National Professional Qualification
for Headship

Apply by 18 December to join our spring 2021 intake. Get the latest NPQ scholarship news here

The National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) is for those who are or are aspiring to become, a Headteacher or head of school with responsibility for leading a school. This includes those with cross-school responsibilities such as a National Leader of Education (NLE).

The qualification covers 6 content areas which set out what a leader should know or should be able to do and 7 leadership behaviours which set out how the best leaders operate. The content areas have been embedded within 3 online courses, with the leadership behaviours explored during the face-to-face events.

Due to social distancing guidelines, NPQ face-to-face events are currently being delivered online through facilitated online workshops, extra tutor support and study packs, find out more

Although face-to-face events are currently suspended until a review in the summer, candidates will still be grouped according to either their location or the delivery partner they signed up with. 

NPQH is recognised as a contribution towards entry onto a full Masters programme. Find out more about the credit exemptions available here.

NPQH - A graduate interview

NPQH - An introduction

Who is this for?

NPQH is suitable for aspiring heads (no more than 18 months from applying for headship) and those who have recently been made headteachers. Candidates must pass the gateway assessment before registering with a provider.

To find out more about the NPQs that we offer and to see a side-by-side comparison, please click here. 

You can view our programme metrics here.

What are the benefits?

Benefits for candidates

  • Focus on and develop the key skills needed for headship
  • Internationally recognised, high standard for leadership development
  • Challenge and development to deliver educational excellence in a self-improving system which will enable high-quality outcomes for pupils and students
  • Time to reflect on leadership practice and to network with a wide range of school leaders
  • Increased awareness and understanding of self and of the behaviours needed to lead a school
  • Increased confidence to drive the vision and improve standards
  • Increased capability and capacity to take on whole-school responsibility and a strengthened ability to hold others to account

Benefits for schools

    • Support succession of school leaders and build a cohesive, impact-focused school leadership team
    • A professionally aware and informed leader who can make evidence-based decisions and approach new challenges in an effective and efficient manner
  • The ability to delegate responsibility effectively empowering staff to lead on whole-school improvement
  • The ability to review and evaluate practice in order to bring about change and get the best for young people and staff within the organisation

Programme outline

Qualification Schedule

Qualification Content

The qualification covers 6 content areas which set out what a leader should know or should be able to do and 7 leadership behaviours which set out how the best leaders operate. The content areas have been embedded within 3 online courses, with the leadership behaviours explored during the face-to-face events.

Event Content

Each day is facilitated by two experienced facilitators and supported by a serving Headteacher.

Event 1: Induction • Qualification outcomes, process and schedule
• Supporting your leadership learning
• Effective leadership learning and development
• Leading change for improvement: In-school leadership practice
• Avenues of support for your leadership learning and development journey
Event 2: Strategy & Improvement • Strategy & Improvement: Getting the foundation right
• Check-in on leadership learning & practice
• Self-managed task: Future direction and strategic development
• Presentation to ‘the governing board’
• Modelling characteristics of team effectiveness
Event 3: Teaching & Curriculum Excellence • School leader perspective: Vision & reality
• Check-in on leadership learning & practice
• Presenting my vision for teaching, learning and curriculum excellence
• Self-managed task: Leading vision to reality
• How leaders improve & demonstrate improvement
Event 4: Managing Resources & Risk
• School Leader perspective: Ensuring school and staff accountability
• Check-in on leadership learning & practice
• Managing performance
• Financial management: Effective & efficient resourced teachers
• Personal reflection and plenary
Event 5: Readiness
• School Leader perspective: What successful leadership looks like
• Successful leader presentations
• Powerful learning conversations
• Assessment criteria in practice
• Assessment: Supporting successful submission

Online Course Content

Strategy & Improvement Teaching & Curriculum Excellence Managing Resources & Risk
Module 1 Context for change & strategic development Context for change - teaching & learning reality Financial efficiency & effectiveness
Module 2 Creating the vision & strategic improvement environment Creating the learning culture for effective teaching and learning and curriculum opportunity Accountability & Governance

School-led partnership and impact
Module 3 Establishing credible relationships & effective collaboration Growing talent and quality momentum Staffing recruitment, retention and performance
Module 4 Transforming the culture for improvement & impact Transforming lives and opportunities for improvement and impact Transforming schools through school-led
partnership and impact

Guideline Study Hours Breakdown

Component NPQH
360 leadership diagnostic 3
Face-to-face events 30
Online courses 60
Online briefings 4
Performance coaching 3
Exec/Head-led webinars 6
Peer challenge groups N/A


Task 1
Candidates must lead a change programme at whole-school level lasting at least two terms and aiming to improve pupil progress and attainment. Candidates must present the plan to the Governing Board prior to implementation and gather their feedback. A written account of the project covering the design, implementation and evaluation must then be submitted for assessment.

Task 2
Candidates are required to research a placement school’s current and/or projected resource and capability challenges and design an action plan to address these. The placement must be undertaken in a contrasting school to their home school (for example, by performance, pupil profile, geography etc.) and last at least nine working days. These can be spread across a number of weeks at the candidate’s discretion. Candidates must present the plan to their placement school’s governing board and gather their feedback. A written account of the project must then be submitted for assessment.

Project scripts and supporting evidence are assessed in accordance with a mark scheme provided by the DfE and are subject to national moderation.

In order to achieve NPQH candidates must:

  • complete 3 online courses and associated core tasks 
  • engage with practice-based events
  • pass final assessment within 18 months of starting the qualification

NPQH Spring 2021 event dates and online course facilitation windows. 

Engagement window Programme element
Today – 05/02/2021

NPQ Course Preparation and Welcome Pack Release

(Official start of Engagement with Preparation Activities)
[Start of Preparation Stage]

01/02/2021 – 05/02/2021

Canvas Welcome Message and Login Details Release

[Start of Induction Stage]

08/02/2021 - 12/02/2021

01/03/2021 - 05/03/2021

NPQH Face-to-face Event 1 (or Distance Learner Equivalent Activity)

[Start of Development Stage]

08/03/2021 – 02/04/2021

Strategy and Improvement (S&I) Online Course Facilitation Window

(20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

26/04/2021 – 07/05/2021

NPQH Face-to-face Event 2 (or Distance Learner Equivalent Activity)

14/06/2021 - 09/07/2021

Teaching and Curriculum Excellence (T&CE) Online Course Facilitation Window
(20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

06/09/2021 – 17/09/2021

NPQH Face-to-face Event 3 (or Distance Learner Equivalent Activity)

20/09/2021 – 15/10/2021

Managing Resources and Risks (MR&R) Online Course Facilitation Window

(20 hours engagement over 4 weeks)

18/10/2021 – 22/10/2021

01/11/2021 – 05/11/2021

NPQH Face-to-face Event 4 (or Distance Learner Equivalent Activity)

29/11/2021 – 10/12/2021

NPQH Face-to-face Event 5 (or Distance Learner Equivalent Activity)

[Start of Final Assessment Stage]

How is it delivered?

Candidates will usually complete the qualification within 12-18 months and benefit from our following learning models:

Our blended learning model

    • five face-to-face training events
    • three online courses working alongside peers
    • termly face-to-face and online coaching sessions
  • regular online conferences to support and complement learning 
  • access to two 360° leadership skills diagnostics
  • support from a nominated in-school mentor
  • facilitation and coaching from serving school leaders in outstanding schools
  • a nine-day school placement (identified according to location, phase and specialism)
  • mobile-enabled virtual learning environment enabling flexible access to course resources and support community
  • option to accrue 100 credits to contribute towards an MA in Educational Leadership with Chester University

The Online Elements of NPQH:

What does it cost?

School Type Fee payable
All state-maintained schools, academies and independent schools in the UK


International schools

Click here

Various funding routes available.

How to apply

Please complete the online registration form in the right-hand bar to apply for a place.

You will be asked to upload the following as part of your registration:

It will save time if you have this before you start your online registration.

DfE Scholarship Funding

Groups & Locations

Distance Learning Model

Eligibility Requirements