Early years leadership national professional qualification

A course to help current or aspiring managers of nurseries develop expertise in leading early years education and staff and organisational management.

Applies to England

Who this course is for

This course is for leaders qualified to at least level 3 with a full and relevant qualification who are, or want to be:

  • managers of private, voluntary and independent nurseries
  • headteachers or leaders of school-based or maintained nurseries
  • childminders with leadership responsibilities
  • other early years foundation stage leaders, such as reception class teachers or early years coordinators

If you work in a school, discuss with your headteacher or provider which NPQ best meets your needs. The other NPQs are designed with school teachers and leaders in mind.


This course will help you gain confidence and develop skills in:

  • delivering high-quality early education and care
  • organisational management and staff development
  • giving constructive feedback to parents and carers
  • working with children who have additional and special educational needs
  • implementing improvements

You’ll train alongside peers with similar responsibilities. The course content focuses on the key challenges teachers face in their role.

Early years professionals helped us design this course to fit around busy schedules.

This course will:

  • take 18 months to complete
  • involve an average of 1 to 2 hours of study each week
  • be a mix of self-study and group sessions
  • involve a written assessment
  • start October 2023


Funding to cover the course fees is available for most teachers and school leaders in state funded settings in England.

Learn about funding.


You need to have a full and relevant qualification to at least level 3. Full and relevant qualifications are defined as qualifications that demonstrate depth and level of learning appropriate to specified outcomes of full early years, childcare or playwork qualifications. The qualification should have valid, reliable assessment and awarding procedures and must include an element of assessed performance

You also need to be, or be aspiring to be, a:

  • manager of private, voluntary and independent nursery
  • headteacher or leader of a school-based or maintained nursery
  • childminder with leadership responsibilities

Course content

You’ll learn how to:

  • establish and sustain your setting’s strategic direction
  • develop an evidence-based teaching culture
  • plan and deliver care and a high-quality curriculum to support child development
  • implement communication, language and literacy approaches to support children’s learning
  • effectively manage children’s behaviour and support children’s personal, social and emotional development
  • ensure all leaders, practitioners and teachers can identify any additional needs early and ensure appropriate referrals
  • prioritise, allocate and manage resources appropriately, effectively and efficiently across all settings to ensure sustainability
  • ensure rigorous approaches to identifying, managing and mitigating risk
  • plan and execute implementation of what you’ve learned

Benefits for you and your school

Ensuring all children experience success

After completing this course you’ll be able to develop an ambitious curriculum that meets the needs of all your children.

Delivering a high-quality and ambitious curriculum

You’ll learn how to deliver a curriculum to support child development which is rooted in a clear pedagogical vision.

Smoothing the admissions, exclusions and appeals process

The course will boost your understanding of how to comply with relevant laws and statutory guidance. You’ll also learn about creating fair and inclusive policies, processes and systems.

Managing resources effectively

You’ll gain knowledge about budgeting, funding and marketing. You’ll also be able to confidently recruit and develop the right people for your setting.

Knowing what approaches to use

This course will help you hone your decision-making skills. The techniques you learn can be applied to a range of different improvement decisions for your setting.

Course structure

The course covers 7 topics, outlined in the course framework. Providers use this framework to design their course.

The course includes:

  • independent study
  • group coaching
  • face-to-face sessions with other participants

You’ll need to spend 1 to 2 hours a week working on this NPQ.


You can choose from one of the following DfE-approved providers:


To get your NPQ accreditation you’ll need to complete the course and pass a written assessment (between 1,500 and 2,500 words).


Before you apply to your chosen training provider, you need to register with the Department for Education.

Learn how to apply for an NPQ.

Published 20 September 2023