National Professional Qualification
for Executive Leadership

The final application deadline for our Autumn 2019 intake is 20 September. Limited scholarship funding is available in some areas (see scholarship notice). Apply before 20 September to secure your funding and place. We strongly recommend early applications as places are limited.

The National Professional Qualification for Executive Leadership (NPQEL) provides an opportunity for headteachers taking the next step to executive leadership with responsibility for more than one school. Overseeing multiple schools with different cultures, priorities and challenges requires a different set of leadership skills than those required of a headteacher. Accessing peer support, specialised knowledge and experience from other sectors, as well as the support and challenge of executive coaching, can make the transition much easier.

Who is this for?

NPQEL is suitable for colleagues aspiring to, or already in, leadership roles across more than one school. This includes headteachers, executive headteachers, chief operating officers and directors of school improvement.

How to apply

Please complete the online registration form in the right-hand bar to apply for a place.

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.

You can view our programme metrics here.

What are the benefits?

The fully blended learning approach with HEI backed content (meaning that participants can put their NPQEL work towards postgraduate qualifications with a university), combined with executive coaching and enrichment activity from within and outside the education sector, make this an exciting and valuable opportunity for executive leaders.

Programme outline

Qualification Schedule

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 facilitated events.

Event Content

Each day is facilitated by two experienced facilitators with support from experienced executive leaders.

Residential (Day 1) • Qualification insights, qualification organisation, and development expectations
• Navigating the transition from school leader to the executive leader role
• Characteristics and context of executive leadership
• Reshaping self to meet the characteristics of the role in the light of the 360 diagnostic
• Developing collaborative approaches to school improvement projects
Residential (Day 2) • Understanding the range of organisational structures involved in complex organisations
• Challenges for sustainability and growth: leaders’ first years in executive leadership
• Answering 2 big questions: what are the strategic challenges? Have we sufficient personal capacity/competence?
• Effective workforce: creating a sense of belonging and identity with autonomy
• Using informed research as an evidence base to guide strategic change direction
Strategy &
Improvement (Day 3)
• Models of strategic school improvement emerging from multi-school organisations motivating
and uniting a wide range of people across organisations around visionary goals
• Identifying and developing an organisational structure to achieve cross-organisation goals
• Finding the right approach to raise and sustain standards: building a clear business development strategy
• Creating strong partnerships beyond the organisation to drive improvement
Teaching & Curriculum
Excellence (Day 4)
• Embedding a well-articulated vision for school improvement
• Trust-wide data systems: tracking progress and performance, and reporting on
the impact of the provision on pupil outcomes
• Using international research and evidence to create strategies for improving groups of schools
• Quality assurance and accountability for provision excellence
• Appreciative enquiry: maintaining positivity and creativity alongside accountability
Residential (Day 5)
• Financial sustainability
• Organisation accountability and governance
• Managing and deploying talent: succession and capacity building
Residential (Day 6)
• Curriculum modelling and efficient staffing structures
• Maximising resources in support of organisational well-being
• Risk leadership
• Professional growth and executive leadership development
• Project assessment readiness

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 NPQEL
360 leadership diagnostic 3
Face-to-face events 36
Online courses 60
Online briefings 4
Performance coaching 6
Exec/Head-led webinars 6
Peer challenge groups Peer-led


Task 1
Candidates must design a sustainable business development strategy for their organisation, analysing the benefits, costs and risks of different options. They must then present their chosen strategy to their governing board and submit a written account of the project covering the design, implementation and evaluation.

Task 2
Candidates must lead a project to improve progress and attainment in several schools. They must present their plans to a group of relevant stakeholders and submit a written account of the project covering the design, implementation and evaluation.

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 NPQEL candidates must:

  • complete 3 online courses and associated core tasks 
  • engage with practice-based events
  • pass final assessment within 18 months of starting the qualification

How is it delivered?

Candidates will form Peer Leadership Challenge Groups and undertake a joint improvement project which will then lead on to a course of study that will incorporate the key skills around strategic planning, organisation change and business development required of executive leaders. The focus will be on developing leadership behaviours of commitment, collaboration, personal drive, resilience, awareness, integrity and respect.

The three modules, each facilitated within a 4-week period, are:

  • Strategy and Improvement
  • Teaching and Curriculum Excellence
  • Managing Resources and Risks

There is a flexible combination of blended learning, face-to-face support (replicated online for distance learners), peer group support, a dedicated personal tutor and leadership coaching. The learning materials have been designed and developed by leading experts, both within the education sector and the wider business sector, and form a challenging portfolio of effective executive practice.

Our blended learning model

Our online learning model:

Our distance learning model:

What does it cost?

School Type Fee payable
All state-maintained schools, academies and independent schools in the UK


International schools

Click here

Full DfE scholarship funding is available for leaders from schools in opportunity areas subject to certain criteria.


Why did you sign up for the NPQEL with OLP?

What has been a highlight of the NPQEL programme for you?

Has the programme made a difference to you personally as a leader in terms of behaviour?

One element of the NPQEL is the cross-school project – could you please tell me about your school improvement project?