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National Professional Qualification for Executive Leadership (NPQEL)

Deepen your knowledge of Executive Leadership.

About the programme


Who are you?

For school leaders who are, or are aspiring to be, an executive headteacher or have a school trust CEO role with responsibility for leading several schools.


Why join UCL?

The UCL Centre for Educational Leadership looks forward to working with you on their newly designed NPQ supporting you to deepen your knowledge of Executive Leadership within a collaborative, professionally challenging and open learning environment.

Based on the latest research and evidence this new programme will enable you to develop your new learning, extend your skills and put them into practice.

Our programmes put you and your schools at the heart of the programme through a professional learning group approach that helps you to share your thinking and understanding within a well-planned framework. You will experience a blended approach of two residential events, self-directed study materials and in school support to enable you to progress professionally and grow the networks that will enhance your career.


What will you learn?

  • Trust Culture - you will establish and sustain an effective trust culture through communicating its strategic direction, supporting leaders to prioritise, allocate and manage human and financial resources whilst fulfilling all statutory duties to enable a thriving trust community with ambitious standards for all.
  • Teaching - you will learn how to establish and sustain effective teaching across the trust to support school leaders to embed teacher’s pedagogical knowledge and classroom skills to enable the best outcomes for all children and young people no matter what their starting point is.
  • Curriculum and Assessment - you will learn how to support school and trust leaders to sustain high quality planning, teaching and learning. Ensure that assessment and data collection is readily available and reliable and informs both the design and delivery of professional development for teachers within and across the trust.
  • Behaviour and Support - you will be able to ensure that your schools establish and sustain high standards of behaviour and learning across the whole trust community.  Within your schools you will develop the expertise to oversee an approach with all leaders and key stakeholders to build a safe, inclusive learning environment for all.
  • Implementation - you will learn how to work with leaders to implement change across the trust successfully by understanding the complexity of multiple implementation projects and aligning them with wider trust priorities.

What are the benefits for your school?

We know that our children and young people need teachers who are committed to their education and are confident learners themselves. Our programmes have been developed with teachers and leaders to:

  • Create professionally confident teachers and leaders who can lead at scale.
  • Grow the next generation of leaders with the skills and knowledge to use the evidence-base for the benefit of their children, young people and wider communities.
  • Retain and develop the best teachers who are excellent, collaborative role models for their schools and communities.
  • Inspire leaders who can harness the power of rich learning environments for their children and young people no matter the current circumstances.

Is this programme for me?

Yes, if you aspire to leading a group of schools as an executive headteacher or school trust CEO.


How long will it take?

18 months followed by an 8 day open book summative case study task.

Summary of programme and learning time

NPQEL summary of programme and learning hours.

Summary of programme and learning time - text version

Initial learning audit x 2

Total learning time: 1 hour.

Online induction conference x 1

Total learning time: Half a day.

Online self-directed study modules x 3

Total learning time: 30 hours.

Residentials x 2

Total learning time: 4 days.

Peer learning group sessions x 4

Total learning time: 8 hours.

Coaching sessions x 6

Total learning time: 6 hours.

Total programme hours

Total learning time: 75 hours.


When will it start and how much will it cost?

The programme will start in February 2022 with inductions in March 2022 (dates tbc).

The cost is £4099 for those in independent schools. British International Schools, contact us directly for prices. The programme is fully funded in English state schools (read more below).


Are scholarships available for this programme?

Full scholarship funding, with no cost to the participant, for the NPQ in Executive Leadership is available to those who meet the following criteria:

  • Are, or are aspiring to be, an executive headteacher or have a school trust CEO role with responsibility for leading several schools.
  • Work in a state funded school and state funded organisations that offer 16-19 places in England.

Programme route map

NPQEL route map.

Read a text-only version of the infographic below.

Term one
  1. Self-directed study:
    Leadership audit for 1 hour - initial audit of learning shaping the learning to the needs of participants and reflective of their contexts.
  2. Facilitated activity:
    Online induction conference for 4 hours - induction event designed to provide an overview of the programme.
  3. Facilitated activity:
    Residential event for 10 hours - knowledge exchange event providing access to expert research, programme leaders and networking opportunities.
  4. Facilitated activity:
    Peer Learning Group for 2 hours - facilitated online event to challenge and support domain learning and translate research into practice linked to implementation project.

  5. Self-directed study:
    Learning journal for 2 hours - reflection on learning from induction conference, self-directed learning, formative assessment tasks, work-based learning and Peer Learning Groups.

  6. Facilitated activity:
    Coaching for 2 hours.

Term two
  1. Self-directed study:
    Online self-directed study for 5 hours - integrated online programme of self-study covering NPQ domain framework content.
  2. Self-directed study:
    Learning journal for 3 hours - reflection on learning from induction conference, self-directed learning, formative assessment tasks, work-based learning and Peer Learning Groups.
  3. Facilitated activity:
    Peer Learning Group for 2 hours - facilitated online event to challenge and support domain learning and translate research into practice linked to implementation project.
  4. Facilitated activity:
    Coaching for 2 hours.
Term three
  1. Self-directed study:
    Online self-directed study for 5 hours - integrated online programme of self-study covering NPQ domain framework content.
  2. Self-directed study:
    Learning journal for 3 hours - reflection on learning from induction conference, self-directed learning, formative assessment tasks, work-based learning and Peer Learning Groups.
  3. Facilitated activity:
    Peer Learning Group for 2 hours - facilitated online event to challenge and support domain learning and translate research into practice linked to implementation project.
  4. Facilitated activity:
    Coaching for 2 hours.
Term four
  1. Self-directed study:
    Online self-directed study for 5 hours - integrated online programme of self-study covering NPQ domain framework content.
  2. Self-directed study:
    Learning journal for 3 hours - reflection on learning from induction conference, self-directed learning, formative assessment tasks, work-based learning and Peer Learning Groups.
  3. Facilitated activity:
    Peer Learning Group for 2 hours - facilitated online event to challenge and support domain learning and translate research into practice linked to implementation project.
  4. Facilitated activity:
    Coaching for 2 hours.
  5. Facilitated activity:
    Residential event for 10 hours - knowledge exchange event providing access to expert research, programme leaders and networking opportunities.
Term five
  1. Self-directed study:
    Assessment briefing (recording) - overview of readiness for final assessment.

Runs across all terms over the 18 months: Implementation project - work-based reflective learning integrating research with practice and aligned to the EEF process model for school improvement. 

After the 18 months: Final summative assessment.


What do leaders of schools say?

As a federation of schools, the NPQs have been a focussed part of our leadership continuum. We have identified colleagues to participate in these programmes and over the last few years, over 20 of them have participated including moving from National Professional Qualification for Middle Leaders (NPQML) to National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL). 

The impact is very clear. Four secured Headship and the others have moved to senior positions within and outside of our federation. Many of them have been involved in supporting other schools in school development. We were also able to shift our Ofsted grading to good with outstanding leadership in a short space of time.More importantly, the impact on our children is clear to see. Our leaders have the understanding and ability to respond to change and lead developments for our pupils resulting in much better progress for our children."

Helen Horsley, Head of South Coast Alliance, member of the NPQ Governance group

It was always a high priority, as a headteacher, to provide my staff with a career pathway which focused on leadership from their early career. Every teacher is a leader from day one and needs support in learning how to grow and develop their teams to enable successful school improvement to take place for the benefit of the children. In a small school, teachers, will after their first year of teaching, become subject leaders requiring another set of leadership skills.

The NPQs provided my staff with an opportunity to: explore leadership strategies, which developed their ability to communicate their vision more effectively with other stakeholders and to plan for change ; to recognise their own leadership traits, how these might impact on others and how they can build an ethos of trust and collaboration; to consider ways of managing their time more effectively; to look at change models and how others might react to change; and to explore the benefits of working in partnership.I found that staff completing the NPQs grew in confidence as leaders, cultivated enthusiastic teams within their classes, and the school, that achieved successful school improvement. As a Teaching School, we ran local clusters of the NPQs working with UCL, which provided high quality professional development for staff with an opportunity to grow their confidence as leaders and to provide opportunities to discuss their leadership journey."



Claire Rivers, Fellow of Chartered College of Teachers (FFCCT), Women in Education Coach, Ex Headteacher of St Mark’s CEP School, Teaching School Director and Chair of the Sussex and East Sussex Teaching School Network