NPQ in Early Years Leadership

Male in suit smiling

Create lasting change as an Early Years leader.

Begin your application by registering with the DfE below.

  • Deliver meaningful change in your setting.
  • Join a network of like-minded leaders.
  • Grow your expertise.
  • Build a supportive environment for colleagues.
  • Create a culture where all children can succeed.
  • DfE scholarship funding available to all state school teachers and leaders.
Applications open for programmes starting in February

Build your expertise in Early Years leadership.


Deliver meaningful change in your setting 

Get the tools to establish and – more importantly— sustain your organisation’s strategic direction. Learn how to create an effective culture and align your staff in your school’s mission.  

Join a network of like-minded leaders  

Become part of a community of leaders across Early Years settings and contexts who share a passion for addressing educational disadvantage. Build valuable connections with other leaders from across the country and learn how they faced and overcame similar challenges. 

Grow your expertise 

Broaden your leadership knowledge and gain the specialist expertise needed to tackle your organisation’s improvement priorities with content covering the breadth of knowledge you need as a leader. 

Build a supportive environment for colleagues  

Create a thriving environment in which all staff feel supported and valued with opportunities to develop. 

Need more information? 

Frequently asked questions

Looking for a different leadership programme? 

Funded by Department for Education


Is the NPQEYL programme for me?

This programme is for leaders qualified to at least level 3 with a full and relevant qualification* who are, or are aspiring to be**:

  • managers of private, voluntary and independent nurseries
  • headteachers of school-based or maintained nurseries
  • childminders with leadership responsibilities (you work with, employ or are close to employing an assistant).

*qualifications that demonstrate the depth and level of learning appropriate to specified outcomes of full Early Years, childcare or playwork qualifications. The qualification should have valid, reliable assessment and awarding procedures and must include an element of assessed performance evidence. To check whether your qualification meets these criteria, please visit ‘Early years qualifications achieved in England’. While not a mandatory requirement, it is expected that NPQEYL participants will hold a “full and relevant” Level 3 qualification (or higher) prior to starting the course.

In settings on the Early Years Register, the manager must hold an approved level 3 qualification or above and at least half of all other staff must hold at least an approved level 2 qualification. The manager should have at least two years’ experience of working in an early years setting, or have at least two years’ other suitable experience.

These qualification requirements do not apply to childminders. However, childminders must have completed training which helps them to understand and implement the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) before they can register with Ofsted or a childminder agency.

**To fully benefit from the NPQEYL, we would expect that prospective participants who are aspiring managers have opportunity within their role to practise and embed the learning from the course. We would expect that they are close to applying for leadership/management positions, and/or hold a deputy manager/room leader role in their current setting.  

How does the NPQEYL work? 

This 21-month programme (18 months’ delivery and three months for assessment) consists of a series of modules based on the DfE’s NPQ frameworks. Each module cycle features:  

  • evidence-based online content to refresh and build knowledge, as well as exemplify what this looks like for your role and level of leadership
  • a formative assessment task to support your learning
  • a face-to-face seminar with a group of peers, facilitated by a serving leader from an Early Years setting or Teach First Development Lead – you’ll analyse and reflect on the task and hear further examples of good practice 
  • the opportunity to record reflections and consolidate learning

This cycle repeats throughout the programme, with implementation a consideration in every module. Towards the end of the programme, you’ll also take a module focused specifically on effective implementation. This provides an opportunity to plan a strategic improvement, focused on your context and pupils. There will be ongoing support through a seminar group and discussion forum. 

During the Practical Implementation cycle, programme members will be required to put learning into practice and implement an improvement, or plan the implementation of an improvement, in their setting based on the NPQ programme they are working towards. The focus will be identified by the programme member and must be level appropriate. This improvement should be a stretching professional development target within the programme member’s existing role. For aspiring specialist and leadership programme members, the school/employer should support them to implement an improvement at the aspiring level. The allocation of learning time is five hours so any implementation focus should be feasible within the timeframe.  

What will I learn? 

You’ll develop expertise in the knowledge, skills and concepts for leading an Early Years setting. These include best practice around child development and additional and specialist educational needs, as well as culture, organisational management and partnerships you may make as the leader of an Early Years setting. Our content is informed by the best and most recent evidence and developed with input from serving leaders and subject matter experts. 

Our programmes have a practical focus. You’ll be supported to make small but important changes to your and others’ practice throughout the programme. This will conclude with the implementation module and practical implementation cycle of the programme. 

Find out more about the DfE’s NPQEYL content framework: 

Download framework (PDF)

What are the training commitments? 

Over the course of the whole programme (spread over five terms), you’ll undertake 77 hours of learning. This includes a combination of seminars, learning modules, conferences and a practical learning cycle. 

How will I be assessed? 

At the end of the programme, you will complete your summative NPQ assessment during a fixed 8-day window. Your assessment submission is a written response to a case study related to the content covered in your NPQ, and is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the NPQ Framework. Detailed dates will be shared with you before the start of the programme.

In order to be eligible to complete the assessment, you will need to have engaged with at least 90% of the course content both online and in-person. Diagnostic tasks contribute 30%, reflective tasks 20%, and attendance at events 50% to this total.

The assessment process for all NPQs has been refreshed to reduce the workload burden on teachers while still providing an opportunity to apply their knowledge. To pass the programme, you’ll need to evidence at least 90% of the course and pass one summative assessment.

At the start of your training, we’ll also provide you with the dates of the Summative Assessment so you can plan for this with your school. The summative assessment will take the form of a case study. It will represent a likely situation that a leader might encounter at the relevant NPQ qualification level. The summative assessment is designed to give you an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the relevant NPQ framework and how this can be applied to school improvement.

You will have an eight-day window to provide a written response of a maximum of 1500 words for the case study. It is an ‘open book’ approach so you can refer back to your course materials when completing your response.

Need more information? 

Frequently asked questions

Looking for a different leadership programme? 

early years 1


Cost: £1,148

DfE scholarship funding 

Full DfE funding, with no cost to the participant, is available to staff from: 

  • state-funded schools in England 
  • state-funded organisations that offer 16 to 19 places in England

In addition, early years practitioners and leaders working in the following settings in England will be eligible for scholarship funding from the DfE for the NPQEYL only:  

  • Work in a state funded school in England.  
  • Childcare providers registered on the Ofsted Early Years Register, providing childcare on non-domestic premises.  
  • Childcare providers registered on the Ofsted Early Years Register, providing childcare on domestic premises.  
  • Childminders registered on the Ofsted Early Years Register.  
  • Childminders registered with an Ofsted-registered childminder agency, caring for early years children.
  • Individuals who work in early years settings in independent schools that provide free early years entitlements places.

You can do more than one NPQ, but will only be eligible for funding for each NPQ once. If you withdraw or fail your course you cannot get funded again for the same NPQ. 

Additional support for small schools 

Through their Targeted Support Fund, the DfE are offering additional payments to small schools to enable them to support their teachers and leaders to undertake NPQs.

For each teacher or leader they employ who takes an NPQ in the 2023 to 2024 academic year:

  • state-funded primary schools with one to 150 pupils will receive a grant payment of £800
  • state-funded primary schools with more than 150 pupils will receive a grant payment of £200
  • state-funded secondary schools and state-funded 16 to 19 educational settings with one to 600 pupils will receive a grant payment of £200

Other settings eligible for scholarship funding 

Organisations eligible to access scholarships also include independent special schools, virtual schools (Local Authority run organisations that support the education of children in care), hospital schools not already included in other categories of eligible organisations and young offender institutions. Applicants from these organisations who feel they should be eligible for funding should contact for more information. 

Need more information? 

Frequently asked questions

Looking for a different leadership programme? 

early years 2


Is my organisation eligible? 

While NPQs are open to all teachers and leaders in schools in England, we prioritise working with schools that teach a high number of pupils from low-income backgrounds. 

Our criteria are agreed with the Department for Education (DfE) and used to identify schools that will benefit most from working with us. We use the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) and pupil premium (PP) information for each school to guide us. 

We work with schools that are ranked in the top 70% most deprived areas (based on IDACI) and where the proportion of pupils eligible for pupil premium is in the top 50% of all state-funded schools. 

If your school is affiliated to one of our NPQ delivery partners, your school is automatically eligible to take part. Contact the relevant delivery partner for further information. 

If you’re not sure whether your school is eligible, or if you think your school would benefit from our support but doesn’t match the standard eligibility criteria above, please contact us.

When does the programme start?

The next programme starts in autumn 2023.

How can I apply?

  • Start by registering with the DfE on its NPQ service and selecting ‘Teach First’ as your provider.

  • We or one of our delivery partners will then be in touch with you within a few days to complete your application.

Need more information? 

Frequently asked questions

Looking for a different leadership programme? 

early years 3

Our leadership programmes

Great leaders drive successful schools. Our world-class training gives those eager to step up and build a fairer education system, the tools and networks to do it.

A teacher smiling at one of their pupils.

Explore our bank of resources, shared by our community of teachers and schools

Copy to clipboard caution chat check-off check-on close cog-off cog-on down first-page home-off home-on info last-page mail minus mobile more next pdf person play plus prev question radio-off radio-on return search trail up filter facebook google+ LinkedIn twitter YouTube Instagram Share This TF_ECEF_lock-up_full col_RBG