News story

Overhaul of headteachers' qualification to help train the next generation of great school leaders

A new enhanced National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) will prepare prospective headteachers for the rigours of the job.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
  • National College to revise qualification to make sure heads get the right skills
  • Qualification to become non mandatory in bid to make it a mark of quality

From next year, prospective headteachers will be able to take a new enhanced qualification to prepare them for the rigours of the job.

The current qualification - the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) - is to be overhauled to allow prospective head teachers from all types of schools the chance to develop the best skills for the job.

All first-time headteachers in the maintained sector are currently required to hold the NPQH. As signalled in the Schools White Paper ‘The Importance of Teaching’, the National College was asked to review the qualification to ensure it matches the best in the world, learns from other leading qualifications such as MBAs, meets the highest standards for leadership development and is based on what is required to be an effective head teacher.

In the light of the review, Ministers have today announced that:

  • NPQH will become optional with effect from early 2012 - subject to the Parliamentary process - and developed for all prospective heads in both the maintained and the non-maintained sector such as academies and independent schools.
  • The bar for entry and assessment for the qualification will be raised.
  • The content made more demanding through the introduction of a core curriculum focusing on the key skills of headship including leadership of teaching and learning, and with a greater emphasis on behaviour.
  • The revised qualification will be launched in spring 2012 with the first participants starting in September 2012.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

The highest-performing education systems are those where government knows when to step back and let heads get on with running their schools.

Our reforms are centred on giving great head teachers the skills they need and the professional autonomy to make a difference to thousands of young lives.

We want to create a qualification for those about to become head teachers that will help them develop the key skills needed to take on this challenging and rewarding role. It will start them on the journey to becoming outstanding lead professionals. We also want to ensure the NPQH remains a highly regarded and sought-after qualification.

Steve Munby, Chief Executive at the National College, said:

Raising the bar will help to drive up the standard of school leadership in this country even further.

The current NPQH is already highly regarded and sought-after but, in a rapidly changing education sector that is becoming increasingly diverse and autonomous, no qualification can stand still.

We believe the new non mandatory NPQH will be ranked alongside the best leadership development in the world and become the mark of quality that governing bodies and academy boards choose to rely on when appointing head teachers and principals, as only the most talented candidates will get through.

The NPQH was introduced in 1997 to prepare those keen to become head teachers. In 2008, the qualification was revised to target those within 12 to 18 months of becoming a head teacher and then became mandatory in 2009 for all first-time head teachers working in the maintained sector.

To date, around 35,000 have graduated with the qualification and just over half - around 58 per cent - of current heads in maintained schools hold the NPQH.

The National College, working with key stakeholders including existing head teachers, will revise the content of the new NPQH:

  • All participants will have to pass five modules of which three are compulsory and focus on leading pupil behaviour, developing leadership skills and managing teacher performance.
  • Trainee head teachers will be required to undertake a school-based and a placement related assignment and spend more time on the placement, increasing from a minimum of five days to nine days.
  • It will place more emphasis on the role of an applicant’s line manager in providing a reference and ‘sponsoring’ the applicant through the programme as we know from research that the best way to spot a future head teacher is to watch them working, and handling a range of leadership issues.
  • The new NPQH will now link more closely to Masters and other postgraduate qualifications and so allow trainee heads to move more seamlessly onto a higher degree if they wish.

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Updates to this page

Published 6 December 2011