National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership.

Learners First – a Department For Education accredited provider of the National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership

National Professional Qualifications (NPQs)

Learners First has been designing and delivering the NPQML qualification since the DFE first licensed provision in 2012. Since then over 1270 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).

What Will You 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

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

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.

Delivery Approach​

The Learners First approach to delivery of the NPQML programme is via a blended approach centred around the equivalent of 6 days out of school at face-to-face sessions designed and delivered by experienced school leaders with the expertise and proven track records of success. The face-to-face sessions are supplemented by individual research and work-based tasks aimed at developing your leadership thinking and enabling you to successfully meet the assessment requirements. Peer to peer networking and collaborations are encouraged through school visits during the programme and through the use of social media.

The face-to-face sessions will be delivered over at least two academic terms, ensuring that participants are afforded sufficient time and development opportunities to successfully meet the assessment criteria.

Note :

Whilst Covid-19 restrictions remain in place, face-to-face sessions have been redesigned and replaced by digital/online learning involving webinars and an increased use of online resources. We aim to return to face-to-face delivery as soon as it is practical to do so.

Programme Costs

The cost of NPQML with Learners First is:  £910 – 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

As a result of high demand from teachers and leaders for NPQ scholarships, access to scholarship funding was suspended by the Department for Education in late July 2020. This scholarship suspension relates to the current suite of NPQs and will remain in place until 31st August 2022.


Owing to DfE reforms of the NPQs, the next programmes will commence in the Autumn Term 2021 under the new framework. Further information regarding the new programmes is available below.


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

Quality Assurance


On 13th October 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) published details of the new frameworks for the reformed national professional qualifications (NPQ) that will be available from September 2021. They have been developed in consultation with an expert advisory group from across the education system and include changes to the ways in which NPQs will be assessed.

In view of these reforms, Learners First is working in partnership with Teaching Schools Hubs and national partners to design and develop new NPQs as part of the DfE reforms in readiness for delivery in the 2021/22 academic year.

Further details including the opportunity for school leaders to register interest in the new programmes will be provided in the Summer Term 2021.

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