Middle Leader

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Become an effective leader through learning, mentoring and networking on an accredited middle leadership course. Help your school thrive, while gaining an NPQML.

  • Gain a National Professional Qualification in Middle Leadership (NPQML).
  • Tackle your school’s specific challenges.
  • One-to-one expert support.
  • Evidence-based training delivered in a flexible way.
  • Join a network of leaders working to build a fair education for all.
Programme runs from July 2020 to September 2021.
We're making some changes due to COVID-19
Open for new applications as usual

Unlock your own talent as a middle leader and help create a school where everyone fulfils their potential.


Gain a National Professional Qualification in leadership 

Boost your career with a highly respected National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML) – we’re one of the few organisations accredited to provide these nationally. 

Tackle your school’s specific challenges

Tailored to your school’s needs, each stage of the NPQ-accredited programme is designed to help address daily challenges you face. It’ll give you the skills to come up with and implement plans that’ll have a real impact on teachers and pupils at your school. The programme is all about providing practical solutions, not just ticking theoretical boxes. 

One-to-one expert support

We provide one-to-one support and training from accomplished educators, who will be on hand to offer help and guidance when you need it. They’re experienced school leaders who’ve been where you are, so they know how to help you get the most out of our teacher development programme. 

Expert school leadership training delivered in a flexible way

You’ll come together with school leadership experts and other teachers at our face-to-face events, where you’ll review your work so far, prepare for the next stage and connect with leaders in your region. But most of the NPQML course can be taken online through modules designed to help middle leaders improve specific aspects of their school. That means you can fit it around your schedule at a pace that suits you.

Join a network of leaders working to build a fair education for all

Share experiences with other school leaders online and in person, learn how they’ve faced similar challenges to you and build a professional network that’ll support you throughout your career.

  • 90% of teachers say leadership development opportunities encourage them to stay in a school.
  • Around 850,000 young people are not benefiting from good or outstanding leadership according to Ofsted.
  • Effective leadership makes schools ten times more likely to improve at their next Ofsted inspection.
Department for Education logo with text - 'Accredited NPQ provider'
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Is the middle leader programme right for you?

If you’re an aspiring or newly appointed middle leader who is responsible for a team (such as a subject leader, key stage leader or head of department), this programme is for you. 

Please note that to apply for this programme, you must have completed your NQT year or be due to complete it by July 2020.

If you’re a headteacher, why should you consider it for your staff?

Career development opportunities and ongoing support encourage teachers to thrive where they are. That’s why our leadership programmes are so valuable – they keep great teachers in their schools for the long-term while increasing the positive impact they can have.

Not only does the middle leader add skills to your team, the person taking part will create a plan that addresses issues affecting pupils at your school, which they can implement at the middle leadership level. They’ll also become part of a wider network of teachers and schools all attempting to give young people from the poorest backgrounds the best shot at success.    

How it works

Intensive support to build your leadership and project management skills is at the heart of the programme. It’s delivered in four stages:

  • Pinpoint issues that are holding pupils back in your school and work out the causes.
  • Develop your ability to address those issues and work out a plan that will effectively tackle them at your leadership level.
  • Get colleagues on board and integrate your plan into every aspect of school life.
  • Reflect on your plan and make the improvements an intrinsic part of your school’s culture. 

You’ll learn in two ways:  

  • Online and at school. All the high-quality resources that come with the NPQML programme are available online. You’ll access knowledge and tools that will help you reflect on and track your leadership development, and tackle the issues impacting your school. Each stage requires around ten hours of online learning through modules you can take as and when you choose.
  • Training days. Get together with leadership experts and others on the programme to review your work, prepare for the next stage and share experiences. There are three training days - two Saturdays (one in July, the other in September) and one weekday (in December), where there are no day-to-day school distractions, so you can really focus on your development.

Support at every turn

We go out of our way to provide great support. We know that with it you’ll get the most out of the programme and, in turn, so will your pupils. You’ll get:

  • One-to-one support with an expert ready to share their deep knowledge of middle leadership and project development skills. 
  • Virtual learning groups that connect you with others on the programme online, so an understanding friend is always at your fingertips. 
  • In-person learning outside school with current school leaders and education experts. There will also be workshops with other teachers on the programme.  
  • Networking opportunities at our training days, where you can build valuable, ongoing connections in your region.

Looking for a different leadership programme?


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Teacher with two pupils


Is your school eligible?

To take part you need to be working at a school that is either a Teach First partner, or eligible to be one. That means your school must be in England and teach a high number of pupils from low-income backgrounds, because we want all our funding to be directed at those who need it most. 

We calculate which schools are eligible using the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) and Achieving Excellence Areas (AEA), a measure which identifies parts of the country where children persistently underperform. 

Based on these scoring systems, eligible schools must fall under one of these categories:

  • An IDACI of 40 or greater (this means 40% of pupils are living in low-income homes).
  • An IDACI of 35 to 40 and an AEA score of 4 to 6.
  • An IDACI of 30 to 35 and an AEA of 5 or 6.
  • An IDACI of 25 to 30 and an AEA score of 6.

Learn more about our school partnership requirements.


We offer our high-quality programmes at a significantly subsidised rate to make them accessible to leaders in schools tackling the biggest challenges.

Cost: £800

Before applying

To make applying as easy as possible, take a look through our short application guidance document

Please note that to apply for this programme, you must have completed your NQT year or be due to complete it by July 2020.

You should also talk to your headteacher and make sure they’re happy for you to join and to fund your place. You should tell them that:

  • everyone on the programme is expected to come to up to three face-to-face training days - two Saturdays (one in July, the other in September) and one weekday (in December)
  • your school will need to cover any travel expenses to those training days; however, we will support with travel and accommodation costs related to event attendance for those who need to travel above and beyond a reasonable distance as per our travel policy
  • your school is responsible for arranging teaching cover for the one training day that takes place during the working week
  • each stage of the programme requires dedicated time spent on online learning
  • your school is responsible for funding the cost of the programme.

Then you’re ready to apply.

But if you've still got questions about any aspect of the programme or the application process, email us at TFSLP@teachfirst.org.uk - we're happy to help.

Teacher in front of whiteboard.
Teachers sitting around a desk


Leadership matters

That’s a fact. We want to make sure schools that teach the most disadvantaged pupils get the best leadership training and support to succeed. That’s good for poorer young people, who get brilliant leaders, good for teachers who want to progress and good for schools who get to develop and keep talented leaders.

We’ve researched the issue extensively, take a look at our report. We found there are plenty of teachers and leaders eager to step up given the opportunity. We’re providing leadership courses that give them the ongoing career development they want.

Addressing the school leadership challenge

Our report found the issue of under-developed leadership to be widespread, but impacting disadvantaged pupils the most:

  • Around 850,000 young people are not benefiting from good or outstanding leadership, according to Ofsted.
  • 14% of schools in the poorest communities are given the worst two Ofsted scores for leadership, compared to 5% in wealthier areas.
  • 63% of senior leaders say their school does not provide enough leadership opportunities.
  • 18% of senior leaders have had no leadership training at all.

But great leadership training at all levels can change that:

  • 64% of middle leaders in all schools say they’d be interested in taking on a more senior role. 
  • Schools are ten times more likely to improve at their next Ofsted inspection with effective leadership.
  • 90% of teachers say leadership development opportunities encourage them to stay at a school.
  • 93% of teachers say training tailored to their school’s needs is the most effective.

Become a confident school leader

Teacher sits with pupils at the Dean Academy
Teacher and three pupils look at globe
If you have that drive to ensure you’re always improving, always thinking about your leadership qualities and skills, go for this programme.
Katie Matthews,
English teacher and Middle Leader programme member

All young people deserve good career guidance for success beyond school. Our programme gives middle and senior leaders the careers expertise to deliver it.

Careers Leader

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