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Move to the next level: revamped National Professional Qualifications

progression - next step.jpg

The government has recently re-launched the National Professional Qualifications (NPQs). They now include the following:

  • National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML) - for those that are, or are aspiring to be, a middle leader with responsibility for leading a team
  • National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL) - for leaders that are, or are aspiring to be, a senior leader with cross-school responsibilities
  • National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) - for leaders that are, or are aspiring to be, a head teacher or head of school with responsibility for leading a school
  • National Professional Qualification for Executive Leadership (NPQEL) - for leaders that are, or are aspiring to be, an executive head teacher or MAT CEO role with responsibility for leading several schools. 

NPQ content and assessment framework

The NPQ content and assessment framework set out the following:

  • Knowledge, skills and behaviours that a provider's provision must cover
  • Criteria against which all NPQ participants must be assessed by providers
  • Assessment tasks through which all NPQ participants must be assessed by providers. 

The Department for Education (DfE) and its quality assurance (QA) agent hold providers to account against the NPQ quality framework. There are four main elements to the framework:

  1. Content areas
  2. Leadership behaviours
  3. Assessment criteria
  4. Assessment tasks.


The DfE accredits (and quality assures) a range of providers to design, deliver and assess the NPQs.

To ensure all NPQs are accessible, high quality and nationally consistent, providers' provision must meet the requirements of the NPQ quality framework, which sets out the standards of provision that a provider must meet to retain their accreditation.

See the full list of accredited providers.

Costs and funding

Costs of the courses vary between providers. Contact the providers for full details of their costs.

Ten million pounds is available to support teachers and leaders working in opportunity areas and category five and category six areas to take the new NPQs. This funding will cover full course costs, and all teachers and leaders in these areas are eligible for this funding (provided they have not already studied for the NPQ for which they are applying).

Content areas

Across the NPQ suite, there is a common content core that sets out what a leader should know or be able to do. As you progress through the qualifications, the knowledge and skills increases in sophistication, depth and breadth. The six content areas are as follows:

  1. Strategy and improvement
  2. Teaching and curriculum excellence
  3. Leading with impact
  4. Working in partnership
  5. Managing resources and risks
  6. Increasing capability. 

Full details of the knowledge and skills that comprise these six content areas, for each of the NPQs, can be found in Annex A.

Structure and teaching methods

Study can last between two academic terms and 18 months, depending on the provider.

While providers' provision must cover all of the knowledge and skills in the content areas, it need not follow a specific structure or teaching methods. But it will likely include the following:

  • On-the-job leadership training
  • Challenge and support - through a coach and/or mentor
  • Access to high-quality resources that draw on up-to-date research and evidence
  • Professional development from and with credible peers
  • Opportunities for structured reflection.

See full details of the new qualifications

First published 01 February 2018