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NACE Challenge Award
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NACE Challenge Award

NACE Challenge Award logo

External accreditation of high-quality provision for more able learners

The NACE Challenge Award provides recognition of school-wide high-quality provision for more able 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 more able learners
  • Evidence of impact aligned to other school improvement and accountability measures
  • A clear action plan and ongoing support for continued improvement
  • Invitation to join the NACE Leading Schools Network

To apply for the NACE Challenge Award, your school must:

  • Hold current NACE membership
  • Be able to demonstrate that you meet the criteria outlined in the NACE Challenge Framework, based on completed self-assessment and portfolio of evidence
  • Hold an Ofsted good or outstanding judgement, or equivalent for independent schools; schools in Wales will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the most recent Estyn judgement (for more detail, see our FAQs)

Schools working towards the NACE Challenge Award can benefit from our termly Challenge Clinics - offering free one-to-one support (via phone/Skype) to help you review progress, identify next steps and gauge your readiness for accreditation. For details of the next Challenge Clinic, visit our events page.

Applying for assessment

Once your school is ready to apply for assessment, you should complete the online application form. An assessor will be appointed to our school, and you will receive a confirmation email with contact details for your lead assessor and a summary of the process and required documents.


Stage 1: pre-assessment

This stage is mandatory for all schools being assessed for the first time; mandatory for schools outside the UK at each assessment; and optional for UK-based schools undergoing reaccreditation.

An assessor will visit your school and undertake a learning walk focused on evidencing the quality of teaching and learning and assessment outlined in your school’s NACE Challenge Framework self-evaluation and portfolio.

Interviews will be held with the senior leadership team and more able coordinator. At the end of the visit the assessor will provide verbal feedback on your school’s level of readiness to proceed to formal assessment, which will be followed by a written report.


Stage 2: assessment

The assessment day is based around a pre-agreed schedule and will include a learning walk, interviews with staff, governors and learners, and further evidence scrutiny. Your school will be verbally advised of the outcome at the end of the day and receive a written report shortly afterwards, which will include recommendations for your school’s ongoing action plan.

Stage 1 takes place remotely. Your portfolio of evidence and other key documents should be sent electronically or in hard copy to your assessor, who will review and may request additional information. When satisfied with the detail provided, the assessor will undertake a video call with the more able coordinator to review the submission. The scrutiny of evidence is a rigorous process, focused on evidencing of the quality of teaching and learning and assessment outlined in your school’s NACE Challenge Framework self-evaluation. The assessor will provide feedback on your submission and level of readiness for stage 2 of the assessment.

For stage 2, the assessor will spend a day in school (schools with 1,000 or more pupils require two assessors). This will follow the same timetabled schedule as for UK schools, but may require a longer day. Extra scrutiny of evidence may be necessary to review any in-school evidence not available at stage 1. You will be verbally advised of the outcome at the end of the day and will receive a written report shortly afterwards, which will include recommendations for your school’s ongoing action plan.

On confirmation that your school has been successful in its application for the NACE Challenge Award, NACE will provide celebratory materials, including a Challenge Award certificate and logo. You will also be invited to join the NACE Leading Schools Network, a community for accredited schools.

At the midpoint between accreditations, schools are offered a “Challenge check-in”. This is a phone consultancy session with a NACE assessor, aiming to help ensure you are on track to meet the objectives detailed in your action plan. As long as you maintain NACE membership, you will also continue to have access to the NACE Challenge Hub, providing access to regularly updated resources to support your school’s ongoing development in more able provision.

To maintain NACE Challenge Award accreditation, schools must maintain NACE membership, be rated good or outstanding (or equivalent), 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 more able learners.


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 more able learners

Third accreditation and beyond:

School taking a lead role in partnership and research at a regional or national level to improve outcomes for more able learners

Stage 1: pre-assessment

The pre-assessment visit is compulsory for schools applying for accreditation for the first time, and optional for UK schools applying for reaccreditation. For schools outside the UK pre-assessment is compulsory for each accreditation.

  • Primary school: £500
  • Secondary school: £600

Stage 2: assessment

The costs for NACE Challenge Award assessment are based on school size. The same fee applies for first accreditations and for subsequent reaccreditations.

  • 249 pupils or less (1 assessor): £950
  • 250-499 pupils (1 assessor): £1,050
  • 500-999 pupils (1 assessor): £1,300
  • 1,000-1,999 pupils (2 assessors): £1,950
  • 2,000+ pupils: price on application

Schools outside the UK:

  • Up to 999 pupils: £1,975 +VAT (one assessor)
  • 1,000 or more pupils: £2,900 +VAT (two assessors)