NPQML: Final Reflection

Top Tips For Completing Your NPQML in 2023

This article was originally written after I completed my project. I have now coached 5 people through the ML and NPQSL courses. The NPQML course is intended for those in middle leadership roles to develop areas of their practice Known as competencies. This was not an easy task but I wished I had undertaken it when I first started my leadership journey. At least having some experience under my belt I could really understand the areas I needed support in.

The main thing I have to thank the NPQML course for was starting this blog and then getting me to use twitter professionally to connect to educators outside of my little bubble. It has prompted the writing of a number of blogs as they were set tasks that crucially I could also use as evidence in my final assessment submission. I was very excited when people actually read some of these! I have collated these into a PDF ebook : NPQML-Thoughts-Reflections if you want to read on the go! For the 2023/2024 NPQs you do not do a project. This evidence has been replaced by an online portal for your reflections and a final assessment submission.

The classic leaders vs managers discussion.

Holding effective Meetings

Courageous conversations This is the area the NPQML helped me most.

Thoughts on developing teams.

A reflection on my leadership journey (they like reflections in the NPQML)

Leading through trust.

Many of my other blogs were influenced by content of the course as well as the tasks making me reflect on my own practice and areas of interest. My favourite part was the face to face sessions where we got to chat (I mean conduct professional dialogue with) others in a similar position. As with any group of professionals you will have your different leadership styles, ethos’s, experiences. But you will learn about those and have fun labeling your new chums.

Don’t be put of by those who have already learnt all the lingo and drop the names of the big players in the leadership game (John West-Burnham – Boom. Drop the Mic).

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NPQML Group Dynamics

In my NPQML Group we had a nice mix of aspiring leaders and those who had experience at a multitude of levels. I had just finished a stint as Acting Deputy Headteacher – (Leave the job title at the door no one is impressed, you are all on a journey). A subject leader in one school may have had more responsibility than a phase leader in another. You are here to learn from the tutors, the impenetrable folder and the other candidates.

NPQML 20Q assessment.jpg

One of the first activities is the 20Q diagnostic, this is basically your chance to rate your strengths and weaknesses. To make it more fun your colleagues get to do the same. I asked a range of staff, some I had not worked closely with – my theory was they would be more honest (see image below). The form then compares your self assessment to others ratings.

This can throw up some common areas and be an eye opener in other areas. The image below is an area I thought I was good at. Apparently not. (my own rating – 6 was significantly higher than I was rated 4.7)

NPQML rating.jpg

The ability to seek and respond to supportive feedback is essential for a resilient leader.

The NPQML Final Assessment has Replaced the Project.

This seems daunting at first but with a canny bit of forethought you can use something you either do already, but just plan and carry out more formally or identify something that you can do without putting strain and huge additional workload on others (or yourself).

Buy doughnuts: you will have to call additional meetings, use up favours and be super nice assertive.

The project does not have to be huge. You need three things

  1. An change/improvement related outcome.
  2. A team (I had 4 people)
  3. A plan (Use a Gannt Chart)

From the moment you come up with the outcome/idea record and document everything. EVERYTHING. Squirrel away every related email, every meeting agenda, post it note, research, etc. I would also either blog or keep a small diary of your thoughts. Note what problems – I mean challenges did you overcome. Shamelessly ask your team for feedback – I even made up feedback forms to analyse how they interpreted my leadership.

My project dropped nicely into my lap with the changes to the KS3/4 science curriculum. The science subject leader had left so I took on that responsibility. Normally the subject leader in our school would design the curriculum alone.

Leadership 101 – To gain buy in from staff enable the ownership and meaningful input. SEN 101 – Everything needs to be individualised. So it was the perfect opportunity to build a team to gather as many views and ideas as possible from those who will be delivering the curriculum to our diverse student group. This worked really well. You will rely on your team a lot. This is a good opportunity to engage with colleagues from different areas.

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I used a GANNT chart to plan the project. This is actually quite handy. In terms of allocating roles and ensuring deadlines are met (management tasks really).

NPQML Leadership tools Gannt Chart.jpg

After the project is finished I asked my team to complete questionnaires about how awesome I am how effective they thought my leadership was. This project must be worthwhile for your team. It can link to their development targets as well. I passed the baton for subject leader to a team member at the end of the project.

It should meet a real identified need. It should have impact. I used assessment data to identify the need and again at the end impact – I will look again at the end of this year to ensure it has had lasting impact. I’m not in the job for box ticking meaningless initiatives.

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The Final Form

Evidence for my NPQML Final Assessment Submission

This can be a pain or a pleasure (kind of). If you keep evidence throughout and link tasks to the competencies as you go it will be much easier to complete.

I kept screenshots of emails, meeting agendas and minutes. So it wasn’t too arduous.

Now I have a confession.

I got referred the first time I entered it.


I hadn’t read the submission criteria and forgot to include a report to SLT/my mentor.

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So the result below was actually attempt 2. My form had hyperlinks which they didn’t like but they were for my mentor to check my evidence (this blog, SLTchat etc actually existed) so best to not do this.

NPQML Result and certificate

So to conclude. If you have the opportunity I would grab it just bear in mind these key ideas to make the most of it without drowning in extra work

9 Top Tips for Successfully Completing Your NPQML

  1. Have an idea about an area you would like to use as a focus for your NPQML
  2. Make the project something that you/others need/want to do anyway
  3. Get buy in from your team
  4. Make meetings worthwhile/efficient as possible (there is a unit on this)
  5. Keep a note of competencies as you go
  6. Keep up to date with the online activities
  7. Read the submission criteria
  8. You get out what you put in
  9. Start a blog

2 thoughts on “NPQML: Final Reflection”

  1. Pingback: Leaders vs Managers: School Leadership NPQML

  2. Pingback: Becoming a Middle Leader.A School Leadership Journey - Special Education and Inclusive Learning

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