How the NPQs make professional development work for your school

Feb. 17, 2021
Ambition logo blue

Ambition Institute

In this article, we break down the National Professional Qualifications (NPQs), and outline five ways they will make professional development work better for your school.

What are the NPQs?

National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) are a national, voluntary suite of qualifications designed to support the professional development of teachers and school leaders. They equip teachers with the expertise to lead sustainable improvement across their schools.

There are four NPQs which are specialist qualifications:

  • NPQ in Leading Teaching (NPQLT).
  • NPQ in Leading Behaviour and Culture (NPQLBC).
  • NPQ in Leading Literacy (NPQLL)
  • NPQ in Leading Teacher Development (NPQLTD).

These provide CPD for teachers who want to make their classroom teaching the best it can be, whether or not they move into school leadership. Find out more about these qualifications by reading our specialist NPQs explainer article.

There are four NPQs which cater to teachers in leadership, or aspiring towards leadership:

  • NPQ in Senior Leadership (NPQSL).
  • NPQ in Headship (NPQH).
  • NPQ in Early Years Leadership (NPQEYL).
  • NPQ in Executive Leadership (NPQEL).

The content in these NPQs has been adapted based on an evidence base approved by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). Find out more about the leadership NPQs in our explainer.

""Schools can have confidence that all their educators are developing their practice from the same evidence-based framework.""

Five ways NPQs will make professional development work better for your school:

1. They provide a ‘golden thread’ throughout every stage of a teacher’s career

Schools and trusts can have confidence that all their educators, from classroom teachers to leaders of multiple schools, are building and developing their practice from the same evidence-based framework.

2. You have more options to keep getting better

Evidence tells us that high-quality professional development for teachers has a significant effect on pupils’ learning outcomes and provides the most cost-effective impact on attainment when compared with other interventions schools may consider.

Teachers can specialise in leading teaching (bringing evidence-based teaching and learning into the classroom), behaviour management or teacher development in their school. The NPQs are designed to be complementary, giving teachers multiple career pathways and options at every stage.

3 . NPQs focus squarely on what educators need to know and be able to do

Even in non-pandemic times, teachers and school leaders make decisions in complex and challenging circumstances. Yet leadership CPD has often focussed on personal traits, such as the qualities of dynamic and charismatic leadership, rather than the crucial skills and sector knowledge teachers need to educate and lead in their schools.

The NPQs pay less attention to generic management and leadership styles, and instead focus on the knowledge and skills that teachers and school leaders need to work to the best of their ability and tackle the persistent problems of their daily roles.

4 . The qualifications are informed by robust evidence

The NPQ frameworks have been developed by looking at all the available evidence that exists on effective professional development for teachers and leaders. Evidence-based training allows quality teaching to be demystified and adopted by more teachers, informed by the science of learning.

5 . High-quality professional development can help boost attainment

Commissioned by Wellcome, a study by Ambition Institute and the Education Policy Institute found that 35 hours of high-quality continuing professional development a year could improve pupil outcomes almost as effectively as having a teacher with 10 years’ experience in the classroom. The study also found that quality CPD improves teacher retention.

NPQs are designed to make it even easier for teachers and leaders to realise their potential.

NPQs and Ambition Institute

Ambition Institute currently delivers NPQs as standalone qualifications and we also embed them into some of our other programmes.

At Ambition Institute, we help schools tackling educational disadvantage to keep getting better, and help their teachers and school leaders to become more expert over time. That’s how we’ll make sure every child gets a great education and the best possible start in life.

  • We train teachers and leaders at all levels to get better at the things that make the biggest difference: what you teach, how you teach it, and how you create the conditions for schools to thrive.
  • We share what works. Everyone can benefit from evidence of how great teaching and leadership can improve schools and change lives, so we connect people to the latest research and the best practice out there in the system.

We champion every teacher and school leader’s potential to develop, as the driving force for sustainable school improvement.


Click here to find out more about our suite of NPQs.

To find out more about the four specialist NPQs, read the next article in our NPQs explainer series.

Search blog posts by topic: