Should your school have a policy dedicated to more able learners? How can you go about identifying this group, and what’s the difference between “more able” and “most able”? The list below addresses some of the most frequently asked questions about provision for more able learners, as well as common questions about NACE membership.

Additional information and guidance is available via the NACE members’ website (login required).

For questions relating to the NACE Challenge Development Programme, Challenge Framework and Challenge Award, click here.

General FAQs

What should we call more able learners?

In general NACE uses the term “more able”. However, for a small group of learners we use the term “exceptionally able”. The Welsh government uses the terminology “more able and talented (MAT)”. Currently Ofsted and DfE use “more able”, “most able” or “higher attainers”. For schools, the important point is that there is clarity about who these terms refer to. For example, DfE/Ofsted use of “higher attainers” refers to learners achieving highest standards in English and maths.

What is the definition of more able?

The DfE and Ofsted define the more able in terms of those whose progress and attainment significantly exceed age-related expectations. However, NACE looks beyond this to include those who may be underachieving or whose skills and knowledge may extend beyond national measures of progress and attainment. Exceptionally able learners are those who have the capacity to achieve or perform at the very highest levels.

How do we identify more able learners?

This is a complex matter and is a whole-school issue which should be discussed and agreed by all staff. It is important to encompass a range of methods, looking beyond test results and teacher assessment. The key is to consider the opportunities provided for learners to reveal their abilities. The process is ongoing: provide – identify – provide.

What percentage does NACE recommend should be identified as “more able”?

The percentage of more able learners in a class or school will vary. NACE does not specify an actual percentage but recommends that every school has a robust, while ongoing and flexible, method of identifying its more able cohort.

NACE members: log in to access resources to support your school’s approach to identifying more able learners.

Should we have a register?

There is no requirement to have a specific more able register. However, every maintained school in England is required to report on the progress and attainment of its more able cohort – principally defined as “higher prior attainers”. It is an element of the national whole-school data and performance tables. The wider more able cohort should be reviewed and updated regularly, especially in schools with high mobility and at key transition points.

Do we need a lead person for the more able?

NACE strongly recommends that a member of the senior leadership team (SLT) takes overall responsibility for the education of the more able. In addition, the appointment of a lead practitioner/coordinator enhances the school’s capacity to develop outstanding practice and provision. For those new to this role, NACE offers training days throughout the year – view upcoming dates and venues here.

Do we need a more able policy?

There is no requirement to have such a policy, but NACE considers it to be good practice in terms of ensuring consistency and quality assurance. It can be a discrete document or included as part of a teaching, learning and assessment policy. The policy should be included as part of the school’s regular cycle of policy reviews. Exemplar policies are available via the members’ area of the NACE website (login required).

What do I do about an exceptionally able child?

There is no one way of supporting an exceptionally able child, but a personalised approach should be adopted with regards to academic, social and emotional needs. This is best achieved in partnership with parents/carers and external organisations who may well take a significant role in provision. The key factor to consider is the engagement and involvement of the exceptionally able child in any discussions and decisions, taking account of level of maturity, personal development needs and wellbeing. 

Log in to the NACE members’ site to download The Essential guide to supporting the exceptionally able, part of the NACE Essentials range.

Should we have a governor for the more able?

It is good practice to have a designated governor with a focus on provision for the more able, or to include this within the portfolio of a governor for teaching, learning and standards, or for an area such as inclusion.

Log in to access additional guidance on leadership and governance.

Will Ofsted inspect our provision for the more able?

Yes. The current Ofsted Inspection Framework places emphasis on the quality of a school’s provision and progress for the more able, and inspection reports now include a paragraph under leadership and management on outcomes for more able learners. At NACE, we regularly liaise with Ofsted to ensure the support and resources we provide are regularly updated to align with current requirements and inspection priorities. The NACE Challenge Award is acknowledged in Ofsted inspection reports.

What is dual exceptionality?

This term is used to describe young, able people who have complex or additional learning needs, for example autistic spectrum disorder. NACE patron Professor Diane Montgomery is a leading expert in this area.

What is NACE’s view on acceleration and individual early exam entry?

Acceleration can mean two things – more rapid progress through the curriculum or advancement to older year groups. NACE recommends that accelerating the curriculum can be used judiciously but with due regard to the need to provide depth and enrichment as a priority. Research shows that acceleration per se can do more harm than good. Early entry to examinations does not necessarily lead to learners achieving the highest levels and may lead to an ensuing vacuum in learning. Rapid trajectories in performance fields (e.g. sport) can militate against the fulfilment of early promise and potential and compromise social-emotional development, if not managed and supported well.

How does NACE gather the evidence which supports its work and views?

NACE works with a range of patrons, partners, specialist organisations and researchers in this field who inform and stimulate our thinking. Our board of trustees and NACE associates are drawn from experts in the field with significant experience and track records in provision for more able learners. 

We also commission and undertake our own research, for example through the growing network of Challenge Award schools. In 2018, we launched the NACE Research and Development (R&D) Hubs, providing new opportunities for NACE members to collaborate on identifying and sharing effective practice in more able provision. Other current member-led research initiatives include work with Rising Stars on support for more able learners in primary maths; an action research initiative in partnership with the University of Winchester; and a collaboration with Cardiff Metropolitan University.

What should we tell parents and carers?

It is good practice to inform parents and carers about the strengths and progress of their children as part of the school’s reporting systems. Some schools choose to have discrete communications and forums to engage parents and carers in the identification and support of able learners. Parents and carers can play a significant role in supporting the school and the able learner and in building a productive partnership between home and school.

Log in to the NACE members’ site to download The Essential guide for parents and carers of more able learners, part of the NACE Essentials range.

I’m a parent and want to ensure my child is well supported by his/her school – what can I do?

NACE is a school membership organisation; we provide advice and guidance to help schools improve provision for more able learners. To enable your child’s school to access our full support and resources, please invite them to consider NACE membership. While NACE does not work directly with individual parents or children, there are charities that do so. Potential Plus is one such organisation.

Can NACE give me lesson plans for the more able?

NACE encourages schools to develop their own practice based on the following strategies:

  • Rich and higher-order questioning

  • Higher-order and abstract thinking (e.g. handling ambiguity and paradox)

  • Problem solving and enquiry

  • Development of advanced language skills, to include accuracy, precision and fluency

  • Independent work and self-study

  • Development of metacognition

  • Curriculum enrichment and optimal curriculum design

  • Transfer of knowledge across disciplines

  • Provision of leadership opportunities

Different subject areas will deploy different and additional approaches according to age and stage.

What resources/articles do you recommend for schools/teachers?

We provide lists of resources, publications and recommended reading in the members’ area of our website (login required). We collate relevant research papers and policy updates, and alert members to new developments and guidance. Find out more about NACE membership here.

Can I use pupil premium (PP) funding for the more able?

Pupil premium (PP) funding should be used to support more able learners from disadvantaged, EAL, LAC and Forces backgrounds. Examples of how the PP can be used to support the more able include funding to enable learners to attend relevant courses and extracurricular activities, and funding for individualised support such as mentoring or one-to-one tuition.

Log in to the NACE members’ site to access our policy bite on supporting more able learners through pupil premium funding, including school case studies – part of the NACE Essentials range.

From our blog:

Is there any funding to support the more able?

Pupil premium funding should be used to support able learners from disadvantaged backgrounds (see above). There is no dedicated funding for the more able, but there are organisations whose main aim is to support able children e.g. The Brilliant Club, Headstart, Shine, Dick Camplin Trust, university access schemes. NACE encourages schools to explore funding and grant opportunities which could be applied to more able learners.

I have just been assigned to the role of more able lead – where do I begin?

You should seek to clarify your responsibilities with your senior leadership team (SLT) and have the support of a senior manager if you are not part of SLT. It may also be useful to find out if there is a local network for more able coordinators/lead practitioners in your area.

The NACE Challenge Development Programme provides support to help lead practitioners review their school’s current provision for the more able, and identify next steps. NACE also runs courses for those new to leading on provision for the more able.

What kind of professional development can NACE provide for our school?

We offer support to individual teachers, schools and clusters of schools through:

We have a range of publications and resources available via our members’ site, which give guidance to help school leaders and teachers develop their provision for the more able.

FAQs about NACE membership 

Who joins NACE?

Our membership is made up of schools of all types and sizes, working at all key stages, across England, Wales and beyond. When you join NACE, all staff within your school have access to our membership benefits (see below).

What are the benefits of becoming a member of NACE?

NACE membership is for all staff within your school. Benefits include:

  • Free online resources – created by our expert practitioners exclusively for NACE members, covering all aspects of provision, from policy development to classroom practice.

  • Members’ community – including opportunities to contribute to discussions via our blog;

  • Member meetups – launched in response to member demand, our free meetups provide opportunities to exchange ideas with peers and extend your professional network.

  • Webinars – free for members, our live webinars provide opportunities for staff to update their knowledge and skills, while minimising time away from the classroom. Recordings are available for any missed sessions and can make an excellent basis for discussion at staff meetings.

  • Professional development – our conferences and training days remain key to the support we offer for school leaders, teachers, subject specialists, and those coordinating more able provision. Members receive discounted rates on our courses, conferences and in-school CPD.

  • Member-led research – we are increasing opportunities for members to collaborate on research and exchange good practice, regionally and nationally. Current projects include collaborations with Rising Stars, NRICH, the University of Winchester’s Expansive Education Network and Cardiff Metropolitan University.

  • Representation – contribute to NACE’s dialogue with government bodies, and join our Leading Schools Network at invitation-only events and consultations.

  • NACE Challenge Development Programme – exclusively available to NACE members, the Challenge Development Programme provides a comprehensive set of resources and support to develop provision for the more able.

How much does NACE membership cost?

The cost of NACE membership is based on school size. For current rates, click here

How do I become a member?

To join NACE, simply complete this online application form.

Can we display the NACE logo as a member?

Yes. Log in to the NACE members’ site to download the NACE members’ logo for use on your school website, email signatures and stationery.

I can’t remember my school login details…

To request a reminder of your school’s login details, please complete our contact details update form.

What happens if our lead contact changes?

If your school's lead contact for NACE membership changes, please complete our contact details update form to ensure you continue to receive member communications and benefits.

How is membership renewed?

When your membership is due for renewal an invoice and certificate for the upcoming year will be mailed to the school’s main contact at the school postal address. On receipt of invoice payment your school membership will be renewed. If you do not wish to continue with membership, please tell us why by emailing

How do we pay you? Do you accept credit cards? Can we pay via Bacs?

NACE will issue an invoice, containing account details, by email or post upon receipt of your order. Payment can be made via Bacs or cheque. NACE is not currently able to accept card payments.

©   Updated May 2018

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