National leaders of education: a guide for potential applicants

Find out about becoming a national leader of education (NLE), what's involved and how to apply.

Applies to England


The aim of the National Leader of Education (NLE) programme is to provide high quality school improvement support to underperforming schools.

In 2020 the NLE advisory group made a series of recommendations about the future of the programme.

These included selecting a new smaller, high-quality cadre of NLEs supported by a professional development offer. As a result, we will recruit a new cadre of NLEs for the 2022 to 2023 academic year.

All current NLE accreditation will end at the end of the 2021 to 2022 academic year.

The new cadre of NLEs will be made up of headteachers with experience of turning around schools who can provide additional school improvement capacity.

How to apply

We would encourage all eligible headteachers with a strong record of turning around schools to apply online to become an NLE through the DfE eTendering Portal. You will need to:

  1. visit the DfE eTendering Portal

  2. register, if you haven’t already

  3. once logged in, navigate to the ‘PQQs open to all suppliers’ section

  4. apply via the NLE application page

To be eligible to apply, you must be named on an Ofsted report (since September 2005) as the headteacher of a school that:

  • has received an improved Ofsted rating from Requires Improvement (RI) to Outstanding or Inadequate to Good or Outstanding and been in post for at least a year before the inspection showing the improvement. (If you have left the school the inspection must be within 1 year of you leaving).

In addition, you must:

  • have had no Ofsted inspections resulting in a decline to RI or Inadequate whilst in post (excluding during the first year) or within 3 years after leaving a school

We will not be accepting any further applications via the exceptions route for this application round.

If you’re not certain that you meet the eligibility criteria, you can contact us via the DfE’s e-Tendering Portal before submitting an application. You will need to log on to the e-Tendering portal and use the ‘contact us’ option. Tell us your full name and the relevant part of your career history and we’ll get back to you.

Multi-academy trust (MAT) leaders do not need to have NLE status to provide support through our Trust and school improvement offer and so will not need to apply.

The application process is broken into 2 stages, however candidates do not need to have passed through stage 1 in order to take part in stage 2:

  • Stage 1 - expression of interest (now closed)
  • Stage 2 - if successful at stage 1 or if you meet the eligibility criteria, you should submit an online application containing experience and skills-based questions via the DfE e-Tendering Portal

The stage 2 online application is now open and will close on 20 June 2022. You will be notified by 28 July if your application has been successful.

Leaders of trusts with sponsor status do not need to apply to become NLEs, as they will continue to have the opportunity to be matched and provide improvement support through the Trust and School Improvement Offer.


Please contact us through the DfE eTendering Portal if you have any questions about the application process.

Published 10 February 2022
Last updated 23 May 2022 + show all updates
  1. Page updated as the stage 2 online application is now open.

  2. Updated with extra information on how to apply to become a national leader of education (NLE).

  3. First published.