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How do you learn on our NPQs?

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Date published 19 December 2023

With a carefully crafted blend of live sessions and self-guided learning elements, Ambition Institute’s National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) help you to build the mental models and expertise needed to drive sustainable change in your context.

How do you learn on our NPQs?

You will take part in an induction, followed by conferences, courses, clinics and communities, and a final assessment. These learning elements are designed to have the flexibly to fit around the responsibilities of your day-to-day role. Our ‘little and often’ approach to learning means that you will access pieces of programme content at regular intervals. This will give you the space to explore content from your programme and apply it to your school context.


All programmes begin with a two-hour, online orientation on the learning platform, Steplab. You will be given an induction into your programme, as well as some guidance on using Steplab and our online portal, My Ambition.


Conferences are in-person events where you will dig into what you’ll learn on your NPQ and how it is structured. Conferences are six hours long with breaks and lunch provided. Every NPQ has a conference at the start of the programme.

If you are doing a leadership NPQ, you will have a second conference mid-way through your programme. This will focus on putting knowledge from your programme into practice by exploring different tools you can use in your setting.

Conferences help you to understand the ways of working on your NPQ. Your expert facilitators will introduce the different ways you will learn on your NPQ and you will work through examples of these with your peers. This will involve reading case studies and research, before discussing your learnings and thoughts in a group session.

All conferences are delivered by education experts with years of experience in the field in which they are facilitating – whether that’s literacy expertise, or expertise in building the mental models needed for expert leadership. This is an opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the topic you’re studying.

“I really enjoyed the face-to-face conference. It gave me time to think and share with other colleagues on the course.”

- NPQ participant


Courses are designed to build your knowledge of a subject over a half-term. They are made up of alternating ‘study modules’ and ‘apply modules’ which you will complete each week on Steplab.

Study modules introduce you to key concepts and the evidence that underpins them. You will have access to the latest research on the topic, alongside further reading and resource materials. Quiz questions and reflective prompts will test your knowledge and track your progress throughout your course.

Apply modules are an opportunity to start to put what you have learnt into practice. You will decide which area of your practice you would like to focus on, before reviewing models from your study module. Through Steplab you will then try out the action you have seen modelled with a buddy (a peer on the programme), receive feedback and agree an action to take forward in your practice.

We recommend that you spend 50 minutes a week on your self-study modules.

Courses will help you to consider how evidence can inform decisions in your setting. The buddy relationship is also a space for you to make professional connections and share findings.

“I have been able to apply the learning from my study modules within my school and department context. I can now use evidence-based research to make decisions in my setting."

- NPQ participant


Clinics are a further opportunity for you to apply your learning from the course you studied in the previous half-term. These are live sessions led by an expert facilitator and are two-hours long to provide plenty of opportunity for discussion and questions.

Your facilitator will introduce ideas for the session, then provide you with a case study to read independently alongside reflective prompts. You will discuss your findings with the group using knowledge gained in your study modules and any insight from your own context. This will help you to consider deeply how the NPQ content can be applied to real-life situations.

Clinics are sequenced so that you can revisit and retrieve key ideas from your courses. This will help you to build mental models around the core module principles of your NPQ. The insights gained from your facilitator and peers will also spark new avenues of thinking to consider in your buddy sessions.

Towards the end of your NPQ, you will have an assessment clinic – an opportunity to receive detailed guidance on the assessment.

“The clinics have been excellent as it helps to secure the understanding of the modules.”

- NPQ participant


Communities are structured, peer-led sessions where you will consolidate and contextualise your learning by working together to solve problems related to a previous course. These sessions are one hour and 15-minutes long and are delivered online.

In communities, you will share problems you have encountered in your practice with your peer group. You and your peers will then collaborate to problem solve, drawing on new-found knowledge and evidence from your study and apply modules.

These sessions will help you to embed a supportive network with peers on the same learning journey. This helps broaden and consolidate your understanding of key concepts of your NPQ.

“I enjoyed my community session and problem-solving with peers. I welcomed the social element as a great way to address knotty problems in my role with supportive colleagues."

- NPQ participant


At the end of your NPQ, you will be given an eight-day window to submit a 1,500-word response to a case study. All assessments are open book, meaning you will have full access to all programme content and materials to help you with your answer.

The final assessment is an opportunity to pull together learning from your entire NPQ. This is a time to look back at what you have learnt on your NPQ and demonstrate to your assessor how you have grown in your practice.


Additional learning elements:

NPQ for Executive Leadership: Coaching sessions

If you are completing an NPQ for Executive Leadership, you will take part in three coaching sessions. These sessions are two hours long and delivered online.

Coaching sessions support you to apply strategies you have learnt on your programme to your context. With the support of your coach, you will crystallise a problem, investigate its causes and come up with possible solutions.

NPQ for Headship: School visit

If you are completing an NPQ for Headship, you will spend a day visiting another school. This school visit will be organised by you, so that you can choose a suitable school and schedule of activities to get the most from the experience.

Before your school visit, you will reflect on your current school context and the parts of your leadership expertise you would like to develop. You will then choose one of six persistent problems of leadership to focus on during your school visit.

You will learn what leadership strategies are in place in different schools, how they have been implemented, and why the leaders in your host school made these choices in their context. This will develop your expertise in your identified problem area of school leadership.

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