The NPQML is a qualification that provides national recognition of leadership development and professional achievement as a middle leader. It offers a rigorous programme of study, exploring the role of middle leaders in greater depth and responding to the significant changes that have taken place in recent years to the expectations of middle leaders in school improvement.
NPQML has been developed for individuals leading a team within an organisation. It is often aligned with middle leadership in a school. NPQML applicants might include staff who have recently taken on a middle leadership role or a new responsibility or those who are more established and experienced in their role. Examples of the types of middle leader roles include:

  • subject/curriculum leader
  • head of a key stage
  • head of department
  • pastoral leaders, for example, head of year or head of house
  • a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO)
  • gifted and talented co-ordinator
  • assessment coordinator
  • careers coordinator.


Design of the programme
NPQML is designed as a blended learning programme structured around core thematic content. It requires high quality facilitation of the participants’ experience and learning journey. This blended learning approach takes into account the core principles of effective adult learning to ensure delivery maximises participants’ learning potential and impact and develops their current practice and effectiveness in their role as a middle leader. It does not matter where a participant is in terms of their current practice, which may already be high performing or requires improvement. The programme will support participants to move forward and become more effective and productive. The face to face sessions are designed to be stretching to raise the bar regarding middle leadership in all schools across the country. The NPQML programme includes:

  • face-to-face delivery sessions
  • online study of the core thematic content
  • ongoing support for participants

A fundamental principle of the NPQML programme is that of self-directed learning and highly effective leaders are learners. Participants are encouraged through the programme to take responsibility for their own learning and use a range of tools, activities and workplace experiences to support them in becoming highly skilled middle leaders.
All thematic content that NPQML participants study has been developed to reflect recent and significant changes in schools and national policy and they provide access to a wide set of leadership case studies and accounts of practice from highly successful school leaders designed to challenge and inform participants. There are also opportunities for reflection and analysis through activities written at Master’s level with a strong focus on school-based learning and their own school improvement. The thematic content is designed to:

  • stimulate, challenge and provoke thinking
  • build and extend knowledge, skills and expertise
  • promote changes and improvements in leadership behaviour
  • reflect signature characteristics for leadership development