The NACE Challenge Award is far more than just a certificate or tick-box exercise, as Jamie Kisiel, Teaching and Learning Coordinator at NACE member Langley School explains…

Our decision to pursue accreditation with the NACE Challenge Award was originally generated from a surprising (to the school) target identified by the ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate). Our 2017 ISI report found that “more able pupils are not always sufficiently challenged to fulfil their academic potential”, generating a target to “ensure that all lessons provide sufficient challenge for more able pupils so that they are provided more opportunity to explore concepts and exploit their potential.”

The above was contrary to the school's efforts to increase rigour and challenge in the curriculum. So, following a review of strategic planning options, we decided that, although we had been working on challenge, we had not been doing enough to make a material impact. We decided to pursue the NACE Challenge Award, which would give us a framework to intrinsically address these targets as well as providing a wider vehicle for change.  

1. Clear structure for school review and improvement

The NACE Challenge Framework provides a structure for schools seeking the NACE Challenge Award – but more importantly it offers a blueprint to build and drive challenge initiatives forward, developing a challenging academic environment for all. The Framework is categorised into six key elements which combine to ensure high-quality provision for more able learners, within the context of challenge for all. Through our focus on Element 3 (which relates to curriculum, teaching and support), a strategy to embed the Framework and develop a challenge initiative soon emerged.

2. Improve the quality of challenge for all learners

“A rising tide lifts all ships” – Joseph Renzulli.

Improving provision for the more able opens the doors of opportunity. The NACE Challenge Development Programme has given us a structure to introduce and maintain high-quality provision at whole-school, teaching and support levels. By emphasising challenge for all learners, including those with high abilities, a philosophy of enquiry and investigation can be nourished. A positive culture of learning continues to grow and develop, with opportunities to challenge mindset creating a more dynamic approach.  

3. Challenge for staff, as well as students

The Challenge Framework requires that schools focus on developing challenge both for learners and for staff. This two-pronged approach helps to embed an ethos of challenge that permeates within and beyond the classroom. Staff are encouraged to become reflective practitioners and explore ways to professionally challenge themselves, whether it be through action research projects or coaching/mentoring programmes. This facilitates a symbiotic relationship where both students and staff work through the emotional struggles and triumphs by pushing personal boundaries, developing empathy in the process.

4. Develop in-school action research

The Challenge Framework provides a structured audit process that clearly identifies areas for improvement. Within these areas, schools can develop professional enquiries to address identified issues and investigate potential solutions and strategies for improvement. Regardless of size and scope, action research projects can provide practitioners with excellent opportunities for professional development that are tailored to an area of interest and bespoke to the school’s context and priorities. These investigations can be supported and shared through the NACE Research and Development Hubs – which offer regional-level guidance and support for practitioners conducting research with a focus on provision for more able learners.     

5. Professional networking and peer support

Along the journey towards Challenge Award accreditation (and beyond), NACE offers a wide range of support, including formal training and INSET as well as opportunities to connect with peers. Free networking days such as the NACE member meetup I attended in Oxford last term have proved invaluable – offering a platform to generate and exchange ideas with likeminded practitioners, and an opportunity to establish contacts. These networks can then be used to create links across schools to benefit both students and staff. Many schools that have achieved the Challenge Award are very open to collaboration and support, whether through resources or observation days. 

Find out more…

The NACE Challenge Award is an accreditation given to schools evidencing school-wide high-quality provision for more able learners, based on the detailed criteria of the NACE Challenge Framework. Both are part of the Challenge Development Programme, which also offers bespoke CPD and consultancy for schools seeking to improve their provision in this area. To find out more, click here or contact NACE to discuss available support and next steps for your school.

US-born Jamie Kisiel is Teaching and Learning Coordinator at Langley School, Norfolk, where she leads on the school’s work with the NACE Challenge Development Programme. She is also Head of Psychology, EPQ Coordinator and Equestrian Team Manager – a role which draws on her own passion for horses and experience of competing up to international level in various equestrian disciplines.

An independent school with just over 500 students across key stages 2 to 5, Langley School is committed to “go[ing] beyond the academic to educate the whole student, helping them achieve their very best.” Having joined NACE at the start of the 2018-19 academic year, the school is working with the NACE Challenge Framework to audit existing provision for more able learners and identify next steps – to date including INSET on strategies for challenge in the classroom, collective development of a more able policy, and work on identification processes to support personalised challenge programmes for learners.
Friday, June 14, 2019