How the NPQ for Executive Leadership can develop your skills as a leader

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Date published 25 October 2022

Last updated 04 April 2024

Since September 2021 Ambition Institute has welcomed teachers and school leaders from across the country onto our National Professional Qualification (NPQ) programmes.

This article outlines the National Professional Qualification for Executive Leadership (NPQEL), and how it can help you develop the skills and knowledge to successfully lead a group of schools or a multi-academy trust.

Why focus on Executive Leadership?

“Leadership at this level, done well, has the potential to ensure that more children can enjoy a better education and preparation for adult life” (Sir David Carter)

At Ambition Institute, we’ve been thinking hard about what it is that executive leaders need to know and be able to do – and crucially, where they can make the biggest difference.

Research tells us that if whole schools and trusts consistently employ effective practice, this can make a significant impact on pupils, teachers, and the disadvantage gap.

As an executive leader, you can drive and sustain change within your setting. You can shape trust and school culture, creating an environment where educators develop faster and are more likely to stay in education.

Drawing on cutting-edge research, our NPQEL programme is designed to help you build your expertise in leadership across multiple schools. It provides the knowledge and skills you need to tackle the persistent problems you come across in your role.

How will this programme benefit you and your career?

You know how to look after your team. Still, it can be hard to carve out time for your own development. We’d like to change that.

On our NPQEL programme, you can access energising, expert and evidence-based professional development in a way that suits your needs.

The NPQEL has been designed in line with the Department for Education’s NPQ framework, forming part of the golden thread of teacher training and development. This means that everyone, from early career teachers to executive leaders, is building and developing their practice from the same evidence-based framework.

It emphasises building knowledge and skills critical to executive leadership while ensuring that you have a secure grounding of education knowledge, including teaching approaches.

You’ll be part of a growing movement of leaders who are challenging themselves to be the best they can be: a unique community of system leaders.

Our programmes are the gold standard of evidence-based professional development – created with expert knowledge and a shared mission, by teams who have a proven track record in educator CPD.


What does the NPQEL framework contain?

The NPQEL framework is divided into the following components:

  • Trust culture.
  • Teaching and behaviour.
  • Curriculum and assessment.
  • Additional and special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Professional development.
  • Organisational management.
  • Implementation.
  • Working in partnership.
  • Governance and accountability.

What does this mean in practice?

It means developing a targeted skillset from leading experts and developing your practice through expert-led coaching.

It means leading your team in the delivery of a high-quality and ambitious curriculum which challenges pupils to reach their potential.

It means learning tried and tested ways to manage resources effectively and support your staff to engage in effective professional development.

It means gaining the knowledge to lead the delivery of high-quality education and care, including for young people who have additional and special educational needs.

It means understanding how to establish an effective culture across multiple schools.

Most of all, it means providing an educational setting where young people can experience high-quality learning and support to thrive, no matter what their background.

How is this different from other programmes?

This approach differs from our Trust Leaders programme. The Trust Leaders programme brings together coaching and networking opportunities to empower you to create system change. This is paired with a series of standalone conferences and seminars, from leading voices, on specific issues affecting trusts.

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How long is the programme?

The NPQEL lasts 18 months, during which you will engage in a mixture of live, facilitated sessions and self-directed learning that can fit around your responsibilities.

You will also take part in:

  • Expert-led coaching.
  • Two live conferences (each lasting six hours).
  • Six two-hour online clinics (facilitated sessions).
  • One two-hour assessment clinic.
  • Nine online communities (one-hour group sessions).

The learning activities have been designed to fit around your busy schedule and will take between one and two hours a week.

There are no projects for you to write up. Instead, the course is assessed through an open-book style response to a short case study. The three-month assessment window takes place at the end of the programme. You have eight days to complete the assessment, and if needed it can be attempted twice.

All our materials are carefully designed to ensure that any time you invest is beneficial to the development of expertise.

You will have access to Steplab, the innovative learning platform specifically designed for teacher education. Watch the video below to see how it works. You can find out more about Steplab in this blog.

Who is eligible?

The programme is designed for school leaders who are, or are aspiring to be, executive headteachers with responsibility for leading several schools or trust CEOs.

Suitable roles include:

  • Executive headteacher
  • Headteacher or principal
  • CEO
  • Associate headteacher

New funding information has been announced for Autumn 2024. You could be eligible for a fully funded programme . Register your interest now to find out more.

Learn more.

Explore our National Professional Qualification in Executive Leadership in more depth.

Find out more