National Professional Qualification
for Middle Leadership - International

The NPQML programme has now been discontinued by the Department for Education and has been replaced by three specialist NPQs. Please visit our NPQ page for more information about the currently available NPQs

The National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML) is accredited by the UK Department for Education (DfE). The qualification is delivered by the Outstanding Leaders Partnership, the provider of UK accredited qualifications for education professionals worldwide.

The NPQML provides recognition of leadership development and professional achievement for middle leaders.

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?

NPQML is suitable for middle leaders with responsibility for a team including Key Stage leaders, subject leaders, and curriculum leaders, and also heads of department or pastoral leaders.

Applicants must:

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

NPQML 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
    • Increased capability and capacity to take on a leadership role – having the skills, knowledge and understanding to do the job more effectively
    • 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

 Please note, due to current guidelines from the DfE Spring 2021 starters will now have to complete their NPQ within 12-15 months.

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 interactive events.

Event Content

Candidates are supported by school leaders with extensive experience within the international school sector. Events are delivered either face-to-face, or for online-only candidates through a series of interactive online activities and webinar sessions.

Event 1: Strategy &
• The qualification framework and assessment criteria
• Outcomes of the 360° diagnostic
• School improvement project planning
• Analysing school data and identifying strategies for improvement
• Effective leadership of change strategies
Event 2: Teaching
& Curriculum Excellence
• Reflections on Teaching & Curriculum Excellence
• Applying learning to PISA data 2015
• Considering Prof Robert Coe’s questions about school improvement with impact
• A US Navy model of leadership
• Strategies for managing your own well-being
Event 3: Managing
Resources & Risk
• Assessing individual performance and capability
• Establishing relationships and structures and/or processes to mitigate barriers
• Analysing the financial and staffing implications of plans
• Evaluating the impact and cost-effectiveness of professional development in terms of pupil outcomes

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


Leading an improvement project (4,500 words)
Candidates must lead an improvement project within their team, lasting at least two-terms, to a) improve pupil progress and attainment b) the capability of their team. A written account of the project covering the design, implementation and evaluation must then be submitted for assessment.

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 NPQML candidates must:

  • complete 3 online courses and associated core tasks 
  • engage with practice-based events
  • pass final assessment within 15 months of starting the qualification

NPQML Spring 2021 event dates and online course facilitation windows 

Engagement window Programme element
Today – 12/02/2021

NPQ Course Preparation and Welcome Pack Release

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

08/02/2021 – 12/02/2021

Canvas Welcome Message and Login Details Release

[Start of Induction Stage]

01/03/2021 – 26/03/2021

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

(20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

[Start of Development Stage]

26/04/2021 – 07/05/2021

NPQML Face-to-face Event 1 (or Distance Learner Equivalent Activity)

07/06/2021 – 02/07/2021

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

05/07/2021 - 16/07/2021

NPQML Face-to-face Event 2 (or Distance Learner Equivalent Activity)

20/09/2021 – 15/10/2021

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

(20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

01/11/2021 – 12/11/2021

NPQML Face-to-face Event 3 (or Distance Learner Equivalent Activity)

[Start of Final Assessment Stage]

How is it delivered?

We offer international colleagues the choice of two learning pathways:

Face-to-face – Delivered through face-to-face events and facilitated online courses. Events are hosted by our growing network of international partner schools and facilitated by serving school leaders.

Online-only – Delivered through webinars, study packs and facilitated online courses. Candidates are supported by a dedicated online tutor.

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

Programme delivery consists of:

  • three training events
  • three guided online courses working alongside peers
  • 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 MA in Educational Leadership

Our blended learning model

Our distance learning model


To date, we have supported over 500 candidates from 60+ countries to access and complete an NPQ.

Regional Partners

We work with a wide range of regional partners to provide school leaders access to local face-to-face training. If you would like to undertake an NPQ face-to-face then you can access delivery in any of the following locations:

  • Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • Bucharest, Romania
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • England, UK
  • Hong Kong
  • Kiev, Ukraine
  • New York, USA

If your school(s) wish to access NPQs for a group of staff, then please get in touch. We are able to run delivery in-house for your school, work with you as a regional partner to offer the training locally in your area, and we can also offer group rates on course fees.

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 suspended

How to apply

NPQ applications for Spring 2021 are now closed. If you'd like to express an interest in joining our Autumn 2021 intake, please click the 'Express Interest' button in the right-hand column and complete the short form. 

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.