How can smaller schools access the National Professional Qualifications?

Sept. 7, 2023

In this article, we discuss the support available for schools with under 600 pupils to access high quality professional development through the national professional qualifications (NPQs).

The spring 2024 cohorts may be the last to be fully funded by the Department for Education. Funding information for future cohorts will be announced shortly. Register your interest now to hear about future NPQ cohorts.


Continuous professional development can help grow your career as a teacher or school leader and improve the quality of education for children. If you work in a small school, however, you may experience additional barriers to engaging with professional development. One barrier can be finding room in school budgets. Smaller schools typically receive less in per-pupil funding, meaning that finding the money for professional development can be difficult. This also applies to the costs of bringing in supply teachers or cover supervisors.

Finding appropriate cover can also be a challenge. Smaller schools tend to have fewer non-teaching staff, so you may have fewer colleagues available to cover classroom teaching. Leadership teams in smaller schools may also have their own classroom responsibilities, which makes it difficult to release both teachers and school leaders from their classes.

Fully funded professional development

The Department for Education has made it easier to access professional development, with a three-year commitment to providing fully funded National Professional Qualifications. State schools, colleges and sixth forms are eligible, and 2023/24 is the last year this funding is guaranteed.

In addition to this funding, the Department for Education has also created a targeted support fund to support small schools to develop their staff.

The fund provides grants of £200 for each person enrolled on an NPQ programme to eligible schools with 600 or fewer pupils. For primary schools with 150 pupils or fewer, this grant increases to £800. It’s up to your school to decide how this funding is used, such as for additional classroom cover.

Schools don’t need to apply for this funding either. Instead, it is paid to the school directly in the summer term by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). For example, if you work at a secondary school with under 600 pupils and begin your programme in October 2023, your school will receive the £200 payment in summer 2024.

Randal Cremer_two teachers portrait

What are the National Professional Qualifications?

The National Professional Qualifications support teachers and school leaders’ professional development, drawing on the very best research and evidence. They focus on what you need to know to build your expertise. There are eight NPQ programmes: four specialist NPQs and four leadership NPQs.

On the 12-month specialist NPQs, you can develop your skills and knowledge in a specialist area and gain a deeper understanding of the theories and research in that area. These specialist programmes include NPQs in:

The leadership NPQs are 18-month long programmes, giving you the opportunity to develop your leadership practice across a range of contexts and levels. The leadership programmes include NPQs in:

The benefits of completing a National Professional Qualification

The National Professional Qualifications are designed with a ‘little and often’ approach that can fit around your timetable. There is no in-school project to complete, and the implementation module of the programme is designed to help you to apply the learning directly to your setting.

As well as the flexible independent study modules, the NPQ programmes feature clinics and community sessions that allow you to connect with teachers and school leaders outside of your school. These sessions are opportunities to meet new colleagues, problem solve and share good practice.


Applications for our NPQ programmes are now open. Apply before 11:59pm on 19 September to join our autumn cohort.

Alternatively, you can register your interest for yourself or your school or trust.

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