School leadership

NPQs: A Guide to Choosing the Right School Leadership Programme for You

Leadership-led education helps develop schools and sustain standards. Explore what NPQs are available to help progress teachers’ careers, establish a leadership culture and improve entire learning environments. 

What is a school without strong leadership? Beyond budgeting, people management and community engagement, school leadership relies on deep levels of guidance with the power to unite and motivate all members of your learning organisation.

But with school leadership numbers in decline, whether in senior leadership positions or across early career frameworks, teachers require the appropriate, DfE-approved training, education and resources to cope with the demands and maintain standards.

In this article, we discuss definitions for school leadership, how it differs from management and what NPQs your teachers can gain to ensure the ideal leadership culture exists within your learning environment.

What is Leadership in Schools?

Before comprehending the significance of NPQs to school leadership, we should first establish how to define leadership within an educational context.

School leadership goes beyond administrative tasks more associated with management and involves the ability to inspire, innovate and drive positive changes within your learning environment.

We often hear the phrase “a culture of leadership”, and school leadership applies directly to your school culture. After all, how can we expect to separate any culture from the authority that governs it? Therefore, positive and impactful school leadership influences its people and pupils.

As an extensive concept, school leadership involves the following features:


Leadership-led education is first formed in an image of a vision and a future for your school. And not all school leadership visions are the same. As a philosophy, you should always try to develop a vision for your school based on clear core values.

NPQs can provide school leaders with the tools to form their ideal goals and values alongside the ability to imagine, develop and communicate a clear vision for the school that inspires its teachers and students.


There is no vision without values and vice-versa. Communicating your leadership with clear and consistent messaging that unifies everyone relies on building your school on solid values.

See these values as integral as the foundations that keep your school standing. Some of these values can include respect, aspiration, and excellence. So, whatever principles you find most integral for your school culture, ensure you incorporate them as the soul of your school leadership.


In establishing your school leadership through visions and values, naturally, you will develop a culture based on these principles through the shared belief and participation of teachers and pupils.

Fostering a healthy, positive and inclusive school culture relies on leadership. All school cultures should always celebrate diversity and give a platform to every voice.

What is Strategic Leadership in Schools?

Now we have the foundations for school leadership built on core visions and values that contribute to the overall culture, establishing a strategic leadership plan will help bring these things to the surface.

So, rather than ideas hovering in the air, your school leadership becomes a reality with a well-built strategy and system that puts these practices in motion on the ground.

Strategic leadership in schools helps drive the school in a continuous development direction, sustaining the values and visions while pursuing the goals and overcoming the challenges.

It is one thing planning the goals and another establishing how you will achieve them with a fool-proof strategy.

What is the Difference Between Leadership and Management in Schools?

“Leadership” and “Management” are often used interchangeably. But in the realm of education, both represent separate and distinct concepts.

Firstly, leadership focuses on guiding and inspiring people towards the collective vision and values of the school. It relies on setting goals and motivating others to achieve them while developing a culture of innovation and continuous development.

On the other hand, management deals more with daily tasks, responsibilities, and logistics. From resources to implementing policies and ensuring the general process operates as effectively as possible.

Combining leadership and management in your school is essential to maintaining the correct standards supporting your learning and growth.

From setting the vision and inspiring others to follow to ensuring the structure and system are in place so that vision can be realised shows how both aspects of school leadership and management work together in unison.

4 Essential NPQs for School Leaders 

By identifying your goals, assessing current skills, and evaluating your capabilities and resources, your school can consider the following NPQs that can progress your school leaders.

  1. National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL)

Aspiring senior school leaders can benefit from a DfE-accredited qualification that supports the school’s leadership culture and the individual’s continual professional development within school leadership.

As senior leaders in the highest positions of influence at a school, the NPQSL will appeal to Headteachers, Assistant Headteachers and department leaders with aspirations to progress.

In this specific course, you can expect support and insights from serving outstanding school leaders, purpose-built virtual learning environments and skills to implement sustainable changes.

What to expect from an NPQSL:

  • 18-month duration.
  • 60 Master’s Credits
  • 4 face-to-face events
  • 38 online learning hours
  • 6 coaching hours
  • 90 total learning hours
  1. National Professional Qualification in Leading Behaviour & Culture (NPQLBC)

This course combines performance coaching with enrichment activities to make this the ideal learning opportunity for school leaders to develop and improve behaviour management across school culture.

Participants can become skilled in ensuring the ideal behaviour and culture are achievable with high standards across learning.

The schools gain regular progress updates for mentors and headteachers, developing leaders to become informed and make evidence-based decisions to increase further behaviour management processes.

What to expect from an NPQLBC:

  • 12-month duration
  • 40 Master’s Credits
  • 3 face-to-face events
  • 34 online learning hours
  • 5 hours coaching
  • 74 total learning hours
  1. National Professional Qualification in Leading Teacher Development (NPQLTD)

Support initial teacher training, early career teachers and wider colleague development across your school with this course. NPQLTD aims at developing leaders to deliver in-house professional development activities targeted at schools.

With regular updates and progress sessions on mentors and headteachers, this course provides the skills for school leaders to review and evaluate practices that meet the best outcomes for students and staff within the organisation.

What to expect from an NPQLTD:

  • 12-month duration
  • 40 Master’s Credits
  • 3 face-to-face events
  • 34 online learning hours
  • 5 hours coaching
  • 74 total learning hours
  1. National Professional Qualification in Leading Teaching (NPQLT)

Lastly, this course enables participants to develop expertise across several specialist areas, such as curriculum or assessment.

NPQLT is ideal for teachers aspiring to lead teaching in a specific subject, year group, key stage or phase. Participants will be professional teachers who can apply numerous knowledge and skills, including aspects prevalent in the Early Career Framework.

What to expect from an NPQLT:

  • 12-month duration
  • 40 Master’s Credits
  • 3 face-to-face events
  • 34 online learning hours
  • 5 hours coaching
  • 74 total learning hours

Are You Ready to Improve the Culture of Leadership at Your School?

With a 98% NPQ participant satisfaction rating awarded by DfE across all our NPQ courses, SFE is confident we can provide your school leaders with the right school leadership development programmes.

Working in partnership with Best Practice Network, we are proud to support teachers and school leaders at all levels to deliver the highest standards of education and leadership.

All our NPQs are DfE fully funded and designed to advance current and aspiring school leaders to grow and develop their skills.

For more details on how we can enhance your school leadership, visit our Leadership Development Programmes page. Alternatively, get in touch with us today.

About the Adviser

Kirsty JonesKirsty Jones - Head of School Support, Services For Education

Kirsty's passion for education shines through her 20 years of dedicated experience in school leadership. From mainstream to special schools, and alternative provision settings, she has worked tirelessly with both disadvantaged children and high-attaining pupils. As a Director of Post 16, Whole School Teaching and Learning Lead, Curriculum and Assessment Lead, headships, and Executive Headship, Kirsty has always strived for excellence.

In her role with Shaw Education Trust, which oversees 30 academies including two Institutes of Education, Kirsty has applied her expertise in special educational needs, supporting colleagues to drive positive change. As an Executive School Improvement Advisor for a Multi Academy Trust, she has been instrumental in improving pupil outcomes, from pupil premium to SEND attainment, and everything in between.

Now, as the Head of School Support Service with SFE, Kirsty leads a team focused on providing specialist education solutions for schools nationwide. Her dedication to making a difference in education doesn't stop there - she has also contributed to important research on the impact of school mobile phone policies on children's mental health.

With her extensive leadership experience in diverse settings, Kirsty is a trusted mentor for new school leaders, recognizing the challenges they face. Her commitment to supporting others in the education field goes beyond her professional roles, as she volunteers with a charity to provide guidance and support to those navigating the complexities of school leadership.

Kirsty's journey in education is fuelled by a deep-rooted desire to make a positive impact on the lives of students and fellow educators. Her unwavering passion for creating a better future through education is truly inspiring.

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