All about the new NPQ in Executive Leadership

If you’ve been a headteacher or a head of school, you may be considering taking the next step in your career and learning to lead across a group of schools as an Executive Leader. If so, the government now fully funds* the National Professional Qualification for Executive Leaders (NPQEL), an 18-month course based on a completely re-written national framework. 

Outstanding leadership across a group of schools or trust

With the NPQEL you will:

  • Gain a nationally recognised, prestigious, government-backed executive leadership qualification to help you progress in your career
  • Strengthen your expertise as both a strategic and operational leader, creating the culture, governance and strategy needed for a group of schools to flourish successfully and coherently
  • Learn flexibly around your job with a blend of online learning, virtual sessions and local face to face workshops
  • A completely updated NPQEL for those who are, or aspiring to be, an executive headteacher, trust director or chief executive, with responsibility for leading several schools 

Benefits for you

A key aim of this new qualification is that you should develop personally and professionally:

  • Develop knowledge and understanding of how to apply the evidence on multi-school improvement through people development, working with leaders, staff, pupils, governors and the wider community to create lasting and sustainable change
  • A blended learning experience which fits around your role where you learn and discuss key content online delivered in a way that suits the busy working lives of teachers and school leaders
  • Local virtual and face to face sessions that focus on real problem-solving, creating understanding, connecting with your peers and gaining depth of knowledge
  • A residential helps you develop networks with key national leaders and peers
  • Ongoing preparation to give you confidence to pass the final assessment
  • Facilitation and support from serving school leaders in excellent schools and delivery at local venues 

Benefits for your group or trust

But this qualification isn’t just beneficial for you, it has significant benefits for your existing school or trust, who will get:

  • A skilful and research-informed executive leader with the capability to strategically lead a group of schools or trust
  • Practical capability to get on with the job of developing others with the skills to lead with people and teams, creating change and impact
  • A professionally aware and informed leader who can make evidence-based decisions and approach executive leadership in an effective and efficient manner
  • The ability to review and evaluate practice in order to bring about change and get the best outcomes for young people and staff across the organisation 

The content

This completely reformed Leadership NPQ has an evidence-informed curriculum design, connecting you to the latest research and best practice. Our research-rich course covers all of the core content in the government’s Framework for this qualification. It will help you to: 

  • Provide strategic leadership across a group of schools in effective teaching, curriculum, assessment and culture
  • Oversee the development of cross-school approaches to embed effective workforce development, change and implementation
  • Create and manage cross-school systems and processes, working with partners and boards


* Full government-funded scholarships cover the course fee (£4050) for the NPQ in Executive Leadership and are available to all teachers and leaders 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 
  • are employed in state-funded schools, as well as those employed in state-funded organisations that offer 16 to 19 places in England 

How to access the NPQEL

There are nine government-backed Lead Providers who are delivering the NPQEL. Here at the Teacher Development Trust, the national charity for effective professional development in schools, colleges and childcare settings, we’re proud to be one of these nine and our Executive Leadership qualification focuses in particular on the skills you need to create effective collaboration, impactful change and continuing staff development, leading colleagues in a way that brings them along with you on the journey and that creates a positive staff culture with real impact for pupils.

Why consider the Teacher Development Trust

TDT’s NPQEL was recently praised by Ofsted:

“Leaders have designed an effective curriculum, underpinned by Teacher Development Trust’s values (‘smart, heart and humble’) in each NPQ. In designing the curriculum sequence and delivery methods, leaders have drawn on contemporary educational research and literature. They have also taken into account the rhythm and demands of participants’ workload. This has resulted in an accessible curriculum that covers the required content in each NPQ. Each curriculum is rich with opportunities for participants to reflect on, discuss and apply the general principles that they are studying in their workplace.”

Our first cohort of Executive Leaders, who began studying with us in February 2022 have said:

  • The course has excellent material and I am finding the case studies/discussions are providing me with some realism to the theories/research we explore. The content is well structured and thought out and the delivery is always positively encouraging us to ask questions (which is not always easy when you feel like a novice!) – lots of support and clear explanations.
  • I have gained so much more knowledge/expertise from the materials/sessions so far, I wish I’d have started this sooner. It’s really made me reflect on my leadership so far across 2 schools and alter my next steps of direction. I love the implementation process model and have started using it with SLT.
  • The explicitness of how it was all introduced was excellent, particularly when they characterised what great T&L looks like. The 3 Rs really stuck for me (Routines, Responses, Relationships) and the importance of creating the right climate for children to thrive. The discussions in the breakout rooms helped me consider how we use positive praise in schools and whether or not the balance was tipped in the right way!
  • All the training and on-boarding materials, and the session today have given me a real clarity about how professional learning can be structured to ensure we understand the importance of both formal and informal learning and constantly develop our ‘mental models’ so that we are more dynamic in response to context – much of the course is improving my ability to articulate what I want from a professional learning experience both for myself and for leaders in the Trust – thank you!

Studying the NPQEL with TDT: the structure & commitment

Your NPQEL comprises a blend of flexible online learning, online discussion, virtual workshops and face to face workshops, for a few hours study each week over 18 months with one weekend residential. This is followed by an assessment where you will complete a 1500-word case study assessment to demonstrate your understanding of real leadership and change. 

Locations & centres

Over the course of the 18-month course, there are three face to face workshops and a residential (2 days with an overnight).

You can choose an NPQEL with the Teacher Development Trust:

  • Delivered by our central team, facilitated by our lead tutor, Sir Steve Lancashire with face to face events held in London, with cohorts commencing in both November 2022 and February 2023 – see below for more information
  • Through our partners, Tudor Grange Teaching School Hub, with face to face sessions in the West Midlands (commencing October 2022)
  • Through our partners Learners First, with face to face sessions in South Yorkshire (commencing February 2023)

Your course tutor: Sir Steve Lancashire

If you choose to study with the TDT central team, your lead tutor will be Sir Steve Lancashire.

Founder and former Chief Executive of the Reach2 Multi Academy Trust, one of the largest and most successful primary academy trusts in the country. Steve has been involved in primary education for thirty years and as a Headteacher for the past twenty years, most recently as Executive Headteacher of Hillyfield Primary Academy. Hillyfield is a double outstanding school and REAch2 was founded on its success.

Steve is a National Leader of Education and has been a lead adviser for the Department for Education, taking the lead in supporting schools to move from ‘Good’ to ‘Outstanding’.

As the founder and Chief Executive of REAch2, Steve seeks to establish a family of schools that share his passion and drive to secure the best possible outcomes for primary aged children and to ensure that primary education has a strong national voice. Ensuring there is enough capacity in the education system to enhance existing good schools and to tackle the issue facing failing schools is at the heart of Steve’s vision so that all young people have access to an exceptional education.

Steve was Knighted for services to education in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list in 2016.

Find out more

Download a brochure about the TDT’s NPQEL programme or fill in the following form for more information about the next steps in application.