Your questions answered: National Professional Qualifications (NPQs)

Louisa Horner

“This FAQ is designed to help you take the first step in completing your registration to achieve a recognised National Professional Qualification.”

Louisa Horner

Learning and Development Lead, CATS Global Schools

Louisa Horner, Learning & Development Lead at CATS Global Schools provides insight into how to apply for an NPQ and what you can expect.

Louisa, a teacher since 2002, achieved the Senior Leadership NPQ in 2020-21, so she has first-hand experience of taking an NPQ in addition to her full-time role as a teacher and leader.

In addition, Louisa has led a Humanities department and had school-wide responsibility for teaching & learning and professional development. She has also been an examiner and assessment writer for awarding bodies and works as a professional mentor for teachers at all stages of their careers.

Which National Professional Qualification (NPQ) is best for me?

The reformed NPQs offer a range of specialist and leadership options. CATS Global Schools offers NPQs in the specialist option Leading Teacher Development (NPQLTD) and the leadership options Senior Leadership (NPQSL) and Headship (NPQH). While the NPQSL is traditionally taken by those already in or aspiring to a senior role, this programme is also excellent professional development for anyone who wants to consolidate their understanding of whole-school responsibility. The NPQH is for anyone already in a head of school post or for senior leaders who aspire to headship in the future. The specialist NPQLTD offers teachers and leaders the chance to focus specifically on designing and delivering teacher CPD with a focus on evidence-informed practice. In addition, aspects of leadership are addressed for those with or aspiring to take responsibility for teaching and learning. This programme is also excellent professional development for those who wish to understand the dynamics and delivery of leading classroom improvements.

How do I apply for an NPQ?

You will need your Teacher Reference Number to register with the Department for Education (DfE) in the first instance (see useful links below). During registration, you identify your chosen NPQ and you can select UCL Institute of Education as your chosen Provider.

You will then receive an email inviting you to complete a short application, and you can select CATS Global Schools as your chosen Delivery Partner.

What is it like to study for an NPQ?

Here are a few comments from recent participants:

  • “Our peer discussions relate a lot to what we have been reading.”
  • “There are great networking opportunities and the delivery is clear and coherent.”
  • “We enjoy excellent interaction and organisation.”

Our NPQs are delivered through a combination of facilitated and self-directed study. Participants are supported through Peer Learning Groups, led by trained facilitators, as well as online study components and brief check-ins with their Mentor (usually their line manager). Mentors will be asked to dedicate up to 1 hour per term to each participant they line manage to check in and discuss progress, which will be fed back to UCL after Modules 2 and 3.

For each NPQ, participants will benefit from approximately 1 hour per week of self-directed study and reflection. This can be explored and consolidated during our online Peer Learning Groups, which take place each term. Each NPQ is bookended by an Induction Conference and a Consolidation Conference, which are scheduled to take place in person.

How will I be assessed?

Successful completion of the course will come from at least 90% engagement with resources and activities. If this is maintained, you are eligible for the final assessment, which will involve responding to a given scenario in an 8-day assessment window.

The reformed NPQSL and Specialist NPQs have removed the old ‘improvement project’, which proved unnecessarily time-consuming and, at times, a clunky workload burden. Instead, UCL offers reflective implementation, which gives you a chance to apply your learning to a process already in place in your school setting. By discussing your everyday work with your Peer Learning Group, you will be more likely to see your NPQ resources and reading in the context of real-world issues and come away with a real experience of problem-solving and designing complex improvements.

Where could an NPQ take me?

The new NPQs offer all teachers and aspiring or current leaders a chance to channel their energy into a specialism or interest. Leading Teacher Development (NPQLTD) gives teachers and leaders access to evidence-informed approaches and an opportunity for in-depth professional conversations with peers about different aspects of classroom practice. For mid-career teachers, this qualification utilises your significant teaching experience and sharpens your practice, ready to support your colleagues.

Senior Leadership (NPQSL) and Headship (NPQH) offer aspiring or current leaders the opportunity for professional knowledge exchange with peers, dedicated time to review evidence-informed practice, plus expert insights from guest speakers. The focus is on contextualisation, applying your learning to your own school and its features, increasing your confidence to lead on cultural change, curriculum, assessment and organisational effectiveness.

How can I find out more?

Here are some useful links:


Find out more about CATS Global Schools National Professional Qualification delivery.