
to improve pupil progress and team capability

A professionally aware and informed leader who can make
evidence-based 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


Qualification Components and Content

A Flexible Way to Learn

Our programmes offer a blended approach that mixes online learning through our award-winning virtual learning environment and face-to-face learning through our national network of school based providers. Each candidate gets access to a dedicated learning coach, mentor or tutor, as well as regular opportunities to network and collaborate with their course colleagues. 

See how the qualification components will be distributed across the 12-18 months with our qualification schedule.

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.


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.

What's next?

Candidates who successfully complete NPQML may choose to continue their professional development through the completion of a master’s degree in educational leadership or by continuing onto the National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL). Professionally, NPQML graduates may choose to apply for middle or senior leadership roles within their school such as Key Stage Leader, SENCO or Assistant Head.

 Masters Accreditation

The qualification has been developed in collaboration with Chester University to be delivered at Masters Level 7. Candidates successful in achieving the qualification have the opportunity to accrue credits towards an MA in Educational Leadership with Chester University.

Distance Learning

Candidates for whom time away from school or access to local delivery is not available have the opportunity to complete the qualification via a distance learning model. With distance learning, the three event days are each delivered flexibly over the course of two weeks through a combination of online briefings and candidate activity.