NPQ funding to continue – but only for half of schools

Funding for National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) is being reduced by the government.

As part of the government's Covid recovery programme, the DfE provided funding to deliver 150,000 NPQ participant places over three years from autumn 2021 until the end of the 2023-24 academic year. Approximately 100,000 NPQs are understood to have been completed so far. The DfE has now announced that some funding will continue for the 2024/25 academic year, but with eligibility curtailed.

Under the original scheme, fully funded scholarships were available to any teacher or leader employed by state-funded schools, 16 to 19 organisations, independent special schools and a range of other settings including young offender institutions. From autumn 2024 scholarship funding to cover the full NPQ course cost will only be available to teachers and leaders from the 50 per cent of schools with the highest proportion of students who attract pupil premium funding, as well as from 16 to 19 educational settings identified as having ‘high disadvantage’. For the early years leadership NPQ, ‘highly disadvantaged’ early years settings will also be eligible. Additionally, for the SENCO, leading primary maths and headship NPQs scholarships will continue to be available to all teachers and leaders from publicly funded schools and 16 to 19 educational settings. As well as the reduction in eligibility, the DfE has so far confirmed only one cohort, in autumn 2024, and capped to 10,000 places. Previously the scheme has offered cohorts in the autumn and spring, and with a higher cap on places. If no spring cohort is announced then the capacity of the scheme will have been cut by around 75 per cent.

Commenting on the announcement, Gareth Conyard, joint chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust – which is a professional development charity and NPQ provider - said: ‘This decision is particularly disappointing and feels like more of a short-term act than a considered, long-term plan. [The]  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.’

Hilary Spencer, chief executive at Ambition Institute, a provider of NPQs and other training courses, was more positive, saying: ‘We know 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, she added that ‘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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