National Professional Qualification
for Executive Leadership - International

Our NPQ application window for Autumn 2020 is now closed.

We are now accepting NPQ applications for our Spring 2021 intake.

The National Professional Qualification for Executive Leadership (NPQEL) is accredited by the UK Department for Education (DfE). The qualification is delivered by Best Practice Network, a provider of UK accredited qualifications for education professionals worldwide.

NPQEL is suitable for colleagues aspiring to, or already in, leadership roles across more than one school. For example, Principals, Heads of Primary / Secondary, Executive Headteachers, Directors of Education, Finance and HR Directors, COOs.

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.

We were recently rated ‘Exceptional’ by the DfE’s quality assurance agent and voted ‘Company of the Year’ at the BETT Awards. We are the market leader, and to date have supported over 500 candidates from 60+ countries to access and complete an NPQ.

Who is this for?

NPQEL is suitable for colleagues aspiring to, or already in, leadership roles across more than one school. For example, Principals, Heads of Primary / Secondary, Executive Headteachers, Directors of Education, Finance and HR Directors, COOs.

Applicants must:

  • be employed in a school setting outside of the UK
  • have the support of your school

NPQEL is taught and assessed in English and therefore requires all participants to be proficient in the use of the English language.

You can view our programme metrics here.

Benefits for candidates

    • Improved outcomes for pupils in candidate areas of responsibility
    • Transferable qualification for leaders relocating to UK schools
    • Contextualised to the needs of the international schools workforce and underpinned by robust evidence and expertise
    • Masters credits towards an MA in Educational Leadership

Benefits for schools

    • Staff retention and succession
    • Build a cohesive, impact-focused school leadership team
    • 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

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

*Content has been contextualised to the needs of the international schools workforce and underpinned by robust evidence and expertise


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 and coaching
  • pass final assessment within 18 months of starting the qualification

NPQEL Spring 2021 event dates and online course facilitation windows. 

Engagement window Programme element
Today – 05/02/2021

NPQ Course Preparation and Welcome Pack Release

(Official start of Engagement with Preparation Activities)
[Start of Preparation Stage]

01/02/2021 – 05/02/2021

Canvas Welcome Message and Login Details Release

[Start of Induction Stage]

08/02/2021 - 12/02/2021

01/03/2021 - 05/03/2021

NPQEL Face-to-face Event 1

[Start of Development Stage]

08/03/2021 – 02/04/2021

Strategy and Improvement (S&I) Online Course Facilitation Window

(20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

26/04/2021 – 07/05/2021

NPQEL Face-to-face Event 2

14/06/2021 - 09/07/2021

Teaching and Curriculum Excellence (T&CE) Online Course Facilitation Window
(20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

06/09/2021 – 17/09/2021

NPQEL Face-to-face Event 3

22/09/2021 – 15/10/2021

Managing Resources and Risks (MR&R) Online Course Facilitation Window

(20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

18/10/2021 – 22/10/2021

01/11/2021 – 05/11/2021

NPQEL Face-to-Face Event 4

15/11/2021 – 26/11/2021

NPQEL Face-to-face Event 5

[Start of Final Assessment Stage]

How is it delivered?

Candidates will usually complete the qualification within 12-18 months dependent upon the school improvement project they elect to undertake.

Programme delivery consists of:

    • six training events

    • three guided online courses working alongside peers

  • six hours of performance coaching’
  • regular online conferences to support and complement learning
  • two 360° leadership skills diagnostics
  • facilitation from experienced international school leaders
  • dedicated online tutor to support project planning and provide pastoral support
  • option to accrue credits to contribute towards an MBA

Our blended learning model


What does it cost?

Face-to-face international delivery is currently suspended. International candidates can now complete NPQs via our safe and convenient "Facilitated Online International" delivery model which makes use of facilitated online workshops, extra support from personal tutors and supplementary study packs.

Self-funding candidates are offered a 10% discount on the programme fees (see table below). Schools enrolling three or more candidates will be given three months access to the School Suite - fully-accredited online CPD for teachers and support staff. See for more information.

Payment by Instalment

Payment can be made in one lump sum or in 3 equal instalments spread over 6 months with the first instalment to be received just prior to beginning the programme.

Delivery model Programme School fee

Self-funding fee

Facilitated Online International




Face-to-Face International Currently susepended

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.