Develop your school leadership skills with the NPQ in Headship

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Date published 23 February 2023

Last updated 04 April 2024

Since September 2021 Ambition Institute has welcomed teachers and school leaders from across the country onto our National Professional Qualification (NPQ) programmes.

This article outlines the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH), and how it supports school leaders to develop expertise to respond to the challenges they will encounter across a range of contexts.

Being a school leader

Schools are amazing places with many important roles. They work to develop pupils’ academic and social skills, as well as having responsibility for their wellbeing. They are also a key factor in tackling wider social challenges such as public health and inequality.

Add this to the pressures of running an organisation, the challenging work leading across a whole school, and the complexity of a school environment. This means that for headteachers, there is no one way to run a school. There is no ‘right’ way to lead.

In such a complex and challenging role, how do you develop your practice? What exactly does it take to become an effective headteacher?

Evidence across several fields tells us that the skills and knowledge needed to be a successful school leader can be taught. In other words, great school leaders are made, not born (Ericsson et al. 2007).

Research suggests that school leaders need to be ‘increasingly knowledgeable about the core business of teaching, learning, assessment and curriculum’. Importantly, they also ‘need to be able to use that knowledge to make good decisions’ (Robinson, 2017).

How can the NPQ in Headship support you?

The NPQ in Headship programme is designed to support you in building your expertise on school leadership and whole-school improvement. The programme aims to develop your knowledge and skills in a way that can be applied flexibly to respond to different challenges across a range of contexts.

The programme covers areas such as delivering and sustaining change, pupil and staff culture, curriculum design and assessment, and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

This head teacher qualification can also support you to identify and respond to the needs of your school using the most cutting-edge evidence and approaches. Modules on professional development, governance and organisational management can help you to address specific challenges you face as a headteacher.

Our 'little and often' approach provides the opportunity to learn about evidence-based school leadership and put it into practice in your school. The programme aims to build your confidence in your practice, and equip you to lead positive change, boost pupil attainment and excel as a leader.

The NPQ in Headship programme is suitable for current headteachers as well as aspiring headteachers who currently have senior leadership responsibilities and are interested in becoming a head teacher..

Headteachers within the first five years of headship, who have or are working on an NPQ in Headship, may also eligible for additional support and development through the Early Headship Coaching Offer.


What does the NPQ in Headship cover?

  • Implementation
  • Culture
  • Teaching and Behaviour
  • Professional Development
  • SEND
  • Curriculum and Assessment
  • Working in Partnership
  • Organisational Management
  • Governance and Accountability

What does this mean in practice

  • It means learning to implement the right changes in the right way to create lasting impacts.
  • It means setting clear goals and communicating shared values that improve the culture in your classrooms and school.
  • It means establishing a safe and positive environment for pupils and ensuring they experience great teaching.
  • It means supporting colleagues to meet individual needs and leading school-wide professional development for staff.
  • It means developing rigorous assessment and curriculum approaches that support pupil progress.
  • It means providing the best quality education for all pupils, including those with SEND.
  • It means leading an organisation that is well-run, effectively governed and that builds impactful partnerships.
  • It means doing all this whilst benefiting from the latest evidence-based learning, applying and translating learnings to your own school context and learning from a network of like-minded peers.

Most of all, it means building the confidence to excel as a leader and improve outcomes for your pupils.

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How will I learn?

Our NPQ in Headship is designed to be flexible to fit alongside your schedule. Training is delivered with a 'little and often' approach to support knowledge retention, and you will have the opportunity to learn at a time and pace which supports you.

During the 18-month programme, you will benefit from:

  • One school visit.
  • Two full day conferences.
  • Nine courses (each lasting six weeks) including six modules.
  • Eight two-hour clinics (facilitated sessions).
  • One two-hour assessment clinic.
  • Nine communities (one-hour group sessions).

The programme is delivered through a carefully sequenced blend of content. This includes a mix of real-time interactive sessions, face-to-face training, peer-led sessions and self-guided modules you complete in your own time.

You will have access to Steplab, the innovative learning platform specifically designed for teacher education. Watch the video below to see how it works. You can find out more about Steplab in this blog.

Who is Eligible?

To apply you must be, or be aspiring to be, a headteacher or head of school with a responsibility for leading a school.

Suitable roles include:

  • Head of school
  • Headteacher or principal
  • Deputy headteacher or vice principal
  • Assistant headteacher or principal
  • Director of teaching school

The Department for Education has chosen to fully fund this autumn’s NPQH cohorts. This means, if you work at a publicly-funded setting, you can train at no cost to you or your school. Register your interest now to be notified when applications open.

Visit the National Professional Qualification in Headship (NPQH) page to find out more.

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