Develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours that you need to be a high-performing senior leader in schools.

These qualifications are changing. For more information, see National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) reforms.


The National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL) supports the professional development of aspiring and serving senior leaders.

Apply with one of the providers accredited to offer this qualification. Contact your preferred provider, or visit their website, to find out more about the qualification.


The Department for Education (DfE) accredited providers to design, deliver and assess one or more of the national professional qualifications (NPQs). You can only take an NPQ with an accredited provider.

To ensure that your NPQ is accessible, high quality and nationally consistent, your provider’s programme must meet the requirements of the:

  • NPQ content and assessment framework, which sets out the knowledge and skills that providers must teach as part of each NPQ, and the tasks and criteria against which providers will be required to assess their candidates
  • NPQ quality framework, which sets out the standards of provision that providers must meet to retain their accreditation

Read them at the National professional qualifications: frameworks page.

Who can apply

You should be, or aspire to be, a senior leader with cross-school responsibilities, for example:

  • an experienced middle leader
  • a deputy headteacher
  • an assistant headteacher
  • other senior staff

This includes senior leaders working across more than one school, for example, directors of teaching school alliances.

What’s involved

Study can last between 2 academic terms and 18 months, depending on your provider.

During this time you will:

  • develop knowledge and skills across 6 content areas, which set out what an effective senior leader should know and be able to do
  • have the opportunity to develop up to 7 key leadership behaviours, which set out how an effective leader should operate
  • complete a final assessment that evaluates your capability against the knowledge and skills set out in the 6 content areas

Content areas

The 6 content areas across which you will develop your senior leadership knowledge and skills are:

  • strategy and improvement
  • teaching and curriculum excellence
  • leading with impact
  • working in partnership
  • managing resources and risks
  • increasing capability

Leadership behaviours

The 7 leadership behaviours that you will have the opportunity to develop are:

  • commitment
  • collaboration
  • personal drive
  • resilience
  • awareness
  • integrity
  • respect

Structure and teaching methods

The structure of the NPQSL and the teaching methods will vary between providers, but will include:

  • on-the-job leadership training
  • challenge and support – through a coach and/or mentor
  • access to high-quality resources, drawing on up-to-date research and evidence
  • professional development from and with credible peers
  • opportunities for structured reflection

Final assessment

You will complete a school improvement project within your team, lasting at least 2 terms, aimed at reducing variation in pupil progress and attainment, and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of teaching.

Through this project, you will need to demonstrate your competence through an assessment linked to the knowledge and skills set out in the 6 content areas.


Costs vary between providers. You should contact a provider for full details of their costs.


As a result of high demand from teachers and leaders for NPQ scholarships, access to scholarship funding for new applicants for NPQs was suspended in late July 2020. We will update this page if, later this financial year, we are able to re-open access to scholarships to new NPQ applicants.

However, you will receive funding for the full course fee if you meet certain eligibility criteria and either:

  • you started your NPQ course on or before 23 July 2020 or
  • your provider confirmed on or before 23 July 2020 that it had reserved a place for you on an NPQ course and you start that course by 31 March 2021

The eligibility criteria are that you must be a teacher or school leader working at an eligible school – that is a school which is located in an opportunity area or area defined in achieving excellence areas as category 5 or 6, or employed at a school which is subject to the oversight of a multi-academy trust or diocese, which also includes other schools in those areas. Also, you must continue to be employed at an eligible school and finally, you must not have previously been funded to undertake an NPQ course of the same level.

Access to funding remains conditional on successful verification of participants’ registration information against the database of qualified teachers (DQT), so you must ensure that the information supplied to your NPQ provider matches your DQT record. You can check and update your DQT record via the Teaching Regulation Agency.

Published 18 March 2014
Last updated 16 September 2020 + show all updates

  1. Updated funding section.

  2. Updated the funding section.

  3. Updated to reflect availability of NPQ scholarship funding from 1 April 2020.

  4. Updated to show NPQ funding for the financial year 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 is fully committed.

  5. Updated qualification description following national professional qualifications (NPQs) reforms.

  6. First published.