GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Comhairle Choitcheann Teagaisg na h-Alba

Headship Qualifications

Holding the Standard for Headship by completing a Headship Qualification is a prerequisite for teachers taking up their first permanent headteacher post in Local Authority and grant-aided schools in Scotland.

This became a prerequisite on 1 August 2020, under the Head Teachers Education and Training Standards (Scotland) Regulations, 2019.

There are two exemptions. The first applies to any permanent headteacher who has been appointed to a position in a school on, or prior to, 1 August 2020. The second exemption enables education authorities or the managers of grant-aided schools to appoint a person to a headteacher post, who has not attained the Standard for Headship, on a temporary basis for a period not exceeding 30 months after 1 August 2020.

The Scottish Government has no plans at present to require that teachers appointed to headteacher posts in independent schools should hold the Standard for Headship. There was agreement during the passage of the Education (Scotland) Act 2016 that the regulations relating to the independent sector would be delayed until after those covering the local authority and grant-aided sectors came into force and the requirement for all teachers in independent schools to be registered with GTC Scotland had become embedded.

Into Headship

The Into Headship qualification is Scotland’s national professional learning programme for headship.  It has been designed in consultation with universities, local authorities, Education Scotland and GTC Scotland, and focusses on the specificity of headship and the strategic role of headteachers.

There are currently seven university partners accredited by GTC Scotland that deliver the qualification in partnership with local authorities and Education Scotland. The programme is designed as a 60 credit postgraduate certificate qualification at SCQF level 11 which forms part of a Masters leadership pathway. On successful completion of the Into Headship programme participants are awarded the Standard for Headship by GTC Scotland.

Former Scottish Routes to Headship

Two routes, the Flexible Route to Headship (FrH) and the Scottish Qualification for Headship (SQH) are no longer available as programmes of study, however, teachers who have successfully completed SQH or FRH continue to hold the Standard for Headship.

Headship Qualifications outside Scotland

UK Headship Qualifications

The following United Kingdom qualifications for head teachers are deemed to demonstrate the Standard for Headship (SFH):

  • The National Professional Qualification for Headship in England;
  • The National Professional Qualification for Headship in Wales;
  • The Professional Qualification for Headship in Northern Ireland. 

If you have one of the above UK Headship Qualifications, and would like to add the Standard for Headship to your registration, please send and email containing your GTC Scotland Registration Number, contact details and a scanned copy of your certificate to

Other Headship Qualifications - Applying for Equivalency

Application for Qualification Equivalency to Standard for Headship

Prospective headteacher candidates with Headship qualifications gained outwith the United Kingdom must firstly demonstrate eligibility for full registration with GTC Scotland in order for an application for SFH equivalency to be taken forward.

Once full registration has been demonstrated, candidates wishing to apply SFH Equivalency must complete the application form below.

Qualifications will be assessed on the following basis as meeting the SFH:

  • the qualification is supported by a university;
  • the qualification is accredited by a national education body in relation to the post of headteacher/principal;
  • the qualification is equivalent to 60 credits at SCQF 11 and is likely underpinned with other learning at this level;
  • the qualification content includes level 11 learning with a focus on developing as a strategic educational leader and leading strategic educational change.

Application for Equivalency to Standard for Headship through employment as a headteacher (outside Scotland or in Independent Sector)

Applicants who hold, or have  held, a substantive post as a headteacher outside Scotland can apply for equivalency to the Standard for Headship but must firstly demonstrate eligibility for full registration with GTC Scotland in order for an application to be taken forward.

Headteachers can apply by sending their CV with professional references, showing evidence of how professional background and experience meets the Standard for Headship. Information should be sent with a covering email to

Applications are initially assessed by a member of the Education team to ensure the above have been evidenced and that the specific areas within the Standard for Headship have all been included. Applicants may then be invited to attend a GTC Scotland Headship panel to discuss their application.

The panel consist of a minimum of three individuals, including a GTC Scotland Education Panel Chair and registrants who are drawn from a pool of external experts from the relevant educational context.

Advice for Employers

If you are considering a candidate who qualified outside Scotland for a headteacher post please ensure they have or are eligible for:

Full registration as a teacher and have one of the following:

  1. Recognised UK Headship qualification or
  2. Standard for Headship Qualification Equivalence from GTC Scotland or
  3. Employment Equivalency to Standard for Headship from GTC Scotland. 

Should you have an enquiry we can help you with please email