Free NPQ scheme scaled back

£184m Covid recovery scheme will end this year, replaced by less generous offer that could train just a quarter of the staff

£184m Covid recovery scheme will end this year, replaced by less generous offer that could train just a quarter of the staff


Free national professional qualifications (NPQ) for all schools will be replaced with a less generous scheme that could train around 75 per cent fewer staff, Schools Week understands.

As part of its Covid recovery plan, DfE offered £184m for schools to do NPQs for free.

The government said it would provide 150,000 qualifications for the sector over three years. It is understood around 100,000 have been completed. But that cash will end this year.

From Autumn, only teachers and leaders in the top half of schools with the most youngsters on pupil premium will be eligible for funded NPQs.

This will apply across the full suite of qualifications, and is also above the pre-Covid threshold of 30 per cent of schools that could access funding.

NPQs for heads, SENCOs and leading primary maths will be available for free to all schools. The governmnent has since confirmed the new offer after it was first revealed by Schools Week.

However, Schools Week understands the scheme will be capped at just 10,000 places.

As funding for just the one cohort has been announced, this equates to a quarter of the number of NPQs started this year – which were run across two cohorts.

If a spring cohort was to be held, it would mean the number of people accessing free NPQs would be halved.

The DfE would not confirm the cap, nor how much less funding is now on offer.

Like the tutoring funding, government said the NPQ cash would end this year. 

It is understood DfE sees the new funding as a better offer for schools than before Covid.

But many in the sector will see it as a funding cut. It comes as the DfE scrabbles to make cuts to fund its contribution to last year’s teacher pay settlement.

Gareth Conyard, joint chief executive at the TDT, said “this decision is particularly disappointing and feels like more of a short-term act than a considered, long-term plan”.

“Today’s announcement to cut funding for professional development – to reduce investment in established teachers and leaders – is only likely to exacerbate the recruitment and retention crisis, which will continue to worsen unless something radical happens, and soon,” he added.

‘Cuts likely to exacerbate recruitment crisis’ 

The news also comes just days after the NFER warned teacher retention looks set to worsen, with small improvements in recruitment still meaning far fewer recruits that needed.

Three lead NPQ have also achieved positive Ofsted reports this week.

The National Institute of Teaching and Teacher Development Trust were both graded ‘outstanding’. 

Hilary Spencer, chief executive at Ambition Institute, said that “investing in teachers’ expertise benefits the least advantaged pupils the most so, where resources are tight, we support the logic of the decision to prioritise schools with the highest numbers of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“However, all schools have disadvantaged pupils and many teachers move between schools across their careers, so we would encourage the government to make this cost-effective and well-evidenced professional development available to as many schools as possible. ”

A DfE spokesperson said: “High-quality teaching has the greatest impact on children from disadvantaged backgrounds, which is why we are extending further funding to all NPQs for those teaching in schools with the highest proportion of pupils eligible for pupil premium.”

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Lucas Cumiskey

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