NPQSL Competency Framework

NPQSL is underpinned by a competency framework of 19 competencies. These competencies define the characteristics that are needed to be successful school leaders. In preparing for development and final assessment for NPQSL it is important to read and understand the competencies in the Competency framework – there is a description of each competency tested, a statement as to ‘Why it matters’ and the main competency indicators in Appendix 1.

The competencies include characteristics that are needed for highly effective leadership, including knowledge (including specific technical knowledge), skills, motives and ability which are expressed in actions or behaviours:

  • Knowledge is what a person knows about a particular area, for example, strategies for improving teaching and learning, ways of managing financial and human resources, and project management for planning and implementing change, performance management and legal issues relating to employment or child protection.
  • Skills are things a person knows how to do well to achieve a goal, for example, collecting and analysing data, monitoring progress, using new technologies, planning, communicating, getting community feedback and carrying out accurate self-assessment.
  • Motives may be expressed in a person’s values such as what he/she believes in or what he/she believes it is important to do (for example, commitment to the pursuit of excellence, working in a collaborative way, insisting on a safe and healthy working environment or through preferences (such as achievement or affiliation), for example, a person with a strong achievement motive will continuously want to achieve and make things better.
  • Ability covers both a person’s ability to think and act rationally and to use their emotional intelligence, for example, identifying trends in performance, using school self-review to make sound decisions, and the ability to build effective teams. Ability can be affected through the working of the emotions and changed through self-awareness and self-management of these.

The 19 competencies in the framework are grouped into three areas that reflect key dimensions of highly effective leadership, as demonstrated through research evidence:

 Strategic leadership: highly effective school leaders have a strong sense of direction: they understand the vision for the school and have a clear sense of how to contribute to achieve the vision. They can lead successfully in a highly autonomous and accountable system.

 Educational excellence: highly effective school leaders have the leadership of teaching at the heart of their work: they can lead effectively in a self-improving system to deliver high-quality outcomes for all pupils and students.

Operational management: highly effective school leaders have very effective systems and processes that are consistently applied by their teams: they manage their responsibilities to ensure efficient and effective use of resources and achieve a fit-for-purpose organisation.


Three areas of competency

Strategic LeadershipSelf-awareness


Personal drive




Resilience and emotional maturity


Conceptual thinking


Future focus


Impact and influence

Educational Excellence 

Delivering continuous improvement


Modelling excellence in leadership of teaching and learning


Learning focus


Serving others


Broad organisational understanding


Partnership working


Inspiring others


Operational Management Information seeking


Analytical thinking



Relating to others



Holding others to account



Developing others



 Not all of the 19 competencies will be directly tested in the final assessment process. There will be a focus upon assessing the nine leadership competencies which research shows are critical for successful senior leadership:


Leadership competencies assessed for NPQSL

Educational Excellence 
  • Delivering continuous improvement
  • Modelling excellence in leadership of teaching and learning
  • Learning focus
Strategic Leadership 
  • Impact and influence
  • Self awareness
  • Personal drive
Operational Management 
  • Information seeking
  • Analytical thinking
  • Holding others to account