National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership.

Learners First – a Department For Education accredited provider of the National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership

National Professional Qualifications (NPQs)

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Learners First has been designing and delivering the NPQSL qualification since the DFE first licensed provision in 2012. Since then over 475 aspiring and serving senior leaders have accessed the Learners First programme.

Who is NPQSL for?

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NPQSL is for those who are, or are aspiring to become, a senior leader with cross-school responsibilities e.g. an experienced middle leader, a deputy headteacher, an assistant headteacher, or other senior staff.

This includes those who are, or are aspiring to be, a senior leader with cross-school responsibilities e.g. a Director of a Teaching School Alliance (TSA).

What Will You Learn On NPQSL?

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Each of the NPQs feature the same 6 content areas as below, however the knowledge and skills within a content area increases in sophistication, depth and breadth progressively through each of the NPQ levels.


Strategy & Improvement

Analyse performance data to identify the causes of variation within a school and against comparative schools (for example, in relation to national benchmarks, historical performance or between different groups)

Ensure data collected is necessary, proportionate and manageable for staff

Work with the governing board effectively to identify and agree approaches to school priorities

Design and implement sustainable change across a school

Teaching and Curriculum Excellence

Use a range of techniques to gather evidence on teaching quality and the impact of interventions across a school

Reduce variation within the school and against comparative schools by improving pupil progress, attainment and behaviour

Develop and maintain a rich, high-quality school curriculum

Leading With Impact

Lead, motivate and influence others, including beyond the line management chain, to deliver whole-school objectives

Develop a communications plan that promotes or defends the school’s performance, policies or decisions effectively

Working in Partnership

Identify a range of local and national partners that can support school improvement

Put in place systems, processes or structures which facilitate knowledge transfer and shared best practice within and beyond the school

Identify the most effective partnerships for improving pupil progress

Managing Resources and Risks

Deploy resources across a school effectively and efficiently to deliver school priorities (for example, in relation to the use of Pupil Premium funding)

Monitor the use of resources across a school, identifying opportunities and pressures (for example, in relation to teacher workload)

Systematically identify, manage and mitigate risks to the school, its pupils and staff

Increasing Capability

Identify excellent professional development practice

Identify talent within an organisation and put in place arrangements or tools to develop and retain it

Design professional development strategies, which engage all staff (including new/recently qualified teachers) and anticipate future professional development needs

Leadership Behaviours

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In addition to learning about the 6 content areas, as part of the NPQSL participants are required to evaluate their strengths in each of the following 7 behaviours at the beginning of their NPQ, and plan how they will develop these during their study programme. Descriptors of the behaviours are as follows:-


The best leaders are self-motivated and take a creative, problem-solving approach to new challenge


The best leaders readily engage with, and invest responsibility in, those who are best placed to improve outcomes

Personal Drive

The best leaders are self-motivated and take a creative, problem-solving approach to new challenge


The best leaders remain courageous and positive in challenging, adverse or uncertain circumstances


The best leaders will know themselves and their teams, continually reflect on their own and others’ practices, and understand how best to approach difficult or sensitive issues


The best leaders act with honesty, transparency and always in the interests of the school and its pupils


The best leaders their respect the rights, views, beliefs and faiths of pupils, colleagues and stakeholders

Content Areas Assessed

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Part A

Strategy and Improvement
Teaching and Curriculum Excellence
Leading with Impact
Working in Partnership

Part B

Managing Resources and Risks
Increasing Capability

The assessment for NPQSL is conducted externally on behalf of Learners First by NPQ Online an experienced assessor for quality leadership in education.

Delivery Approach​

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The Learners First approach will be to deliver NPQSL over the course of at least two academic terms, ensuring that participants are afforded sufficient time and development opportunities to successfully meet the assessment criteria.

This will involve the equivalent of 8 days out of school at face-to-face sessions, delivered by experienced school leaders.

Programme Costs

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The cost of NPQSL with Learners First is:  £1,205 – This includes the cost of one assessment submission.

Should a participant fail to adhere to the assessment requirements they may be liable for the cost of resubmission

NPQ Scholarships

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The Department for Education has currently suspended access to scholarship funding for new applicants for NPQs. Updates will be provided here should the DfE position change.


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Further information regarding applications for the next NPQSL programme will be published after half-term.


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If you have any queries regarding the new NPQSL please email:-

Quality Assurance

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Recent NPqSL News & Blogs

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