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NACE Challenge Framework
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NACE Challenge Framework

Supporting school self-review and improvement in provision for more able learners

Exclusively available to NACE member schools, the NACE Challenge Framework is an established tool for whole-school review and improvement in provision for more able learners, offered as part of the NACE Challenge Development Programme. It is based on six key elements, each providing detailed criteria for high-quality provision for the more able, within a whole-school ethos of challenge for all.

Already working with the Framework? Log in to access the Challenge Hub.

Working with the Challenge Framework focuses school leaders and teachers on assessing whether teaching and learning is providing sufficient stretch and invites searching questions about school culture, expectations and how teachers can develop the skills and knowledge to enable learners to excel.

  • Who are the more able learners in your school and how well are they achieving?
  • Are they sufficiently challenged? How do you know?
  • How consistent is the quality of challenge across your school?
  • Do all teachers know what challenge looks like and how to plan for it?
  • Do learners know what challenge feels like and how to respond to it?
  • How can you improve the level of challenge and work together to raise the bar so all learners have high ambitions and achieve excellence?
  • How can you create a school culture where it is “cool to be clever”?

Many schools choose to work with the NACE Challenge Framework because they seek answers to these questions. They are often aware that challenge is provided inconsistently across the school and that this is the perception among learners, particularly the more able. Very often, schools also want to raise aspirations for the whole school community.

The Challenge Framework provides a clear description of what can be done – not as a quick fix, but as part of a review and action-planning process to bring about long-term, sustainable improvement. It is accompanied by supporting resources and practical tools available via the NACE website, as well as opportunities for bespoke consultancy and CPD to help schools identify and implement next steps. Bespoke development programmes are also available for groups of schools working together to improve more able provision.

Read more.

For schools in the early stages of developing provision for more able learners, the NACE Challenge Framework provides a clear and comprehensive structure through which to identify strengths and priorities for improvement, supporting practical action-planning and ongoing review.

For schools with a well-established focus on policy and practice for more able learners, the Framework can be used to audit existing provision, highlighting strengths and identifying opportunities for continued improvement and whole-school development. Schools at this stage may also wish to apply for formal accreditation through the NACE Challenge Award (see below).

For clusters, alliances and trusts, the Challenge Framework provides a shared central focus and structure, while allowing each school to work at its own pace. Use of the Framework can provide a robust measure of trust- and school-level strengths and development points in relation to more able policy and provision, feeding into wider school improvement.

The Challenge Framework is based on six interconnected elements, all of which are key in ensuring high-quality provision for more able learners:

1. Leadership and governance

A commitment to more able learners from senior leadership, all leaders, governors and teachers, supported by a policy, targets and action plan, leading to an ethos where high achievement is valued and success is celebrated.


2. Identification and transition

A whole-school and systematic approach to the identification of more able and exceptionally able learners, based on shared and principled criteria, which is regularly reviewed.


3. Curriculum, teaching and support

3a. Teaching, learning and assessment, enrichment resources and wider learning opportunities provide challenge for all, particularly more able learners.

3b. The curriculum offers breadth, depth and flexibility alongside organisational strategies and systems to meet the needs of more and exceptionally able learners.

3c. Provision includes social and emotional support for more able learners and includes access to appropriate information, advice and guidance.


4. Professional development

Commitment to, and action for, improving the skills of all staff in the school to achieve excellence in meeting the needs of more able learners.


5. Communication and partnership

5a. The school listens to and takes account of the views of more able learners within a wider context of active learner involvement.

5b. The school listens to and takes account of the views of parents and carers of more able learners, keeping them informed and encouraging them to take responsibility for supporting their child’s learning outside school.

5c. The school works with partners and stakeholders, including other education providers, business and community partners, to enhance provision for more able learners.


6. Monitoring and evaluation

A highly effective quality assurance framework for monitoring action plans and assessing the effectiveness and impact of the school’s policy for more and exceptionally able learners.

Online resources

Schools working with the Challenge Framework have access to supporting online resources via the NACE Challenge Hub, including:

  • Latest edition of the Challenge Framework (English and Welsh versions)
  • Introductory PPTs to share with colleagues (English and Welsh versions)
  • Guidance for school leaders, coordinators and departments
  • Webinars exploring the Framework ethos and criteria in depth
  • Self-evaluation guidance and exemplar materials
  • Additional guidance and templates to support self-review and action-planning

Already working with the Framework? Log in to access the Challenge Hub.


Consultancy and CPD

NACE offers bespoke consultancy and CPD for schools using the Framework. These services can be purchased at the same time as the Framework as part of one of our standard packages (see below), or separately.

Consultancy sessions are designed to help school leaders review current practice against the Framework and identify strategies to help the school move on to the next stage.

CPD sessions can be tailored to focus on an identified area for development, and can be delivered for senior leadership, heads of department and/or teaching staff and assistants as appropriate.

Find out more.

Our standard packages include:


1. NACE Challenge Framework £395

Access to the Framework and supporting resources, including online materials to assist your school in its improvement journey (single school licence).


2. Framework with consultancy £795*

In addition to the Framework (single school licence), this package includes a half-day consultancy session for school leaders. The session will review current practice, map this against the Framework, and explore strategies to help the school move forward.


3. Framework, consultancy and bespoke CPD £1,695*

In addition to the materials and support detailed above, this option also includes a one-day CPD session for up to 25 members of staff, led by a NACE expert. The session will focus on identified areas for development, and can be tailored to heads of department, senior management or teaching staff and assistants as appropriate.


To place an order, click here.

Bespoke packages are also available for clusters, trusts and alliances. To discuss the most appropriate option for your school, contact us.


**Consultants’ travel and other expenses will be invoiced separately following each visit (currently £0.45 per mile, and including overnight accommodation where necessary).

Schools whose self-evaluation indicates that they are fulfilling the Framework criteria consistently and to a high standard can choose to apply for NACE Challenge Award accreditation. Valid for three years, the Award provides:

  • 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

Find out more.