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National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH)


The National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) is the first choice qualification for anyone aspiring to be a Headteacher.

Following a significant review, NPQH has been redesigned. The new qualification not only focuses on the key skills needed for headship, but also meets the highest standards for leadership development anywhere in the world. NPQH is a high bar that will challenge and develop talented leaders from all backgrounds who can deliver educational excellence in a self-improving system, and high quality outcomes for pupils and students.

  • Introduction
    • Who is this for?

      Candidates should be highly motivated to become a headteacher, no more than 12–18 months from applying for headship posts and have the full support of their headteacher or line manager. They should then be ready to take up a headship as soon as they graduate. Candidates must have the full support and endorsement of their headteacher, line manager or sponsor. Their line manager will also have to commit to playing an active role in their learning, and encourage and promote their involvement in leadership and other professional development opportunities.

      Qualification overview

      The qualification is assessed and accredited by the National College and consists of a flexible, modular structure that combines core modules with the freedom to specialise and to develop candidate's own professional areas of interest through the choice of elective modules.

      Modules cover three learning areas: educational excellence; operational management; and strategic leadership. All focus on improving the effectiveness of leadership practice. Each module consists of workplace learning and practice activities; face-to-face workshops; and online learning. Candidates will have the opportunity to:

      • access high-quality learning materials and access accounts of practice from outstanding leaders
      • reflect on their own leadership through discussion and debate with peers
      • put theory into practice and continue to improve their own leadership in order to have a greater impact within their institution

      Activities within modules have been designed to stimulate and challenge thinking, build knowledge, skills and expertise, and promote change and improvement in leadership behaviours, capability and capacity.

      To achieve the National Professional Qualification for Headship you will need to successfully complete three essential and two elective modules.


      Essential Modules Elective Modules
      Leading and improving teaching Curriculum development
      Leading an effective school Achievement for all
      Succeeding in headship Closing the gap
        Using data and evidence to improve performance
        Leading staff and effective teams
        Leading change for improvement
        Leadership in diverse contexts

      Applying for NPQH

      Step 1: online application form

      Applicants must first complete the National College online application form matching their skills and experience against the competencies within the NPQH assessment framework. A sponsor (usually their line manager) will need to endorse the application form to confirm suitability and readiness for headship and NPQH. The registration window for new applications is open between 11 December and 6 February.

      Step 2: one-day gateway assessment

      If the application form provides sufficient evidence that they meet the competency requirements for NPQH, applicants will be invited to attend the second stage of the application process: a one-day assessment event.

      Step 3: register with a provider

      Applicants successful at the gateway stage will receive a Unique Reference Number from the National College. Once they receive this, they can apply for a NPQH place with us via our online registration form

      Applicants awaiting the outcome of their gateway assessment are required to register with a licensee between 24 November and 17 December.

      For more information please use our contact form or call 0117 920 9209.

    • What are the benefits?

      I am delighted to be able to tell you that I have just been appointed Head…Thank you all for your support - I know I would not be in this position without having completed the NPQH programme.

      Nicola Edgar, NPQH Trainee Head
      • Facilitation and mentoring from serving school leaders in Outstanding Schools across all phases including LLEs and NLEs
      • Leadership provision rated ‘Gold’ by the National College as ‘Outstanding and a benchmark for performance’
      • Delivery at local venues selected at the convenience of our applicants
      • Support from a personal coach tutor
      • Purpose built virtual learning environment enabled for mobiles and tablets
      • Option to accrue Credits and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points to contribute towards a Master's degree

      I wanted you to know that I received confirmation today that I passed NPQH, really pleased with the feedback. I wanted to say a massive thank you for the guidance and support you and your team provided me with. I can't recommend you highly enough.

      Carlton Bramwell, NPQH Trainee Head
    • How is it delivered?

      Candidates can opt to complete the NPQH programme in 6-18 months. Our typical delivery model covers a 12 month period.The delivery model consists of the following elements:

      • 7 face-to-face sessions, spread over 12 months
      • 3 four-week facilitated online short courses (min 5hrs engagement per week)
      • 9 school placement chosen with trainee heads to determine location, phase and specialism
      • 2 360° Leadership Diagnostic Reports
      • Termly face-to-face and online support from a dedicated personal coach
      • 3 assessed tasks: 1 in your school, 1 in your placement school and a presentation/interview

      Candidates will be supported through the programme by a personal tutor. The tutor will provide a mixture of learning facilitation, coaching and pastoral support. Contact with the tutor will be face to face, by telephone and online.


      The qualification is delivered at high quality venues throughout the North West with candidates assigned to their most local group.

      We aim to make delivery as flexible and accessible as possible for our participants.

      A distance learning model is available for candidates dependant on their location and circumstances, please contact us to learn more.

    • What does it cost?

      School Type School Size Base fee Subsidy Fee payable
      Primary Schools Teacher from a state school in England <100 on roll £2,375 £2,375 £0
      Teacher from a state school in England >100 on roll £2,375 £1,350 £1,025
      Secondary Schools Teacher from a state school in England <500 on roll £2,375 £2,375 £0
      Teacher from a state school in England >500 on roll £2,375 £1,350 £1,025
      Other schools Teacher from an independent school £2,375 - £3,875*
      Teacher from a school outside England Please contact us for details
      *includes an additional fee for assessment


      An exemption is available for candidates that have completed post graduate studies in educational leadership (certificates, diploma and higher degrees). The exemptions are only available for qualifications undertaken within the last three years and will entitle candidates to a discount of £100 from the course fee.

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