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National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML)OnlineContinuing Professional Development


Middle Leader (NPQML)

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other” John F Kennedy

The National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML) ‘Leading a team’ is available for current or aspiring middle leaders in education settings who want to develop their knowledge, skills, and confidence in leading teams. Aimed at current or aspiring key stage leaders, curriculum area leaders, subject leaders, and pastoral leads, the Middle Leadership (NPQML) course offers participants the opportunity to:

  • Become confident, competent and highly effective middle leaders
  • Build cohesive and effective teams
  • Improve teaching, learning, and outcomes for children and young people in their areas of responsibility, and
  • Move ahead in their careers, through gaining a DfE-recognised qualification in middle leadership.

This course is one of three NPQ qualifications that Real Training has been approved to deliver by the Department for Education. It has been designed by education practitioners and educational psychologists to provide current, innovative and practice-focused training that will give school leaders the insight and tools they need to become highly effective leaders. Real Training are the acknowledged experts in masters-level online professional development. It is who we are and what we do, and always has been.

Our NPQ courses were designed from day one to be delivered fully online, with our unique practice-led model informed by evidence-based online pedagogy, positive psychology and inclusive practice. In fact, for the current NPQs we were the only provider awarded a licence based on an online delivery model. Our NPQs are online by design, and not adapted to fit around current circumstances. Studying online with Real Training means you can develop your skills and expertise with confidence – and without compromise.

For additional information about what Real Training can offer, see our NPQ Senior Leadership and NPQ Headship courses.

The next available cohort start date of 15 January, so book your place now.

Real Training is committed to helping to deliver the Department for Education’s aims in creating positive social change within education, and details of our performance against DfE metrics can be found here

Module Leader – Annie Grant

Annie Grant is a writer and film-maker specialising in education. She was previously a teacher and a Local Authority adviser before moving to the University of North London (now London Metropolitan University) where she became Head of School of Teaching Studies. Before leaving to become self-employed, Annie was Head of Initial Teacher Training at the Teacher Training Agency, overseeing, among other things, the first QTS Standards.

Why take this course with us?

Real Training’s Middle Leadership (NPQML) course:

  • Is developed by education practitioners for education practitioners with a strong focus on personal development, inclusion and improving outcomes for all
  • Includes Positive Psychology and strengths-based approaches to leadership and change management
  • Is based on Real Training’s practice-led learning model, which means you receive the content and theory you need, along with opportunities to make a difference to your setting through putting theory into practice and reflecting on the process
  • Starts with a leadership behaviour assessment, which will help to establish your strengths, and identify behaviours to work on to improve your effectiveness, and
  • Is flexible, with core content delivered online, so you can study at a pace that complements your professional and personal commitments

Real Training is working closely with three partner schools to develop and deliver the course. They are:

You’ll never feel isolated on a Real Training NPQ course because a sense of community is developed through:

  • Online interaction with tutors
  • In-school support from a mentor, and
  • Peer support, through interaction and collaboration with colleagues in your setting and with fellow participants from across the country, via a lively online forum.

Our NPQs Awarded 8.8/10 by National Quality Assurance Agent

A recent review of our National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) by the Department for Education’s National Quality Assurance Agent (NQAA), Tribal Education, has found our courses “exceed expectations”, awarding us an overall score of 8.8 out of 10.

The comprehensive report covers all areas of the course delivery, from recruitment and admission to design of content. Tribal highlighted a number of areas in which Real Training excelled, with 11 of the 15 performance criteria achieving a score of 9 out of 10, and one scoring top marks.

Tribal were particularly impressed by our approach to ‘practice-led learning”; a philosophy we stand by as a way to allow our delegates to make an immediate impact in their educational setting:

“The ‘practice-led learning’ approach which underpins the design of the programmes is a key strength. The provider has used its expertise in online professional development to devise an approach which engages participants in practical school-based activities, which are reinforced through the online platform with structured learning experiences.”

The report also focused on our delegate’s feedback to Tribal about their experience studying their NPQ with Real Training. They note that:

“Participants are highly positive about the level of support they receive, with some saying that it was ‘above and beyond’ what they had expected from an online provider… Tutors have recent experience as senior school leaders relevant to the programme they are supporting and are from schools deemed to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED. The engagement of professional partners who are serving headteachers, and leadership coaches with high levels of expertise, is noted to be of significant support by NPQH participants.”

This is borne out in our own delegate feedback analysis, where 93% of NPQ delegates rated the tutor support as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

They go on to detail the key factors that led to the decision to study with us:

“Participants report that the key factors in choosing Real Group as their NPQ provider are the ability to choose a programme which is delivered online and which is flexible in its approach and the reputation of Real Group as a training provider.”

We at Real Training are very proud of the reputation we have built for being ‘online by design’; our NPQs were designed from the ground up to be delivered through our Campus Online platform, not adapted in the face of external circumstances, in order to fit a square peg in a round hole. Because of this, delegates feel fully supported by tutors, administration and technical staff, while allowing full flexibility to fit around the oft-tumultuous lives of education professionals. In fact, our delegates have rated the online presentation of the NPQ courses with a score of 86%.

Tribal summarise the report by highlighting the areas of exceptional performance from Real Training:

  •  “A unique provider with a strong history of bespoke online learning to provide accessibility for participants across England.”
  • “Reflective leadership with a strong moral purpose, which ensures that the NPQ programmes are underpinned by the values of Real Group in developing future school leaders.”
  • “The ‘practice-led learning’ design of the programmes to ensure online learning is integrated with, and relevant to, real-life school environments.”

How will you benefit?

All successful NPQML graduates will:

  • Gain a highly valued, internationally respected, DfE accredited professional qualification 
  • Build effective teams, using evidence-informed approaches
  • Lead and evaluate an intervention in their setting to improve outcomes for children or young people
  • Develop their leadership and management skills, and their ability to work in partnership with colleagues, professionals from outside the setting, and parents and carers  
  • Enhance their own and others’ personal and professional development, and
  • Gain a professional network of colleagues beyond their own setting.

What does the course cover?

Course content covers six key areas:

  • Leading with impact
  • Strategy and improvement
  • Teaching and curriculum excellence
  • Working in partnership
  • Managing resources and risks, and
  • Increasing capability.

In addition, the course will help you to develop the range of leadership behaviours, identified by DfE:

  • Commitment
  • Collaboration
  • Personal drive
  • Resilience
  • Awareness
  • Integrity, and
  • Respect.

How will you be assessed?

Each ‘Learning Experience’ you undertake on the Real Training Middle Leadership (NPQML) course will help you work towards completing the required assignment and meet the assessment criteria.

During the courses you will lead your team to design, implement and evaluate an improvement project in your setting. Your change project must last at least two standard school terms (i.e. two-thirds of a school year). If your school follows a different system, your project must last an equivalent amount of time, e.g. if your school operates a six term year, your project will last four ‘terms’. This project is designed to:

  • Improve pupils’ progress and attainment
  • Develop your leadership skills, and
  • Grow the capability of your team.

You will submit a 4,500 word written account for assessment, covering the initiation, implementation and evaluation of the project.

How is the course delivered?

The module is delivered online through our interactive learning platform, Campus Online.

You will be guided through the course by a narrative that:

  • Supports your progress
  • Presents tasks clearly, and
  • Provides you with content that complements your learning every step of the way.

Experienced online tutors with recent or current leadership experience in schools will be on hand to support you through your learning journey.

An online forum gives you the opportunity to share practice and to discuss and debate issues with others working towards the NPQML, from across the country.

Are you eligible?

Are you already working in an education setting?

The Middle Leadership (NPQML) course is designed for professionals currently working in education settings. You will need to be in a position to lead a team to design, deliver and evaluate a project, lasting at least two terms, aimed at improving outcomes for children or young people in your setting.

Is NPQML the right course for you?

  • NPQML is for those who are currently, or are aspiring to become, middle leaders with responsibility for leading a team. You might perhaps be a key stage leader, a curriculum leader, a subject leader, a head of department, or a pastoral services leader.
  • NPQSL is for those who are currently, or are aspiring to become, senior leaders with responsibilities across an education setting. You might perhaps be an experienced middle leader, a deputy or assistant head, a SENCO, an or advanced skills teacher. You’ll be looking for professional development, but not aspiring to headship at this stage of your career.
  • NPQH is, normally, for those who are highly motivated to become headteachers. You should, normally, be no more than 12 to 18 months from applying for headship posts and ready to take up a headship as soon as you complete the course. You will need to have the full support and endorsement of a sponsor. Usually, this will be your headteacher or line manager.

If you are unsure which course is for you, speak to our course advisers on 01273 35 80 80.

Are you based in an international setting?

The Middle Leadership (NPQML) course is available online and can therefore be completed anywhere in the world. Please click here for advice on payment options and other information relevant to those studying outside of the UK.

How much does it cost?

  • One off payment of £1,150 plus VAT.
  • Three instalments of £409 plus VAT.
  • Ten instalments of £127 plus VAT.

Speak to us (01273 358080) or make a booking.

When does the course start?

Cohorts begin in January, March, May, and September each year.

Book and enrol before 15 January to join our next cohort.

Please note: as it takes time to process your application and payment, we strongly recommend to register as soon as possible, so that you don’t miss the next intake.



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