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NACE Challenge FAQs
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NACE Challenge FAQs

For guidance for schools working towards the Challenge Award during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, click here.

Frequently asked questions about the NACE Challenge Development Programme

Scroll down for answers to frequently asked questions about the NACE Challenge Development Programme, including the NACE Challenge Framework and NACE Challenge Award.

What is the NACE Challenge Development Programme?

The NACE Challenge Development Programme offers a suite of exclusive resources to support NACE members at each stage of developing provision for more learners, in the context of challenge for all. Developed in consultation with schools and education experts, the programme is based on the detailed criteria of the NACE Challenge Framework – an established tool for school self-evaluation and improvement in provision for more able learners.

Alongside the Challenge Framework, the NACE Challenge Development Programme offers:

  • Bespoke consultancy and CPD for your teaching and/or leadership teams;
  • Access to exclusive online resources;
  • Opportunity to apply for NACE Challenge Award accreditation;
  • Membership of a community of likeminded schools and professionals.

The programme is designed to support schools across all phases and at all stages of development – including schools already demonstrating good or outstanding provision for more able learners, and those for whom this is a key action point for improvement.

How can I access the NACE Challenge Development Programme?

To join the NACE Challenge Development Programme, your school must be a current NACE member. If unsure whether your school holds NACE membership, contact us. Once you have decided on the best Challenge Development Programme option for your school, complete our online form to place your order.

What is the NACE Challenge Framework?

An integral part of the Challenge Development Programme, the NACE Challenge Framework is a self-evaluation and school improvement tool, based on evidence about how to provide challenge for high achievement, with specific emphasis on provision for more able learners.

How do schools use the Challenge Framework?

Schools use the NACE Challenge Framework to audit and review their quality and scope of provision for more able learners, and to create an informed action plan for continuous whole-school improvement. All schools in all phases can use the Framework, at any stage in developing provision for the more able. Read more here.

Does purchasing the Challenge Framework make my school eligible for Challenge Award assessment?

For schools in the early stages of developing provision for more able learners, the Challenge Framework provides a useful structure through which to identify strengths and priorities for improvement. Schools with an established focus on policy and practice in this area will be ready to audit their provision, complete the self-evaluation and compile a portfolio of supporting evidence – this can then be submitted as part of an application for Challenge Award accreditation.

What is the NACE Challenge Award?

The NACE Challenge Award is a recognised quality mark given to schools that have developed excellent provision for more able learners.

What are the eligibility criteria?

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)

How long does it take to gain the NACE Challenge Award?

This depends on your starting point. If your school has an established focus on provision for more able learners, then your initial audit against the Challenge Framework may show that you will be ready to apply for the award within a year. Most schools take around two years to reach this point, largely due to the requirement for a whole-school ethos and consistency. Some may take longer, depending on their circumstances. For an overview of timings, key actions and support at each stage, click here.

How will I know if my school is ready to apply for Challenge Award accreditation?

In order to apply for accreditation, you must be confident that your school meets the criteria detailed in the NACE Challenge Framework and that you have adequate evidence to support this.

You may also find it beneficial to book a slot at one of 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.

What is the Challenge Award assessment process?

Stage 1 (pre-assessment half-day visit). This is a visit from your assessor to undertake a preliminary review of your school’s readiness for Challenge Award assessment, and to identify key areas for development. 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.

Stage 2: (assessment day). The assessment day is based on 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.

Read more about assessment here. If your school is ready to apply for Challenge Award accreditation or reaccreditation, please complete this online form.

How long is the Challenge Award valid for?

The NACE Challenge Award is valid for three years (previously four). On gaining the award, schools receive a report outlining next steps for development, which should be addressed before applying for reaccreditation. NACE membership is also a requirement.

What should I do if my school is working with the 'Quality Standards for More Able and Talented Pupils'? (applicable to some schools in Wales)

NACE has updated the Challenge Framework to reflect curriculum developments in Wales and would encourage schools to use the updated version and its extensive supporting resources. From April 2019, schools wishing to be assessed for the NACE Challenge Award will need to do so against the updated NACE Challenge Framework, rather than the Quality Standards.

If your school has already gained the NACE Challenge Award, at your next reaccreditation you will be required to work with the updated Challenge Framework. You should purchase a school-wide licence for the Framework, which will include access to supporting online resources. Please note that following your next reaccreditation, your school will be required to renew accreditation every three years (previously four).

What happens if we are a Challenge Award-accredited school and we fall into Requires Improvement?

Schools which are judged Requires Improvement (RI) no longer meet the required designation eligibility to retain Challenge Award status. As part of the de-designation process, schools will be required to remove the Challenge Award logo from their website and other materials. This drop of category may occur when significant time has passed since the previous Ofsted inspection and Challenge Award accreditation.

If your school holds the award and falls into RI, on publication of the Ofsted report you should notify NACE of the inspection judgement and remove the Challenge Award logo from your school website and other materials.

Schools are encouraged to use the Challenge Framework to support their journey back to “good”. NACE can also offer consultancy to support this improvement process.

What if my school wishes to apply for the Challenge Award but my current Estyn rating doesn’t meet the requirements?

The Welsh education system is undergoing a period of reform of both its curriculum and inspection regime. Given this transitional context, and with a partial suspension of inspection from 2020 to 2021, schools in Wales not currently judged as “good” applying for Challenge Award accreditation will be reviewed on an individual basis for eligibility for, firstly, pre-assessment and then for accreditation. Key determiners for eligibility will include time since the previous inspection judgement; how the school can robustly evidence improved performance; and the school’s annual national rating category.

Current Challenge Award-accredited schools in Wales which drop from Good to Adequate will continue to be de-designated as they no longer meet the eligibility criteria to retain Challenge Award status.

We have a new more able lead. Is it possible to have support before we apply?

Yes. All accredited schools can have a “Challenge check-in” – one-to-one advice via telephone with an experienced assessor. Some schools also book a consultancy visit to help them prepare for reaccreditation, especially if there have been changes in leadership roles.

What are the main benefits of the reaccreditation process?

The NACE Challenge Award is a prestigious external validation and maintaining the Award is a reminder to interested stakeholders of the school’s high-quality provision. We also know from experience that the reaccreditation journey can often “reenergise” the focus on ensuring a whole-school spotlight on ensuring challenge for all learners, including the most able.

How can I connect with other schools to talk about provision for more able learners?

NACE provides many opportunities for schools to meet e.g. termly member meetups, regional R&D Hubs, and the newly launched Challenge Award school experience days. For more information about any of these opportunities contact

There is a new Ofsted framework – will reaccreditation also help with this?

The holistic approach of evidence gathering for the Challenge Award links well with Ofsted requirements. A school’s evaluation against the six Element criteria will provide a strong evidence base of key aspects of the new Ofsted framework – i.e. demonstrating an aspirational, inclusive school ethos; an ambitious, broad and rich curriculum entitlement rooted in good teaching; strategic professional development; excellent personal development provision; and rigorous monitoring of the work of the school.

The curriculum is also under review in Wales – how can reaccreditation support this?

The holistic approach of evidence gathering for the Challenge Award reflects education priorities in Wales, embedding the key pedagogical principles and four curriculum purposes, alongside a focus on whole-school self-evaluation. It supports senior leaders in whole-school review, while enabling practitioners and teams to collaboratively reflect on and develop their practice.

Read more about assessment here. If your school is ready to apply for Challenge Award accreditation or reaccreditation, please complete this online form.

How much does it cost?

The costs involved depend on the level of support your school chooses. Challenge Development Programme options are detailed here, and you can find costs for Challenge Award assessment here. To place an order, click here. To discuss the best option for your school, or to request a bespoke development package, contact us.

Why is there a cost for the Challenge Framework?

NACE is an independent charity and has developed the Challenge Framework and Challenge Development Programme as resources to help schools improve provision for more able learners. The Framework and accompanying materials are regularly updated with additional resources and examples of best practice. The costs charged to schools cover the work involved in creating and updating these resources.

What is a “Challenge check-in”?

A “Challenge check-in” is part of the ongoing support NACE provides for schools accredited with the Challenge Award. In the interval between reaccreditations, you will be contacted by a Challenge Award assessor, who will help you to assess your school’s progress against the action plan outlined in your Challenge Award report. The assessor will also ask about any significant changes in the school, or other matters which may impact on provision for the more able.

What is the NACE Leading Schools Network?

The NACE Leading Schools Network is an invitation-only network for schools holding the NACE Challenge Award. Membership of the network is offered in recognition of a school’s sustained commitment to meeting the needs of more able learners, and interest in sharing expertise for the wider benefit of the education community.