SSAT are committed to supporting and developing high quality middle leadership. We know how important middle leadership is to the success of any school – they are the glue that connects teaching in classrooms to the wider leadership vision and strategy.

SSAT’s NPQML will focus on the essentials that transcend good middle leadership in all settings, as well as allowing for contextualisation and particularisation. We’re committed to ensuring that our training is evidence based and draws on the latest research.

About the SSAT NPQML

The SSAT NPQML will follow a school-led approach. We will be partnering with schools, teaching schools and multi-academy trusts to co-construct and deliver the NPQML across England*. Our franchise model allows schools to deliver middle leadership training that matches local needs. We develop, support and train school-based facilitators through a train-the-trainer programme. The SSAT NPQML offers a flexible modular approach and provides all the resources required for partners to successfully deliver training.

Find out more about becoming a licensed delivery partner of SSAT NPQML

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SSAT NPQML course summary and approximate time allocation

  • 12 course modules – 24 hours
  • Self-study intersessional tasks – 12 hours
  • Mentoring challenge and support – 6 hours
  • Online engagement with peers and through the Knowledge Hub platform – 12 hours
  • Real world workplace learning and improvement project – 150 hours

Course structure and assessment

The course consists of 12 two-hour modules. In addition, each participant’s development will be supported by a Professional Development Journal, SSAT competency audit tools, intersessional tasks and a school-based mentor. All participants will lead a school improvement project lasting at least two terms, aimed at improving pupil progress and attainment and the capability of their team. They will produce a 4,500-word written account and documentary evidence.

Programme modules

1. Introduction to the SSAT NPQML

This module prepares participants for the course and ensures that they understand their own leadership development needs. By the end of this module, participants will:

  • Understand the structure of the course and what is expected of them
  • Be familiar with the online platform
  • Have self-assessed against the leadership competencies and behaviours
  • Begun to identify possible school improvement projects
  • Identified initial priorities for their first mentoring session


2. Vision, values and the moral purpose

This module will enable two participants to consider their own vision for their area and how this aligns with the school’s vision and priorities. By the end of this module, participants will:

  • Understand what a vision is and why it’s important
  • Reflect on the values and moral purpose that guide and direct their behaviours
  • Be able to anchor and sustain their leadership practice through connecting to their moral purpose
  • Have a deeper understanding of moral leadership and its implications for practice


3. Data analysis for performance and progress

This module develops participants’ management and understanding of performance and pupil progress data at individual and group level, equipping them with practical tools and techniques for analysis. By the end of this module, participants will:

  • Be familiar with statistical and data analysis concepts (e.g. confident intervals, statistical significance, sampling, correlation and causation)
  • Understand how to evaluate progress, identify trends and define team priorities
  • Deploy a range of techniques and tools to manage and analyse performance and pupil progress data (e.g. databases, spreadsheets, formulae and graphs)
  • Use data to monitor particular individuals and groups of learners at risk of underachievement, including disadvantaged learners
  • Provide documentary evidence of raw data analysis


4. Leading strategic improvement

This module focuses on the need for a strategic approach to leading improvement. Building on module three, participants will plan for the strategic development of priorities emerging from the data analysis of pupil progress and performance. By the end of this module, participants will:

  • Have decided the focus and begun planning for their school improvement project, lasting at least two terms, to reduce variation in pupil progress and attainment (part A) and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of teaching (part B)
  • Engage with the research evidence on improving progress and attainment, including that of disadvantaged groups and provision for those with particular needs
  • Have learned about the graduated approach to supporting SEND pupils, as set out in the SEND Code of Practice
  • Be familiar with sources of research such as the EEFs teaching and learning toolkit
  • Understand the principles of action research


5. Evidence based teaching and learning

This module encourages participants to reflect on the importance of curriculum design and developing excellent teaching rooted in evidence. By the end of this module, participants will:

  • Have analysed research into pedagogical approaches shown to have impact, drawing implications for practice
  • Understand the principles of curriculum design and different models
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum on offer and how effectively this meets the needs of learners
  • Have engaged with the research on models of pupil assessment and identified how this should inform current and future practice
  • Be familiar with the Ofsted handbook for inspection and the clarification of inspection requirements in relation to lesson planning, marketing, feedback and collection of pupil performance data


6. Developing your leadership approach

This module looks at developing leadership approaches to improve effectiveness. It includes the importance of self-awareness and emotional intelligence as well as exploring leadership characteristics and styles. By the end of this module, participants will:

  • Have reflected on their own personalities, characteristics and behaviours so that they become more self-aware
  • Have reflected further on the seven NPQ leadership behaviours; commitment, collaboration, personal drive, resilience, awareness, integrity and respect
  • Be familiar with the research on emotional intelligence and understand the impact of behaviour on their teams
  • Have explored the impact of different leadership styles and a situational leadership approach
  • Have considered the importance of communication and communication styles in leadership, including presenting challenging messages positively
  • Understand how their leadership contributes to the organisational culture


7. Leading and managing innovation and change

This module explores the complex issues involved in leading and managing change. It includes practical tools for effective project management as well as how to handle the emotional aspect of change. By the end of this module, participants will:

  • Have reflected on the theory and practice of leading change in order to lead more effectively
  • Have considered the implications for middle leaders of leading in a period of constant change
  • Understand the fundamentals of project management
  • Have reflected on the importance of innovation for strategic improvement – ‘doing things differently in order to do them better’
  • Apply their learning to leading their school improvement project


8. Managing resources and risks

This module explores the important leadership responsibilities of managing resources and risks. This includes effective deployment of financial, staffing and educational resources, safeguarding and ensuring pupil and staff well-being. By the end of this module, participants will:

  • Understand key enablers in efficiently and effectively deploying resources to enhance pupil progress, including curriculum planning, project planning, forecasting and staffing
  • Have considered the issues and impact of workload and well-being
  • Be familiar with the legal requirements and statutory guidance for safeguarding and health and safety in schools
  • Identify and mitigate risks in plans using a risk register
  • Evidence their ability to manage a budget, project plan and use a risk register


9. Building a high-performance team

This module looks at the key ingredients to building a high-performance team. By the end of this module, participants will:

  • Have explored characteristics of high performing teams and dysfunctional teams
  • Have reflected on how failures can become powerful learning opportunities
  • Have evaluated the effectiveness of teams they lead and considered how they can improve performance
  • Be equipped to support a culture that builds strong teams and shares good practice


10. Support and challenge – holding yourself and others to account

This module addresses the role of accountability and performance management. By the end of this module, participants will:

  • Be familiar with the Teachers’ Standards and the Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development
  • Understand their role in setting the team culture and expectations
  • Have effective strategies and systems for holding others to account, line management and evaluating performance
  • Identify appropriate professional development opportunities for themselves and their team
  • Have strategies for managing challenging conversations


11. Developing yourself and others

This module focuses on the need for a growth mindset. We all have the potential to get better and learn new skills. Prioritising both our own development and the development of those we lead is essential in any healthy organisation. By the end of this module, participants will:

  • Identify their own and others professional development needs
  • Have considered a variety of professional development activities and their cost-effectiveness
  • Support all members of their team with appropriate targeted opportunities for professional development
  • Be able to evaluate the impact of professional development on teacher development and pupil outcomes
  • Have considered a progression pathway for themselves and their teams


12. Collaboration, partnership and communication

This module recognises the importance of collaboration and working in partnership. This includes at individual, team, school and system level. By the end of this module, participants will:

  • Have reflected on the barriers and benefits to effective collaboration, partnership and team working
  • Have an understanding of the research evidence that underpins successful collaboration
  • Have considered stakeholder engagement, within and beyond the school – including parents
  • Have reflected on the importance of communication in achieving engagement and commitment
  • Have a greater awareness of wider networks of support including those at national level


Professional Learning Journal

The Professional Learning Journal will enable participants to record their learning and reflections during the course and examples of how they have applied their learning to their professional practice.

Intersessional tasks

Participants will be expected to complete intersessional activities to prepare them for, and follow up on key module content. This may typically involve pre-reading of research and evidence, action planning or scenario.

SSAT competency tool

At the beginning of the course, participants will complete SSAT’s Leading Teams competency audit tool. This will inform the identification of priorities for development which will be followed up through the course and during mentor meetings. The competency tool will be revisited at the end of the course to reflect and evaluate on progress.

NPQML assessment tasks

This consists of one project split into two parts:

Project summary

Working with my team to a) improve pupil progress and attainment and b) team capability (4,500 words)

Content areas assessed

Part A

Strategy and Improvement

Teaching and Curriculum Excellence

Leading with Impact

Working in Partnership

Part B

Managing Resources and Risks

Increasing Capability


Participant requirements

All participants must:

  • Lead an improvement project in their team, lasting at least two terms, aimed at pupil progress and attainment (part A) and the capability of their team (part B)
  • Submit a written account of the project to the provider for assessment, demonstrating how they have met the criteria. This should cover the initiation, implementation and evaluation of the project
  • Submit supporting documents/material as evidence where indicated. Supporting evidence must be consise and directly related to the candidates’ project and corresponding assessment criterion
  • Not exceed a total word count (across both parts of the project) of 4,500, excluding supporting documents or annexes

Mentoring support

All participants will be supported and challenged by a designated mentor which will either be their NPQML cohort trainer or an appropriate member of the senior leadership team from their home school. Their mentor will work through with participants identified strengths and priority areas for development. The competency audits and Professional Learning Journal will provide a catalyst and framework for structured reflection and ongoing conversation.


*SSAT are working towards accreditation by the Department for Education to deliver the NPQML, and subject to contract will be accredited for training to take place in the current academic year.


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