National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL)

Develop the skills, knowledge and confidence you need to be a highly effective senior leader in a school.

Who can apply

You should be in a leadership role with cross-school responsibilities, for example:

  • an experienced middle leader
  • a deputy head
  • a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO)
  • an advanced skills teacher
  • other senior staff

You’ll be looking for professional development, but not aspiring to headship at this stage of your career.


Apply with one of the schools or organisations licensed to offer this qualification that matches your needs. Visit their website to find out how the qualification is structured and when it starts. You can contact your preferred licensee to discuss your requirements in more detail.

What’s involved

The normal duration of study is 12 months. Depending on your experience and other commitments, you could complete it in 6 months or it may take a maximum of 18 months.

You’ll need to complete 2 essential modules, 2 further modules of your choice and a final assessment.

Each module requires up to 50 hours of learning, including:

  • around 20 hours of practical learning in your school
  • face-to-face peer and facilitated learning
  • reading and reflection
  • online learning

Essential modules

You must complete both of the following modules.

Closing the gap

As part of this module, you’ll learn about:

  • data collection, analysis and interpretation to identify attainment gaps and diagnose causes
  • improving teaching to narrow pupil attainment gaps
  • raising expectations and achieving high standards of behaviour
  • the use of best practice to address within-school variation
  • collaboration between teams both within school and across schools

Succeeding in senior leadership

Explore the style of your leadership and find out how you can apply it to your workplace to address school improvements. As part of this module, you’ll learn about:

  • leadership in different contexts and professions, particularly in relation to senior leadership
  • the characteristics of highly-effective leadership and the importance of emotional intelligence
  • how adults learn and the use of diagnostic tools
  • your own leadership, including strengths and areas for development
  • strategies for effective professional development
  • how to create and sustain a positive working culture

Further study modules

You need to complete 2 of the following modules as well.

  • Effective partnership working
  • Effective whole-school management
  • Improving the quality of teaching
  • Leading change for improvement
  • Leading professional development
  • Research and development in teaching
  • School self-evaluation

Find out more about what you’ll cover in these study modules.

Final assessment

The NPQSL final assessment is competency based, testing the main competencies that are required for successful senior leadership.

For participants who began before February 2014, the final assessment process includes 2 tasks (Closing the Gap, and Leading a School Improvement Priority). For this, you’ll be expected to use your practical experience, research and relevant school, local and national data to inform your leadership decision making. You’ll also be expected to apply your learning from the essential and elective modules you’ve completed and use your knowledge and expertise in relevant national policy priorities.

For participants beginning the qualification in February 2014 or later, the final assessment process has 1 assessed task. You’ll be expected to lead, for an extended period, a school improvement priority in your school. This needs to be achievable within a 12 month period and must produce positive impact and sustainable change.


Costs vary between licensees. Licensees will be able to provide full details of their costs but, as a guide, the cost of NPQSL is £1,400.

You’ll also need to pay £440 for your final assessment if you apply from:

  • an independent or non-maintained school
  • a school outside England

Many of our licensees offer group discounts and various packages. Contact your chosen licensee to find out more.

Study exemptions

You may be exempt from some study modules if you’ve:

  • completed one of our leadership development programmes
  • undertaken a Master’s or another type of postgraduate course

Find out more about exemptions.

Convert your study to credits for a Master’s degree

You can use your NPQSL qualification to contribute towards a Master’s degree. Read our Master’s-level accreditation guidance.



Contact a local school or organisation licensed to offer our national qualifications and modules.