Teacher training

Just 1 in 5 free NPQ places taken up so far

Providers point to 'challenges' caused by Covid-19, confusion and overlaps with other qualifications

Providers point to 'challenges' caused by Covid-19, confusion and overlaps with other qualifications

Less than one in five free placements to study new national professional qualifications (NPQs) have been taken up so far, leaving the government miles off its target of 150,000 starts by 2024.

Ministers pledged in 2021 to meet the target by the end of 2023-24, after launching a reformed suite of the qualifications to boost teacher and leader development.

They allocated £184 million in funding for the three years. Former schools minister Robin Walker said at the time the reforms would “develop the world-leading teachers and school leaders who will guide, care for and educate our children for years to come”.

But an evaluation report published today shows 29,425 courses have been started so far. It means the government will have to deliver another 120,575 course starts in around 18 months to meet its target.

The Department for Education said providers had “reported experiencing challenges” relating to Covid-19 disruption, confusion about “specialist” NPQs, which make up over half of the starts so far, and overlaps “with other qualifications/opportunities”.

The evaluation looked at NPQs in executive leadership, headship and senior leadership, and specialist NPQs in teaching, teacher development and behaviour and culture.

A further two – in leading literacy and early years leadership – were launched last term.

Specialist NPQs prove more popular

Of the 29,425 starts so far, 15,898 were on specialist NPQs, with the teaching qualification most popular with 7,400 starts. There were 13,423 starts on leadership NPQs, most of which were on the senior leadership framework (8,452).

The DfE said a higher proportion of those taking specialist NPQs were already in the role they were undertaking or had “responsibilities linked to the qualification”. But a higher proportion of those taking leadership qualifications were not yet in those roles.

Despite a “high number of starts overall, providers highlighted that recruitment across the first two cohorts was lower than they had forecast”, the DfE said.

According to the department, a “lack of clarity surrounding whom each specialist NPQ is targeted at has created a challenge for some providers who believe that this has affected uptake”.

Providers also described an “overlap” between some specialist and leadership NPQs, which “had affected recruitment”.

For example, senior leaders in primary schools with responsibility for behaviour and culture had chosen to take the senior leadership NPQ, rather than the specialist qualification.

‘Overlap’ with ECF forces mentors to choose

There was also an overlap with the government’s early career framework entitlement to two years of induction, “because the mentors in the ECF are the same people who may be undertaking this NPQ and do not have time to do both”.

The “most common barrier” that NPQ participants experienced in the application phase “related to their concern surrounding finding the time to complete the NPQ outside of their working hours”.

This was flagged as a challenge by 45 per cent of respondents to a DfE survey of 3,250 school staff. Forty-three per cent said they did not encounter any challenges.

Although “comprehensive awareness of the reforms is low, early findings indicate that they are still having a positive impact on the sector”.

Participants “described how their qualification had led to an increase in skills and knowledge which many have been able to apply directly to their teaching and ways of working”.

The DfE’s funding for the qualifications also appears to have made a difference to teachers’ decisions to choose NPQs over other qualifications, with 53 per cent citing that as a reason.

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One comment

  1. Joe Taylor

    The opportunity to do NPQs is great but bad planning that the assessment window for current cohorts overlaps with SATS week. Great planning!!! Apparently the DfE wouldn’t change this. Maybe they could have looked at this when planning things surely they were aware of SATS. No doubt they also won’t take into account that the Coronation bank holiday falls then too.