The NACE Challenge Award provides national recognition of school-wide high-quality provision for more able and talented (MAT) learners within a context of challenge for all. The award is part of the NACE Challenge Development Programme.

Gaining the award provides your school with:
  • External validation of school-wide high-quality provision for MAT learners
  • Evidence of impact aligned to other school improvement and accountability measures
  • A clear action plan to help you identify and develop the right tools for your school, learners and staff
  • Ongoing expert support for continuous improvement
  • Invitation to join NACE’s Leading Schools Network

Working towards the award

The NACE Challenge Award is exclusively available to current NACE members. For schools in Wales, it is based on the national Quality Standards in Education for More Able and Talented Pupils, developed by the Welsh Assembly Government in collaboration with NACE.

NACE provides additional materials to support schools working towards the Challenge Award, including the NACE Challenge Framework for school self-evaluation, action plan template, lesson observation template, case study guidance and more. 

NACE regularly reviews the Challenge Framework to ensure it remains up to date. We are currently reviewing the framework in the context of educational reforms taking place in Wales. The updated edition will be available in 2018-19.

What do schools say?

Results of the NACE Challenge Award survey in Wales (April 2016):
  • 100% would recommend the NACE Challenge Award to other schools.
  • 100% said the NACE Challenge Award had helped them to improve MAT provision and outcomes in their school.
  • 100% found the assessment process rigorous and of high quality.
Leading areas of impact for school staff:  
  • Whole-school engagement (93%)
  • Providing the school with clarity around actions (86%)
Leading areas of impact for learners:  
  • Breadth of opportunity (79%)
  • Raised aspirations (71%)
“What started as a targeted programme to drive standards for our more able and talented learners, has ended up providing us with a platform to enrich and extend every child’s school experiences. It has also given us the ambition to continue to think outside the box and set the highest expectations for our whole school community.” – Adam Raymond, assistant headteacher, Pencoed Primary School

Bespoke consultancy and CPD

NACE offers bespoke consultancy and CPD to support schools at all stages of developing MAT provision. Whether you want to focus on whole-school strategy and monitoring, or inspire staff members with tools and ideas for everyday provision, we’ll work with you to develop a practical consultancy and/or training programme. This can be delivered to school leaders, heads of department, or teaching and support staff, depending on your needs. Find out more.

Applying for assessment

When your school is ready to be assessed for Challenge Award accreditation, complete the online application form. You will be allocated an assessor, who will contact you to arrange a date for a pre-assessment visit. This is mandatory for schools being assessed for the first time, and optional for those undergoing reaccreditation.

After the pre-assessment visit, you will receive a report outlining your school’s readiness for assessment, and any additional development work required. Your assessor will then return for a full assessment day. Read more about the assessment process.

Ongoing support

Schools holding the NACE Challenge Award receive ongoing support from NACE. In between accreditations, a “Challenge check-in” with a NACE assessor helps to ensure you are on track to meet the objectives within your action plan and that you are abreast of national more able developments. Challenge Award schools are also invited to join NACE’s Leading Schools Network.


To maintain NACE Challenge Award accreditation, schools must maintain NACE membership, be rated good or outstanding, and be successfully reaccredited every three years. At all stages of accreditation NACE would expect to see schools actively developing their approach to their more able policy and provision. By the time a school reaches third accreditation and beyond, it should be playing a role in research and partnership working to improve outcomes for MAT learners.
Accreditation: Expectations:
First accreditation Evidence to show school is meeting Challenge Framework criteria
Second accreditation School building on the action plan produced at first assessment
Innovation/best practice in aspects of education for MAT learners
Third accreditation
and beyond
School taking a lead role in partnership and research at a regional or national level to improve outcomes for MAT learners

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