National Professional Qualification for School Leadership

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School Leadership


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How do you know what you are doing, if you are not supported or know what to do?

It is a common approach in our classrooms that when teaching pupils, we share success criteria and exemplar work to support the learning. However, it appears that it is hard to find the same support when teachers are conducting their own action research…

Several years ago I was supporting about 20 middle leaders achieve their (NPQSL) national professional qualification for school leadership. At the time, it was hard to source any exemplary material to share with colleagues, to support and guide them on their journey. My networks at the time did not have the answers, so I took it upon myself to ask this question on social media. Almost 4 years later, I still receive requests from readers seeking the same advice …


You can read more about the content and assessment framework on the Department for Education website, and I would suggest this is your starting point if you have no support from your school or provider! The document is 51 pages long and you will need a thoughtful CPD leader in your school to be able to understand the details.

You will need to be able to evidence a range of knowledge and skills (page 18 onwards).

Strategy and improvement

  • Analyse performance data to identify the causes of variation within a school and against comparative schools
  • Ensure data collected is necessary, proportionate and manageable for staff
  • Work with the governing board effectively to identify and agree approaches to school priorities
  • Design and implement sustainable change across a school

Teaching and curriculum excellence

  • Use a range of techniques to gather evidence on teaching quality and the impact of interventions across a school
  • Reduce variation within the school and against comparative schools by improving pupil progress, attainment and behaviour
  • Develop and maintain a rich, high-quality school curriculum

Leading with impact

  • Lead, motivate and influence others, including beyond the line management chain, to deliver whole-school objectives
  • Develop a communications plan that promotes or defends the school’s performance, policies or decisions effectively

Working in partnership

  • Identify a range of local and national partners that can support school improvement
  • Put in place systems, processes or structures which facilitate knowledge transfer and shared best practice
  • Identify the most effective partnerships for improving pupil progress

Managing resources and risks

  • Deploy resources across a school effectively and efficiently to deliver school priorities
  • Monitor the use of resources across a school, identifying opportunities and pressures
  • Systematically identify, manage and mitigate risks to the school, its pupils and staff

Increasing capability

  • Identify excellent professional development practice
  • Identify talent within an organisation and put in place arrangements or tools to develop and retain it
  • Design professional development strategies, which engage all staff and anticipate future CPD needs


Sharing one example here could be perceived as best practice, so please take this example document as just an example, and not the best example. Although this example passed the NPQSL qualification, it is shared as a first-step in terms of understanding the dialogue and depth of evaluation required. I have only included the main document and not the supplementary evidence or annotations from the mentor.


I have attached an example below that you can download to use as a framework. I have much more behind-the-scenes, but I am reluctant to share them because achieving such a qualification should come from the support of the provider itself and your school mentor, and not from me.


National Professional Qualification for School Leadership
Download the file.

What to plan for?

The greatest challenge I found in organising this across a large secondary school was ensuring that each individual selected the appropriate research – and that it was aligned with a suitable person within the school to regularly meet with them –  on top of the usual appraisal and line management processes. Whether you choose someone outside of these remits, it is dependent on your own context and the resources available.

What I managed to achieve is written in more detail and was largely subject to a group of hard-working school leaders who could commit some additional time to meet with these middle leaders. We also built our own shadow-leadership team for professional development purposes – how do you know if you will be good at the next stage of your career if you don’t get to ‘have a go’ at the job itself?

Your success will be conditional on ‘how dogged you are’ as a middle leader, to pursue regular discussions, and of course how willing the school leader will be to support the individual in around the busy nature of school life …

I hope at least from sharing it here, it helps some teachers get started who may not have any support at all.

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