NPQs for leaders

The NPQs are a suite of qualifications designed to support the development of leaders working across primary and secondary schools.

The NPQ frameworks

The NPQ frameworks are professional development opportunities designed for middle leaders to help improve skills, build confidence and support career progression.

There are currently four specialist NPQS and a further two will begin in 2024:

  • Leading teacher development – become a teacher educator and support teachers in your school to expand their skills.
  • Leading teaching – lead the teaching and learning of a subject, year group or phase.
  • Leading behaviour and culture – create a culture of good behaviour and high expectations where staff and pupils can succeed.
  • Leading literacy – teach and promote literacy across a whole school, year group, key stage or phase.
  • Leading primary mathematics – help your school use mastery approaches and teach maths effectively. Register from October 2023 for courses starting in February 2024.
  • Special educational needs and disabilities co-ordinators (SENCOs) NPQ – gain essential knowledge and skills to perform a SENCO role effectively and set the strategic direction of special educational needs policy in a school. Courses will begin in autumn 2024.

In addition, there are four Leadership NPQs designed for senior leaders or teachers wanting to achieve leadership skills.

  • Senior leadership – develop leadership expertise to improve outcomes for teachers and pupils.
  • Early years leadership – manage your staff and organisation to provide high-quality early years education and care.
  • Headship – learn how to become an expert school leader and outstanding headteacher.
  • Executive leadership – develop the expertise to run a multi-school organisation and effectively lead change and improvement.


Yes, the existing NPQML will continue to be considered a good quality and respected qualification. Over time, all qualifications are reviewed and updated and your NPQML will not be diminished. You may wish to complete one of the new NPQs in addition, if you want to focus on one of the areas, but this is certainly not a requirement or necessary to further your career.

The NPQs are developed from the evidence base and guidance that informed the ITT Core Content Framework and Early Career Framework. They also reflect the Teachers’ Standards and Headteacher Standards. The DfE sought this alignment to ensure continuity through teacher training and CPD throughout your career.

The qualifications focus attention on the knowledge and skills that teachers and school leaders need to educate and overcome persistent challenges of their daily roles.  Effective teacher professional development and how this can be transferred collectively into the school and classroom has a greater emphasis in the NPQs. The specialist NPQs encourage professional dialogue through mentoring and coaching that works towards achieving a common language and purpose. The NEU has a range of professional development opportunities to support you throughout your career and leadership journey that are delivered at a local and national level. The national programme is available.

There are some factors that you may want to clarify before applying for the NPQ including what time will be available to complete the qualification and what support will I have from the school in completing the qualification. The pay reward may include Teaching and Learning Responsibilities (TLR) payments, the Leading Practitioner range or even the Leadership Group pay range. 

Advice on pay progression and how to secure fair pay in your workplace.

The NPQ will help you improve your teaching, the teaching of colleagues and support the school’s overall achievement. It is therefore reasonable to expect the school to support you during completing and beyond completion of the qualification. Your manager should allocate the time and resources for you to be able to take part on the NPQ and implement learning. There should also be mechanisms in place for reflection and effective feedback. In addition, the school should fund the qualification from the allocated professional development budget.

Your first step would be to look at which one of the NPQs matches your experience and you are drawn to. In addition, have a discussion with your manager to explore how this will be supported by the school. The next step is to find a provider by contacting your local teaching school hub.

Once you have selected your course and provider, you will need to register for your programme using the DfE’s online service.

The cost of the NPQs for middle managers can be up to and just over £1,000 depending on the course and the provider. The qualification is fully funded for staff employed in one of the 30% of schools in England with the highest levels of pupils on Pupil Premium. 

If you do not fall into this category of schools, you are able to self-fund the qualification. The NEU advice is that the school should fund the qualification from the allocated professional development budget. You should talk to your manager and negotiate for this, or talk to your school rep.

The NPQ can take between 2 academic terms and 27 months to complete, depending on your chosen NPQ and provider.

The NPQs remain voluntary but are a nationally recognised suite of qualifications. They are designed to support the professional development of school teachers and leaders. Evidence shows that relevant professional development that can be applied in the classroom has a significant effect on pupil achievement and attainment. Being part of a whole school learning culture can serve positively towards your current role and the next step in your career.

The qualification requires a significant responsibility in relation to the leadership and management of teaching and learning. This involves working in a team setting and across the school to align practice. The pay reward for all teachers and leaders is decided by the Governing Body of the school. The pay reward may include Teaching and Learning Responsibilities (TLR) payments, the Leading Practitioner range or even the Leadership Group pay range. 

More advice on pay progression and how to secure fair pay in your workplace.

If you have a question or query about the new NPQs, speak to your workplace rep in the first instance. If you do not have access to a workplace rep, you may want to consider taking on the role. The role is very rewarding and many of the skills you will develop are transferable to your professional life. Our reps are at the heart of the union.

As a middle leader you may also be interested in reading the FAQ on the Role of ECT Mentors.

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