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National Professional Qualifications – Frequently Asked Questions, Coronavirus/Covid-19


Real Training’s NPQ Programme – your questions around Covid-19

In response to a number of queries about the implications of the Corona virus and school closures on the NPQ course, this FAQ has been developed with the advice that we currently have to share. We will update and reshare in light of further information that becomes available. As always, please liaise with the tutor team for any specific queries about your circumstances.

Best wishes,

Annie Grant, NPQ Programme Leader

With most schools effectively closed, is the DfE offering a blanket extension to all NPQ delegates? (Applies to all NPQs)

DfE have announced that because of school closures and other issues associated with coronavirus/Covid-19, all current NPQ delegates will be allowed more time to complete their courses.

The changes are as follows and come into effect from Monday, 30th March 2020:

  1. Current active delegates now have additional time from DfE to complete the NPQ. Originally delegates on our courses were given a target date of 12 months after the course start date, plus up to 6 months of additional time if required for extension (18 months in total). This will now be updated to a target date of 18 months after the course start date, plus up to 6 months of additional time if required for extension (24 months in total). Progress information in Campus Online will be updated.
  2. In line with this additional time, all active delegates who have already had an extension, will also be given an additional 6 months (provided this does not take them beyond 24 months).

These changes will be made on Campus Online shortly, and submission dates will have 6 months added to them automatically – there is no need to apply for an extension.

Delegates who wish to keep their original submission date and do not want the extra 6 months e.g. because they are currently writing up their project and are on schedule to meet original deadlines, should contact Real Training. We will then reset your completion date so that you can submit to your original deadline.

Should delegates need extra time once these changes have been made, they will still be able to do so via the extension process (up to 24 months): https://campus.realtraining.co.uk/npq-deferral-request-form/

Delegates experiencing circumstances beyond their control, during their NPQ, which make it impossible to complete during 24 months must contact Real Training for information about how to proceed.

My school is closed / I am self-isolating because of COVID-19. What should I do about my NPQ assessment(s)? (Points 1 & 2 relevant to all NPQs, point 3 specific to NPQH)

Most NPQ delegates are in similar situations. We understand that now, for many, the school-based elements of projects must be put on hold until schools return and teachers are working as normal. There is a lot that you can be getting on with in the meantime.

1) Catch up on your reading
As you know, all NPQs have two elements:

  • Required content, specified by DfE, and
  • The assessed project(s).

Now schools are closed, if you are well, you may find it useful to work through the reading and research in the course content. This will stand you in really good stead when you come to write up your assignments for final assessment. Although the content specified for each NPQ is not assessed separately, the external assessors will be looking for evidence that you have covered the required content and how it has informed your project. Remember, you can still get in touch with your tutor/NPQH support tutors if you need to and you can chat with other delegates online, via the forum.

2) If your project has lasted nearly two terms (i.e. if your second term was due to finish this Easter) you may be able to get on with writing it up
Our external markers, NPQOnline have advised us that the definition of ‘two terms’ has been modified because of school closures. They say:

It is reasonable to conclude that following the government’s instructions that schools will close from tomorrow (20/03/20) for nearly all pupils, that the term has also ended at that date, and therefore, the term between January [2020] and tomorrow [20/03/20] will count as a full term.


Where a project has not quite lasted for two long terms, participants may have suitable evidence to refer to from before their originally-given start date. Where a project is not quite complete, participants should write about how, given the evidence already gathered, the project is likely to end. 


If the project is significantly short of two long terms, it will need to be completed once the participant has returned to school, unless the remaining part can be carried out remotely.

3) If you are an NPQH delegate you may, if necessary, be able to complete parts of Project 2 remotely

Our external assessors, NPQOnline, have issued the following guidance:

Participants on the NPQH programme often carry out task 1 before task 2. Where they have completed task 1, but were not able to complete task 2 before close-down of schools, they may carry out large parts of task 2 remotely. Both task 1 and task 2 need to be successfully completed before the award of NPQH can be made.

They start with a definition of elements of the DfE requirements for Task 2.

Nine working days – this is the time which must be set aside to explore and work on the placement school project. It does not mean nine days has to be spent on the placement school premises.

Undertake a placement in a contrasting school – While some time would usually be expected to be spent on the placement school premises, in the current situation, where schools are closed to strangers, and also to most pupils, ‘in’ may be taken to mean including full contact with key people, documents and information from the school.

Research the placement school’s current and/or projected resource and capability challenges, and design an action plan to address these. For this, contact by email, phone and webinar with the following people, or representatives of key groups would be expected:

  • The headteacher
  • Senior staff, such as the deputy headteacher or vice principal
  • Key school leaders, such as curriculum or pastoral leads
  • Governors
  • Teachers
  • Support staff
  • School Business Manager
  • Data Manager
  • Parents and other stakeholder groups
  • Where possible, alongside a member of the placement school staff, a webinar with a pupil group 

Together with access to key documentation, most of which is already in the public domain, e.g. 

  • Website, and statutory published documents
  • Last two or three inspection reports
  • Comparison data
  • Internet search
  • School financial budget
  • Staff allocation
  • Reports from external visits, such as the local authority
  • Governor minutes

Present the plan to the placement school’s governing board and gather their feedback. This can be achieved by webinar, with a reasonable number of governors in attendance (minimum of 2 but, ideally, 3 or more).

Participants should remember to phrase their submission write-up, and the curriculum-led budget in terms of finances, staffing, teacher workload and educational resources (Assessment criterion 5.3.1)

Although the completion of task 2 remotely is not ideal, it is unlikely that a participant would be disadvantaged if this was their only alternative to completing the task over the time schools are partially or fully closed due to Corona virus. As with other contingency measures, participants should make reference on the submission form to this advice, and to the circumstances and manner in which they have undertaken this work, so that the assessor is fully aware of the context whilst they are assessing the submission. The assessor will then be able to use their professional judgement in favour of the participant in such circumstances.

I am concerned that my data will be insufficient to meet the assessment criteria for my NPQ. Could you tell me what will be acceptable? My project relies on SAT/GCSE scores. With tests and examinations cancelled, what can I do? (Applies to all NPQs)

Our external assessors, NPQOnline have provided the following clarification: 

Formal or external data is not needed. Even if the whole project was intended to rely on SAT/GCSE scores, that doesn’t matter if this is not now available. What is useful is a table of data which, at its simplest, looks like this:

  All pupils Target group/s Comparison group/s in school Comparison groups national/ similar schools
Data prior to project beginning        
Data collected at start of project        
Data collected mid-project        
Current data (last collected)        
Projected data at end of project        
Future projected data        
Permanent effect on future data        

It is important:

  • To have carried out a proper analysis of early data to explain why you are working on the project they have selected
  • To understand that data means ‘pieces of information’ rather than a statistic (although all data can be made into a statistic, e.g. ‘Six out of ten pupils said they were more confident’)
  • That you can evidence the general impact of their project on an improving trajectory of progress and attainment (even if your project was just one of a number of contributing factors);
  • That you can identify the factors in the changed ways adults work as a result of your leadership, which is contributing to improved progress and attainment
  • That you can predict the changes in progress and attainment in the future
  • Reflect on which parts of the project you would have carried out differently for an even greater impact;
  • Where there has been no improvement, or a smaller-than-expected improvement, that you reflect on the reasons why
  • You understand that in two long terms (2/3 year), a properly and robustly-planned and introduced change project is unlikely to lead to large amounts of, or readily-measurable, change, and you should, therefore, write about the greater change which will occur in the future.

I want to submit my assignment but I am having difficulty obtaining my sponsors comments because of circumstances related to COVID-19. What should I do?

As recommended in the course content, you will, hopefully, have kept briefing notes for your sponsor in relation to the assessment criteria that require sponsor comments as supporting evidence. (NPQH: 3.3.2, NPQSL: 3.2.1 and 4.2.1, NPQML: 4.1.1). This should make it easier for you to follow the following advice issued by our external assessors, NPQOnline, if necessary:

Should there be difficulties obtaining the statement, it can be written by any more senior person who knows the participant’s work well and can verify the project is their own. It does not have to be the same sponsor who has supported a participant through the programme.

I want to submit my assignment but I cannot get my sponsor’s signature for the form. What should I do? (Applies to all NPQs)

Our external assessors, NPQOnline have issued the following advice:

Where it has not been possible to collect a signature, please use one of two options:

i) The signatory should scan or photograph their signature and send it electronically to the participant so that it can be pasted to the signature box on the submission form.

ii) Only in the very few cases where this is not possible, an email to assessors@npqonline.co.uk directly from the signatory would be acceptable. Emails must be named with the participant name as well as the sponsor/ line manager name.

I am finding it difficult to complete the recording required for NPQH Project 1, Assessment Criterion 3.3.3. What can I do about this and in what circumstances? (Applies to NPQH only)

Our external assessors, NPQOnline have issued the following advice:

Where participants have had a problem with the recording at NPQH1, it will be difficult for them to make a new recording over the next few weeks. Where a programme lasts into the future, the timing of the recording is not specified, and so this can be made when schools have returned. However, different arrangements may have to be made in the following circumstances, where a participant:

  • Is close to submission, or has not quite completed their project
  • Is unsatisfied with the recording they have made
  • Has not yet made a recording, but wishes to submit
  • Has technical problems with their recording.

In these circumstances, participants should take the following steps:

  • Organise a webinar with appropriate stakeholders or governors, in which they can make their presentation. Webinar services, such as Zoom, are free to use for limited length meetings, or for limited numbers of participants, and can be recorded.

Where this is not possible:

  • Attach script, notes, presentation or detailed minutes as an extra additional appendix. This does not count towards the word or page count
  • Add an explanation at the top of the submission form, including an extract of this advice. Again, this is not included in the word count
  • Record themselves reading the script, making clear at the beginning of the recording the circumstances, and that this is not recorded in front of an audience, and giving the reasons why. Include the recording as would usually be expected.

Participants MUST explain the circumstances, and should not assume prior assessor knowledge. Assessors will score the lack of a recording as a zero where no explanation is given.

What is the procedure now if my final submission is returned unmarked because of a technical issue? (Applies to all NPQs)

A small number of final submissions are returned to providers unmarked because the assessors have discovered a technical issue. This might be for any of the following reasons. The submission:

  • Exceeds the required word count
  • Does not include extracts or full versions of all the required supporting documents, or cannot be recognised as a required document/s by an assessor
  • Has supporting documents that are not succinct, or are of excessive length or number
  • Is written in a small typeface which is not easily readable
  • Is less than 75%of the maximum word count
  • Has grammar, spellings or presentation which make assessment difficult
  • Uses a submission form dated more than 12 months prior to the date of submission, or is undated
  • Does not meet requirements for presentation of submission in some other way, e.g. does not attempt to estimate the word count for jpegs, are above 10MB in size, etc.
  • Does not include a word count
  • Includes links, but the word count is not considered
  • Does not include scanned signatures

Where submissions fail to meet technical requirements, delegates are usually given three days to make improvements and return the improved submission for assessment. Our external assessor NPQOnline have told us that this will continue to apply, however 

“Where it is not possible to meet this timescale, for example, if you are managing a coronavirus hub centre, or dealing with issues relating to coronavirus organisation, such as vulnerable pupils or staff illness, then a longer time can be given, and your submission moved to a later window. This will not disadvantage your submission in any way, it will only delay the return of your result and feedback. …..Where the three day improvement window cannot be met, it is important that you give your reasons by email for not being able to meet the timing, relating this to the current lockdown/coronavirus arrangements”


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