National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) are nationally available, voluntary qualifications that have been designed to support teachers’ and leaders’ professional development.

The suite of NPQs has been updated and available from autumn 2021. These revised NPQs will be available for teachers and leaders who want to develop their knowledge and skills in school leadership and specialist areas of teaching practice.

The updates include reforms to the three existing NPQs in senior leadership, headship and executive leadership. In addition, the current NPQ in middle leadership has been replaced with three new NPQs for teachers and leaders who want to develop their expertise in specialist areas of teaching practice. The details of these reformed NPQs are explored in more detail below.

Teachers and leaders undertaking existing NPQs

Anyone currently undertaking an NPQ under the existing contracts and frameworks (prior to the reforms) is required to complete these courses, including assessment and moderation, by August 2022. The information about the 2017 NPQs remains on the Department for Education (DfE)’s web page Professional development for school leaders.

Purpose and deliverability of the NPQs

The specialist and leadership NPQs have been developed to provide training and support for teachers and school leaders at all levels. This includes those who want to develop expertise in their teaching practice, such as behaviour management, through to those leading a number of schools across multi-academy trusts.

It is intended that NPQs can be completed flexibly around existing commitments of teachers and leaders. Study lasts between two academic terms and 27 months, depending on which NPQ is chosen. The provider will also play a role, as they determine the course structure, content and method of delivery.

Learning spans a number of methodologies, including following an evidence-based curriculum, face-to-face sessions, webinars, self-directed study and a summative assessment.

Reformed NPQs from autumn 2021

The three new NPQs in specialist areas of teaching are:

  • Leading Teacher Development: for teachers who have, or are aspiring to have, responsibilities for leading the development of other teachers in their school;

  • Leading Teaching: for teachers who have, or are aspiring to have, responsibilities for leading teaching in a subject, year group, key stage or phase; and

  • Leading Behaviour and Culture: for teachers who have, or are aspiring to have, responsibilities for leading behaviour and/or supporting pupil wellbeing in their school.

The reformed leadership NPQs are:

  • Senior Leadership: for school leaders who are, or are aspiring to be, a senior leader with cross-school responsibilities;

  • Headship: for school leaders who are, or are aspiring to be, a headteacher or head of school with responsibility for leading a school; and

  • Executive Leadership: for school leaders who are, or are aspiring to be, an executive headteacher or have a school trust CEO role with responsibility for leading several schools.

New content frameworks, which are available on National professional qualifications frameworks: from autumn 2021 have been developed for each NPQ, setting out what participants should know and be able to do after completing the qualification. Providers have used these frameworks to design their courses.

Applying for an NPQ

Teachers and leaders can apply with one of nine providers accredited to offer the NPQs. The DfE website.

Providers of the reformed suite of NPQs will be subject to a quality assurance mechanism through Ofsted inspection, with a view to ensuring they continue to offer the best support for schools and teachers.

Funding and eligibility

New funding of £184m for NPQs has been allocated as part of the Government’s long-term Education Recovery Plan.

Full scholarship funding is available for the NPQs, with no cost to the participant, if teachers or leaders meet the set criteria. For the NPQs in Leading Behaviour and Culture, Leading Teaching, Senior Leadership and Executive Leadership, this includes working in a state-funded school in England that is within the top 30th percentile in relation to pupils on pupil premium as of the end of the previous academic year.

The rationale for this is these schools will benefit most from this funding, not only because they face greater challenges around recruitment and retention, but also because disadvantaged pupils have been most severely affected by disruption to learning due to coronavirus.

The full details of eligibility for full scholarship criteria, which are specific to each NPQ, are listed on the website.

If teachers and leaders are not eligible for scholarship funding, participants can self-fund courses. Costs vary between providers, and teachers and leaders can contact them directly for full details of their costs.

How to sign up

The first step for those interested in undertaking an NPQ is to sign up with a provider. The DfE states that the easiest way to do this is to contact the local teaching school hub, which can be identified on the DfE website. Alternatively, teachers and leaders can contact Lead Providers, also referred to as delivery partners, directly. Once a course and provider has been selected, teachers and leaders will need to register for the programme using the DfE’s online service.

Expansion of NPQs

The DfE has outlined its plans to ensure NPQs continue to offer the best possible support to teachers and leaders wanting to expand their knowledge and skills. As part of this, the Department is consulting with sector representatives and experts on the value of developing additional qualifications in other areas, such as early years and teaching literacy.

Next steps

The NASUWT will continue to monitor for further updates or additional information on the NPQs.

The Union will provide further updates to members as appropriate.