National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership

Leading beyond a team

The Department for Education’s National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL) is a national qualification that provides recognition of your leadership development and professional achievement as a senior leader. Leadership East has successfully run this qualification since it began in 2012, and is approved by the Department for Education to provide and assess this qualification.

Who is NPQSL for?

NPQSL is aimed at experienced team leaders with wider responsibilities traditionally associated with senior leadership roles.

It is suitable for:

  • Deputy or assistant heads
  • Experienced senior leaders who wish to further their knowledge and skills
  • Experienced middle leaders who are ambitious for and seeking promotion to a senior leadership role
  • Specialist Leader of Education (SLE)
  • Senior leaders in a federation with responsibility areas across several schools
  • Someone who has responsibility for supporting other schools
  • Senior leaders working in schools and academies who are not qualified teachers (for example bursars, HR officers)

What is the NPQSL programme?

Leadership East is approved by the Department for Education to provide and assess this qualification. NPQSL has been developed 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). Senior leaders often hold expert knowledge in a particular field, working effectively across the whole school to bring about sustained improvements. NPQSL looks at the challenges of leading issues that affect the whole school and explores practical strategies for addressing school improvement priorities. NPQSL is suitable for middle leaders ready for senior leadership and those already in senior leadership. It is designed to support you in becoming a highly effective senior leader, with the skills, confidence and knowledge to contribute to the strategic development of your school or organisation, as part of your senior leadership team.

The curriculum has four levels, each within the national professional qualification framework of 6 content areas underpinned by seven leadership behaviours. Leadership East participants will also have access to additional Learning Areas to complement their programme and to support their individual development needs identified prior to the start of the programme.

Included in the cost of the programme will be:

  • Online materials for the programme
  • Three face to face days
  • Online discussions and support
  • Peer group meetings or support sessions from your mentor
  • Two 360 diagnostic development tools (one prior to the beginning of your programme and the second to be taken towards the end), with full report and workbook to support planning for your development
  • Assessment
  • Support available beyond face to face sessions to assist with assessment
  • Optional professional coaching

There is the opportunity to buy in additional coaching support if required.

What is the content structure of the NPQSL qualification?

The qualification deals explicitly with leadership and management across the whole school and is designed for those who are already or who are developing to be senior leaders. Content reflects the changing and significant demands on senior leaders and changes to national policy and its impact on those working at this senior leadership level.  Access is provided to a wider set of leadership resources to challenge, develop and support participants.

How is the programme assessed?

To achieve the NPQSL qualification, there is a requirement of one extended whole school improvement task to encompass school improvement priorities. This extended school improvement task will need to draw on learning from all of the face to face days and content studied.

The work will be undertaken over at least two terms to enable you to show evidence of the impact of your leadership.

The Assessment Handbook for the NPQSL can be accessed here.

How long does it take?

The qualification can take between 12 and 18 months to complete. The maximum study time for the whole qualification will be 150 hours, approximately 15 hours of this will be face to face learning with the remainder of the time spent exploring the online library, engaging in discussions, individual research, in school activities related to the programme and preparation and engagement with the assessment task.

Where will the programme be held?

Sessions currently take place at Swavesey Village College, Gibraltar Lane, Swavesey, Cambs, CB24 4RS (however venue may vary dependent on group).

Do you want a locally delivered programme?

If a school or cluster of schools, have a group of staff who wish to undertake the qualification then this can be organised with you and delivered locally by Leadership East. Programmes that are tailored to your own priorities can be particularly cost effective and reduce travelling time and supply costs. Leadership East can provide varying levels of support for your cluster programme. Please contact us for prices and more information on localised NPQSL programmes. Click here for more information.

The NPQSL qualification is available at a cost of £1,075. If you are part of a local cluster group the price may be even lower.

Spring 2021

We are taking registrations of interest for Spring 2021 intake – please complete the form found here. Please note that the Spring 2021 course will be a condensed 14-month course.

Autumn Term 2020


Event Date Venue
Session 1 Twilight 1 – 18th November 2020
Twilight 2 – 26th November 2020
Session 2 Thursday 4th February 2021 Girton College – TBC
Session 3 Thursday 29th April 2021 Girton College – TBC


Event Date Venue
Session 1 Friday 6th November 2020 Online
Session 2 Tuesday 20th April 2021 Girton College – TBC
Session 3 Thursday 23rd September 2021 Girton College – TBC

Summer Term 2020

The course starts within an online induction w/c 13th of July 2020. This will be followed by face to face dates – venue tbc.

Event Date
Twilight Induction Event Thursday 1st October 2020
Face to Face day 2 Thursday 14th January 2021
Face to Face day 3 Wednesday 28th April 2021

Spring 2020

Venue: Girton College, Huntingdon Road, Girton, Cambridge, CB3 0JG
There are 3 face to face days all full days running from approximately 9.30am-4pm:

Event Date Venue
Face to Face day 1 Monday 9th March 2020 Girton College
Face to Face day 2 Thursday 9th July 2020 (To be rescheduled) Girton College
Face to Face day 3 Monday 30th November 2020 Girton College

Autumn 2019

Please note that these cohorts have already started and the dates are for reference only.

Event Date Venue
Face to Face day 1 Thursday 3rd October 2019 Girton College
Face to Face day 2 Tuesday 10th March 2020 Girton College
Face to Face day 3 Wednesday 1st July 2020 (To be rescheduled) Girton College

Upcoming groups

Billericay Teaching School Alliance:

Venue: Billericay School, School Road, Billericay CM12 9LH

Due to COVID-19, face to face sessions will take place online via Zoom until such a time as they can be held face to face.

Face to Face Day 1 25th November 2020
Face to Face Day 2

Twilight 1

Twilight 2

8th February 2021
22nd March 2021
Face to Face Day 3

Twilight 1

Twilight 2

27th May 2021
1st July 2021


Venue: Enfield Professional Centre

Event Date
Day 1 28th January 2021
Day 2 22nd April 2021
Day 3 1st July 2021

The Lark TSA:

Proposed venue: Abbeygate Sixth Form College, Bury St Edmunds

Session Date
Day 1 Monday 2nd March 2020
Day 2 Tuesday 19th May 2020
Day 3 Thursday 24th September 2020

Current groups

Cambridge Teaching School Network:

Venue: Swavesey Village College, Swavesey, Cambridge CB24 4RS

Session Date
Face to Face Session 1 Wednesday 6th November 2019 (9.30am-3.30pm)
Face to Face Session 2 Wednesday 12th February 2020 (9.30am-3.30pm)
Face to Face Session 3 Wednesday 8th July 2020 (9.30am-3.30pm)


Proposed venue: Enfield central venues

Session Proposed Dates Time (Start/Finish)
Face to Face Day 1 Monday 27th January 2020 9.30am-4pm
Face to Face Day 2 Thursday 23rd April 2020 9.30am-4pm
Face to Face Day 3 Thursday 2nd July 2020 9.30am-4pm

Great Bentley Primary School (Learning Connections):

Venue: Great Bentley Primary School, Plough Road, Great Bentley, Essex, CO7 8LD

Event Session Date
Day 1 Twilight 1 Wednesday 11th September 2019
Twilight 2 Wednesday 25th September 2019
Day 2 Twilight 1 Wednesday 16th October 2019
Twilight 2 Wednesday 6th November 2019
Day 3 Twilight 1 Wednesday 4th December 2019
Twilight 2 Wednesday 8th January 2020

The Minster Teaching School:

Venue: The Minster School, Nottingham Road, Southwell, Notts, NG25 0LG

Dates to be confirmed.

It is very important that you provide your Teacher reference Number (TRN) correctly in your application. Most often, the TRN can be found on your school’s central record (which is an Ofsted safeguarding requirement), on your QTS certificate, on your application form for a teaching post and on your Teachers’ Pension annual statement. It is also part of the online login to access the Teachers’ Pension Service online so it’s worth checking to see if you asked your computer to remember it. Some employers include the TRN on a salary slip.

The TRN was previously known as a DfEE number, and similar titles. The TRN is normally in the form: 01 / 23456. If you have a number that is in a different form it is not your TRN and will be rejected by NCTL. Currently TRNs are handled by Capita. If you have not been successful following the above suggestions you can also get your Teacher Reference Number by contacting Capita, who co-ordinate teachers’ pension arrangements:

Telephone: 01325 745746
Fax: 01325 745789

This may take some time though – so we advise you to contact them without delay if you need their help.

Alternatively you can contact the National College QTS Team via the following information:

Telephone: 0207 593 5394

Please note: you will need to provide the QTS team with your full name, date of birth and national insurance number to be able to request your TRN.

A downloadable version of this information can be accessed here.

Leadership East – How we use your data

Agreement for data collection and analysis

In registering /applying for a place on the NPQ programme, you are agreeing to the collection and sharing of personal data*, such as your name and TRN, with the Department for Education (DfE).

You can find more information about DfE at

The information below explains:

  • what data will be collected
  • why data is being shared with DfE
  • other opportunities to contribute to the evaluation
  • what makes it lawful to collect and share the data with DfE.
  • how this affects you
  • security and confidentiality information
  • contact details for further information.


What personal data will we collect and share with DfE and its approved contractors?

For each participant, we will collect and share the following (referred to as personal data) with DfE:

*Personal data:

  • Name of applicant/participant
  • Teacher Reference Number
  • Current job role/post
  • Date of Birth

*Special category data:

  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Disability (if applicable)


What is the purpose of the data sharing?

Personal data will be collected and shared with DfE for the purpose of research, evaluation, planning and statistical analysis. This will enable DfE to:

  • monitor performance of each provider
  • deliver Quality Assurance (QA) of each provider
  • evaluate the effectiveness of the NPQ programme
  • understand the characteristics of who accesses, completes and benefits from it and in what way, and who does not
  • identify good practice and opportunities to improve the NPQ delivery model
  • understand the outcomes for participants, schools and pupils and any opportunities to improve these outcomes.

The evaluation will directly inform the review of performance and quality of delivery by providers, any improvements to NPQ programme policy and delivery and the outcomes for future participants.

How will DfE use the personal data we share with them?

We will collect and share personal data from your application form and from your NPQ journey (e.g. if you withdraw, complete etc.) with DfE (and Quality Assurance Agency, and external evaluator working on its behalf).

DfE will:

  1. Analyse the personal data from your application form to understand the characteristics of teachers applying for the NPQ (and thereby identifying other groups who are not applying). DfE will use this information to explore the characteristics of participants who withdraw, drop out or complete and any common factors e.g. NPQ level, region.
  2. Link and match this data with other information that DfE already collects or holds (e.g. School Workforce Census, national statistics for schools, Edubase) or data to which it is lawfully permitted access e.g. regional economic information. This enables analysis of the longer-term benefits of the NPQ programme, e.g. how many people progress/are promoted, how long it takes and if there are other factors that help or hinder this progress. This means we can avoid asking you to give us the same information twice. DfE will not share any information that will identify you, or any other third party, unless it is required to do so by law.


How will I be asked to contribute to the evaluation?

  1. At the start of the programme, on behalf of DfE, we will invite all participants to complete an online evaluation survey about your expectations and reasons for applying. At the end of the NPQ programme, we will ask you to reflect on your use of what you have learnt. The responses to the survey will be treated in confidence and we will not see them. During the programme, the Quality Assurance Agency will invite you to complete a survey asking you about the content of the NPQ and its delivery.
  2. In addition, DfE (or a contracted organisation working on its behalf) may contact you to ask you to assist with their research by taking part in telephone or face-to-face interviews; the purpose of this is to provide a richer understanding of your views and experiences. Please note that, if contacted, you will be under no obligation to take part and you can change your mind at any time. If you do agree to participate, you will not be identified or identifiable in any results of the evaluation.


What makes our sharing of your personal data with DfE lawful?

Any additional sharing of personal data provided on your application form will only take place where the law allows it.

We will share personal data with DfE for the purposes of research, evaluation, planning and statistical analysis that is in the public interest.

The Data Protection Act 2018 states ‘personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and in particular, shall not be processed unless:

  1. At least one of the conditions in Section 8 of the Data Protection Act 2018 is met, and
  2. In the case of special category personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 1 is also met’

The conditions under which it is lawful for this to happen are:

  • The Part 2, Chapter 2 Lawfulness of processing: In Article 6(1) of the GDPR (lawfulness of processing), the reference in point (e) to processing of personal data that is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of the controller’s official authority includes processing of personal data that is necessary for part (d)the exercise of a function of the Crown, a Minister of the Crown or a government department.
  • The Schedule 1 Part 2, 6 (2) condition: Statutory etc and government purposes for collecting and processing sensitive personal data on a participant’s disability is condition and racial or ethnic origin. (b)the exercise of a function of the Crown, a Minister of the Crown or a government department.


How does this affect you/participants?

  • Our sharing of this personal data with DfE (or its contracted partner working on its behalf) will have no influence on the outcome of your application or your participation in the NPQ and the findings of DfE’s research will not identify you or any other applicants.
  • Any reported findings will appear at an aggregated level with no individual applicant, participant or school identified OR identifiable.


Security and confidentiality

Any personal data shared with DfE (and organisations acting on its behalf) will be handled securely and confidentially. It will be used for the purposes of monitoring, quality assurance and evaluation of NPQ programme, and for related research on recruitment, personal development, leadership and retention.


Further information

For further information on how we process your personal data for the purposes of the NPQ, please contact: The Director, Leadership East at

If you would like to know more about what personal data is being collected and how this is used by DfE to improve the NPQ programme, please contact:

The evaluation surveys will be conducted by an external contractor employed by DfE and managed by Zoey Breuer. If you have any questions about how DfE will use your information for research and evaluation purposes, please contact:


Please note that central applications are now closed for the Autumn 2020 intake of NPQSL, however cluster applications are still open. Click below to begin your registration.

We are taking registrations of interest for Spring 2021 intake – please complete the form found here. Please note that the Spring 2021 course will be a condensed 14-month course.

If you are considering a locally delivered programme for your school or cluster of schools please email us at or call 01223 491690.

Cluster applications