Learners First is currently reviewing its delivery of the NPQ Programmes for the Summer Term. This will be informed by the Government’s decisions on the re-opening of schools. Learners First remains fully committed to ensuring that all participants are able to complete their programme albeit with some delays to the original scheduled timescales.

Further information on next steps will be available after the Spring half-term break. Thank you for your understanding.

Stay Safe.


The following advice and guidance is provided by our assessment provider, NPQonline for participants on NPQML and NPQSL programmes with Learners First.

Following the government’s advice to schools on 18th March, NPQonline encourage any participant close to being ready to submit to go ahead and prepare their script for submission over the next few weeks. NPQonline expects to work as usual throughout any school shut-downs and expect to be ready to receive and assess submissions as usual.

Please refer to the guidance document for contingency measures during this time.


Learners First – a Department For Education accredited provider of the new


Learners First has been designing and delivering the NPQML qualification since the DFE first licensed provision in 2012. Since then over 660 aspiring and serving middle leaders have accessed the Learners First programme.

Who is NPQML for?

NPQML is for those who are, or are aspiring to become, a middle leader with responsibility for leading a team e.g. a key stage leader, a curriculum area leader, a pastoral services leader, a subject leader, a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO), or a head of department.

This includes those who are, or are aspiring to be, a middle leader with cross-school responsibilities e.g. a Specialist Leader of Education (SLE).


How are the NPQs quality assured?

The DfE accredits a range of providers to design, deliver, and assess the National Professional Qualifications (NPQs). To ensure that a participant’s NPQ is accessible, high quality, and nationally consistent, providers’ provision must meet the requirements of the NPQ quality framework. The quality framework sets out the requirements that all those accredited to deliver NPQs are required to meet and maintain.

The DfE NPQ quality framework is available to download here together with the latest report on the performance of Learners First against the framework. The report is independently produced by the DfE’s quality assurance agent, Tribal.

Learners First QA Report


What you will learn on NPQML  …..

Each of the NPQs feature the same 6 content areas as below, however the knowledge and skills within a content area increases in sophistication, depth and breadth progressively through each of the NPQ levels.

Strategy & Improvement

Manage and analyse performance data to evaluate progress, identify trends, define team priorities and develop improvement strategies (for example, in relation to disadvantaged pupils or those with particular needs)

Implement successful change at team level

Teaching and Curriculum Excellence

Grow excellent, evidence-based teaching in a team and a curriculum that develops pupils academically and prepares them for adult life

Improve the progress, attainment and behaviour of all pupils, including those who are disadvantaged or have particular needs (for example, Pupil Premium, SEND, EAL or the most able pupils)

Leading with Impact

Anticipate other peoples’ views or feelings and moderate your approach accordingly

Adopt different leadership styles to ensure the team meets its objectives

Present, communicate or defend challenging messages confidently and positively to a range of audiences

Working in Partnership

Realise the benefits of collaborating with others, including teachers, teaching assistants and non-teaching staff, other schools, parents/carers and other organisations

Support their team to build and sustain relationships with others which develop and share good practice and improve performance

Managing Resources and Risks

Deploy staff, financial and educational resources within a team efficiently, to enhance pupil progress and attainment

Manage risks within a team effectively (for example, in relation to staffing, finances or teacher workload), using a risk register

Deliver a safe environment for pupils and staff

Increasing Capability

Hold others to account, line manage and evaluate performance effectively

Support all members of their team with appropriate, targeted opportunities for professional development, including newly-qualified teachers, teaching assistants, and stronger or weaker performers

Recognise their own strengths and weaknesses and identify learning linked to their needs

Evaluate the impact of professional development on teacher development and pupils outcomes

Leadership Behaviours

In addition to learning about the 6 content areas, as part of the NPQML participants are required to evaluate their strengths in each of the following 7 behaviours at the beginning of their NPQ, and plan how they will develop these during their study programme. Descriptors of the behaviours are as follows:-


The best leaders are self-motivated and take a creative, problem-solving approach to new challenge


The best leaders readily engage with, and invest responsibility in, those who are best placed to improve outcomes

Personal Drive

The best leaders are self-motivated and take a creative, problem-solving approach to new challenge


The best leaders remain courageous and positive in challenging, adverse or uncertain circumstances


The best leaders will know themselves and their teams, continually reflect on their own and others’ practices, and understand how best to approach difficult or sensitive issues.


The best leaders act with honesty, transparency and always in the interests of the school and its pupils


The best leaders their respect the rights, views, beliefs and faiths of pupils, colleagues and stakeholders

Assessment for NPQML

*The assessment outlined below is applicable only to participants starting their NPQML study programme after 01st September 2017.


Participants must:

Lead an improvement project in their team, lasting at least 2 terms, aimed at improving pupil progress and attainment (part A) and the capability of their team (part B)*

  • Submit a written account of the project to the provider for assessment, demonstrating how they have met the criteria set out below. This should cover the initiation, implementation and evaluation of the project.
  • Submit supporting documents/material as evidence where indicated below. Supporting evidence must be concise and directly related to the candidate’s project and corresponding assessment criterion.
  • Not exceed a total word count (across both parts of the project) of 4,500, excluding supporting documents or annexes.

Content areas assessed

Part A

Strategy and Improvement

Teaching and Curriculum Excellence

Leading with Impact

Working in Partnership


Part B

Managing Resources and Risks

Increasing Capability

The assessment for NPQML is conducted externally on behalf of Learners First by NPQ Online an experienced assessor for quality leadership in education.


The Learners First approach will be to deliver NPQML over the course of at least two academic terms, ensuring that participants are afforded sufficient time and development opportunities to successfully meet the assessment criteria.

This will involve the equivalent of 6 days out of school at face-to-face sessions, delivered by experienced school leaders.


The cost of NPQML with Learners First is


This includes the cost of one assessment submission.

Should a participant fail to adhere to the assessment requirements they may be liable for the cost of resubmission.

NPQ Scholarships

DfE funding is available to support leaders from schools in Opportunity Areas, Category 5 and Category 6 Achieving Excellence Areas to undertake the NPQs in 2020/21. If within a MAT, at least one school is located within one of the eligible areas, all schools within the MAT become eligible to access the DfE funding to cover the full cost of the NPQ programme (all levels). Locally, this would include colleagues from schools in Doncaster, Sheffield, Barnsley and areas of Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.


Applications for the next NPQML programme will open in November 2020.


If you have any queries regarding the new NPQML please email:-

All applicants for NPQ programmes with Learners First are advised to familarise themselves with the policy and procedure for dealing with incidents of malpractice. The policy is available for download below.


All complaints related to the NPQ programmes with Learners First will be addressed in accordance with the policy and procedure set out and available for download below.