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)

Learners First has been designing and delivering the NPQSL qualification since the DFE first licensed provision in 2012. Since then over 940 aspiring and serving senior leaders have accessed the Learners First programme.

Who is NPQSL for?

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?

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

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

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​

The Learners First approach to delivery of the NPQSL programme is via a blended approach centred around the equivalent of 8 days out of school at face-to-face sessions designed and delivered by experienced school leaders with the expertise and proven track records of success. The face-to-face sessions are supplemented by individual research and work-based tasks aimed at developing your leadership thinking and enabling you to successfully meet the assessment requirements. Peer to peer networking and collaborations are encouraged through school visits during the programme and through the use of social media.

The face-to-face sessions will be delivered over at least two academic terms, ensuring that participants are afforded sufficient time and development opportunities to successfully meet the assessment criteria.

Note :

Whilst Covid-19 restrictions remain in place, face-to-face sessions have been redesigned and replaced by digital/online learning involving webinars and an increased use of online resources. We aim to return to face-to-face delivery as soon as it is practical to do so.

Programme Costs

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

As a result of high demand from teachers and leaders for NPQ scholarships, access to scholarship funding was suspended by the Department for Education in late July 2020. This scholarship suspension relates to the current suite of NPQs and will remain in place until 31st August 2022.


Owing to DfE reforms of the NPQs, the next programmes will commence in the Autumn Term 2021 under the new framework. Further information regarding the new programmes is available below.


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

Quality Assurance


On 13th October 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) published details of the new frameworks for the reformed national professional qualifications (NPQ) that will be available from September 2021. They have been developed in consultation with an expert advisory group from across the education system and include changes to the ways in which NPQs will be assessed.

In view of these reforms, Learners First is working in partnership with Teaching Schools Hubs and national partners to design and develop new NPQs as part of the DfE reforms in readiness for delivery in the 2021/22 academic year.

Further details including the opportunity for school leaders to register interest in the new programmes will be provided in the Summer Term 2021.

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