Read the latest blog posts from school leadersteachers, more able coordinators and expert practitioners – sharing ideas to improve provision for more able learners. Find fresh inspiration for your own classroom, enrichment initiatives or school policy, and get in touch to share a success story from your own school.

November, 2018

Curriculum, teaching and support

3 ways to step up the challenge in Key Stage 3 English
Ahead of her workshop “Challenging more able learners in English (KS3-4)”, NACE Associate Tracy Goodyear shares three steps to review and improve the quality of challenge provided in your KS3 English lessons…
October, 2018

Curriculum, teaching and support

The curriculum: the substance of education – Ofsted update
How can we ensure all young people have access to a broad and rich curriculum? In this blog post for the NACE community, Chris Jones, Ofsted Research and Evaluation Deputy Director, shares an update on Ofsted’s curriculum thematic review.
Recently, the curriculum has been high on the agenda at Ofsted. Over the past 18 months, our Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, has placed great emphasis on understanding how we can make sure that all children have access to a broad and rich curriculum.
5 ways to challenge and engage learners in MFL
Earlier this year, NACE member and Challenge Award holder The Broxbourne School was named one of nine schools selected to lead regional language hubs across England, supporting the new Centre of Excellence for Modern Languages. In this blog post, MFL teacher Alison Pateman shares some of the school’s keys to success in promoting the study of and high attainment in modern languages.
5 stages of the “Learning Pit” for more able learners
We all know learning is impossible without mistakes, but how do you help your students understand the process of learning? Cathy Metcalf, Year 5 teacher at St Mary's RC Primary School, outlines the five stages of the “Learning Pit” approach – highlighting particular benefits and challenges for more able learners along the way…

“It is better to know how to learn than to know.” – Dr Seuss

7 ways to challenge more able readers
As schools across the UK celebrate Libraries Week (8-13 October), NACE Associate Judith Mason outlines seven approaches to ensuring more able readers are effectively challenged and supported.

Communication and partnership

The Broxbourne School: becoming a national language hub
Earlier this year, NACE member and Challenge Award holder The Broxbourne School was named one of nine schools to become national language hubs, supporting England’s new Centre of Excellence for Modern Languages. In this blog post, Deputy Headteacher Peter Clift reflects on the school’s journey to becoming a national language hub, and what it hopes to achieve in this role.
September, 2018

Curriculum, teaching and support

6 signs your school library is meeting the needs of all learners
Is your school library the chosen enclave of a select few, or does it truly cater for, challenge and engage all learners? Ahead of Libraries Week (8-13 October 2018), Alison Tarrant, Chief Executive of the School Library Association, shares six signs your school library is getting it right…

1. There are (almost) as many people as books 

6 whole-school strategies to reduce gender bias
Physicist Dr Jess Wade made headlines this summer for her campaign to get a copy of Angela Saini’s book Inferior into every UK school. The campaign aims to help schools break down gender stereotypes, challenging and supporting all young people to develop their abilities in all fields and to choose from a full breadth of career options.
7 strategies to develop oracy skills for all learners
Gail Roberts, More Able and Talented (MAT) Coordinator at Challenge Award-accredited Llanfoist Fawr Primary School, was selected as the winner of our “challenge pledge” competition at the NACE Cymru Conference 2018 for her commitment to developing learners’ oracy skills. In this blog post, she outlines seven strategies to put her pledge into practice…

Research and reports

Summer 2018: education reports roundup
The wheels of education research and policy continue to turn even when school’s out… To help you catch up and prepare for the new academic year, NACE Education Adviser Hilary Lowe summarises key takeaways from this summer’s education report releases.

School cultures and practices: supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils

Leadership and governance

Using the NACE Challenge Framework: dos and don’ts
The NACE Challenge Framework offers an established tool for school self-review and improvement in more able provision, within the context of challenge for all. Supporting whole-school improvement and continuous development, the Framework can lead to formal accreditation through the NACE Challenge Award.

Identification and transition

10 ways to support more able learners in KS2-3 transition
At our summer term NACE member meetup, primary and secondary members convened to share strategies to improve support for more able learners during KS2-3 transition. Canons High School’s Laura Markey and Athena Pitsillis opened the discussion with a presentation based on their NACE Essentials case study (available in our members’ area), followed by a “speed-sharing” session and networking lunch.

Here are 10 approaches to try…

1. More able workshops 

July, 2018

CEO’s blog

Opportunities for NACE members in 2018-19
Sue Riley, NACE CEO

We’re quickly moving towards the end of the term, and I want to use my final blog of the academic year to look ahead at some of the support and opportunities in store for members in 2018-19.

Share your expertise

Identification and transition

7 steps to create an impactful and inspiring more able workshop
As More Able Coordinator at the Osborne Cooperative Academy Trust, Philippa Buckingham has introduced a fresh approach to more able workshops – running whole-day immersive experiences which leave learners engaged, enthused and excited about the prospect of making the transition from primary to secondary school. In this blog post, she shares seven key steps in the process…

June, 2018

Professional development

Haybridge’s NACE R&D Hub gets underway
Rob Lightfoot has coordinated more able provision at Haybridge High School and Sixth Form for 10 years. In this blog post, he discusses the benefits of getting involved in the new NACE Research and Development Hubs initiative and the additional benefits of being a NACE member school.
5 ways to use data to improve provision for more able learners
Tired of collecting, recording, testing and reporting? NACE associate Dr Ann McCarthy shares five ways to ensure your use of data is much more than just a tick-box exercise…

4 reasons not to miss this year’s NACE Cymru Conference
The Brilliant Club’s Greg Scannell shares his top four reasons not to miss this year’s NACE Cymru Conference, coming to Cardiff on 28 June…

1. Step away from the classroom…

Curriculum, teaching and support

What’s next for the Seren Network?
Stephen Parry-Jones, Seren Network hub coordinator for Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil, takes a look at the network’s successes to date and plans to extend its coverage…

8 myths about Oxford University that need to be busted…
When it comes to Oxford and Cambridge, there are still many perceived barriers that can deter students from applying – and may deter others from encouraging them to do so. For school and sixth-form staff involved in supporting students with university applications, Oxford’s Dr Matthew Williams is keen to break down some of the myths…
May, 2018

Identification and transition

Smoothing the transition from KS2 to KS3
Becky Catlin is the More Able Coordinator at NACE member and Challenge Award-accredited Sir Christopher Hatton Academy. In this blog post, she shares examples of practical initiatives to smooth the transition from KS2 to KS3 for all involved – including Family Challenge Evenings, interventions for underachieving students, combined training days for primary and secondary staff, and a new award celebrating extracurricular academic achievement.

Research and reports

Estyn’s thematic review of MAT provision: 7 key takeaways
Estyn’s recent thematic report, Supporting more able and talented pupils – How best to challenge and nurture more able and talented pupils: Key stages 2 to 4, examines standards, provision and leadership in meeting the needs of more able and talented (MAT) learners in primary and secondary schools in Wales.

April, 2018

Curriculum, teaching and support

4 “Big Questions” to challenge more able learners in maths
Looking for ideas to challenge your more able learners in maths? In this blog post, Alex Pryce selects four maths-focused “Big Questions” from Oxplore, an initiative developed by the University of Oxford.

5 ways to support exceptionally able learners in maths
Seeking ideas to support exceptionally able learners in mathematics? Based on the guidance provided by the University of Cambridge’s NRICH project, here are five important steps you can take to ensure exceptionally able learners are effectively challenged and supported…

1. Offer a challenging task related to the class activity.

5 reasons to focus on talk in primary maths
Are your primary maths lessons too quiet? Ahead of her upcoming workshop on strengthening talk in primary maths, NACE associate Sarah Carpenter explains why effective discussions are key to deepening and extending learning in this core subject.
5 fresh perspectives on teaching and learning in primary English
Stefan Pearson, Teacher and Challenge Coordinator at Bradford’s Copthorne Primary School, shares five key takeaways from this year’s English for the More Able conference…

March, 2018

Curriculum, teaching and support

4 “Big Questions” to challenge more able learners in STEM
Looking for ideas to challenge your more able learners in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)? In this blog post, Alex Pryce selects four “Big Questions” from the University of Oxford’s Oxplore project – providing rich starting points for debate, investigation and independent learning…

10 books to engage and challenge young learners
Next week NACE and Rising Stars are hosting the English for the More Able conference in York, bringing together educators, researchers and advisers from across the country to explore strategies to challenge more able learners in primary English.
5 reasons to teach oracy skills in your classroom
Earlier this week, the English-Speaking Union (ESU) hosted a meetup for NACE members on the topic of cultural capital – including the importance of providing opportunities for young people to explore and develop oracy skills. In this blog post, the ESU’s Amanda Moorghen shares five reasons to teach oracy skills for learners of all ages and abilities.

Professional development

Practitioner research: a worthwhile investment?
Cat Scutt, Director of Education and Research, Chartered College of Teaching
Over the past few years, the idea that teaching should be an evidence-informed profession has become increasingly widespread, and supporting teachers to be more evidence-informed and research-engaged is at the heart of the work of the Chartered College of Teaching.
February, 2018

Curriculum, teaching and support

How to embed marking and feedback in a learning mindset culture
Lesley Hill, headteacher of NACE member Lavender Primary School in North London, explains how the school’s approach to marking and feedback has evolved alongside the development of a strong learning mindset culture.

Our marking and feedback policy cannot stand alone. It only works because we have embedded the learning culture on which it depends.

How can we develop conjecturing and convincing skills?
Ems Lord, Director of the University of Cambridge-based NRICH project, explains how one primary school developed learners’ conjecturing and convincing skills through the challenge of solving live maths problems – and the motivation of seeing their solutions published on the NRICH website.  

What’s the problem?

How can we engage more students with Further Mathematics?
NACE is proud to partner with the NRICH project at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Mathematical Sciences, which offers free online resources to enrich the mathematics curriculum, provide challenging and meaningful activities, and develop mathematical thinking and problem-solving skills. In this blog post, the project’s director, Ems Lord, explains why and how NRICH is developing resources designed to get GCSE students seriously interested in Further Mathematics…

Professional development

Member opportunity: become an NRICH maths ambassador – free CPD
NRICH director Ems Lord outlines a new opportunity for NACE members to develop their approach to supporting more able mathematicians, with access to free CPD, resources and networking. Read on to find out how your school could participate…
NACE partner NRICH is seeking NACE member schools to collaborate in exploring approaches to develop confident and competent maths problem solvers.  

January, 2018

Curriculum, teaching and support

5 things we forget at their peril
Think you understand what makes young people tick? Think again. Award-winning author and expert on teenage brains Nicola Morgan shares five factors which are often overlooked, but which hold the key to effectively supporting today’s young learners.
From Year 4 project to Saatchi Gallery exhibition
London’s renowned Saatchi Gallery is known for championing the work of previously unheard-of artists, offering a springboard to fame. Living up to this reputation, in March this year the gallery will feature work by some of the UK’s youngest and least-publicised artists – displaying creations from a cross-disciplinary project completed by Year 4 learners at NACE member and Challenge Award-accredited Pencoed Primary School.
Ofsted update: focus on substance, not “stickers”
In this blog post, Mike Sheridan, Ofsted’s regional director for London, gives an update on Ofsted’s research into the curriculum – emphasising the importance of staying focused on quality of education, rather than qualifications.
5 reasons to use grammar games in your classroom
NACE associates Christine Chen and Lindsay Pickton are experienced primary English advisors, with a specialisation in supporting more able learners. In this blog post, they explain how grammar games can help to foster creativity, engagement with the composition process, and a lasting love of language.
If you’re not already using grammar games in your classroom, here are five reasons to start now…

1. They set a high bar for all learners

7 ways to support working in depth
At last term’s NACE member meetup at the National Maritime Museum, attendees had the opportunity to exchange approaches and resources to support working in depth for more able learners. From the plethora of fantastic ideas exchanged on the day, here are seven to try in your school…

1. Going SOLO

6 reasons to bring mastery to primary English
Getting to grips with mastery doesn’t have to be hard work – far from it. In this blog post (originally published on, NACE associate Sarah Carpenter outlines a simple but effective use of mastery to improve primary English provision for all learners, including the more able…

5 top tips to develop language skills school-wide
Christabel Shepherd, headteacher of Bradford’s Copthorne Primary School, will join the upcoming English for the More Able conference to share the strategies behind the school’s success in creating a rich language environment. In this blog, she previews her conference talk with five top tips to develop language skills across all areas of the curriculum.

Bring your history lessons to life with enquiry-based learning
The National Maritime Museum recently hosted a NACE member meetup exploring approaches to working in depth for the more able. Following on from the event, the museum’s Ben Weddell explains how an enquiry-based approach to history can be used to inspire and challenge learners of all ages and abilities.

CEO’s blog

What does 2018 hold for NACE members?
Sue Riley, NACE CEO

From all the NACE team – a very happy new year!

Whilst you settle back into the term I want to use my first blog of 2018 to share news of NACE developments and details of upcoming member opportunities. Brief updates on DfE, Ofsted and Estyn are also included.

Member-led research

December, 2017

Curriculum, teaching and support

Anne Fine on reading in schools: “pitch it right, take it deeper”
Guest post: Anne Fine OBE

The UK’s recent rise in the PIRLS tables has been accompanied both by praise for schools’ success in boosting reading levels, and by calls to remember that the pleasure of reading is just as important as the mechanics.

Storytelling with Shakespeare
Georghia Ellinas, Head of Learning at Globe Education, explains how Shakespeare’s stories can be used from an early age to develop engagement with oral and written narrative – and a whole lot more…

November, 2017

Curriculum, teaching and support

5 ways to challenge more able learners using maths mastery
In this second of two blog posts, mathematics consultant Belle Cottingham outlines five approaches to ensuring more able learners are effectively challenged within a maths mastery curriculum.

In my previous blog post, I argued that a maths mastery approach holds the key to ensuring our more able learners develop the creative problem-solving skills they need for success – not only in exams, but in life more generally.

Why our more able learners need maths mastery
In this blog post, mathematics consultant Belle Cottingham argues that a maths mastery approach holds the key to ensuring more able learners develop the creative problem-solving skills needed for success – not only in exams, but in their future careers.

“We don’t do differentiation now, we do mastery instead!” I was recently told by a school teacher.

Member opportunity: school-led research on maths mastery
Rising Stars’ Naomi Watson outlines a new opportunity for NACE members to contribute to research on effective support for more able learners in mathematics. Read on to find out how your school could participate…
Broad not bored: a creative curriculum that gets results
Lesley Hill, headteacher of NACE member Lavender Primary School in North London, shares her school’s approach to ensuring the curriculum remains broad, engaging and meaningful – alongside a successful focus on good outcomes for all learners.

Identification and transition

Supporting transition through challenge
Georghia Ellinas, Head of Learning at Globe Education, explains how the challenge of performing a Shakespeare play can support both academic and social transition to secondary school.

October, 2017

Professional development

What does “challenge in the everyday classroom” look like?
What does "challenge in the everyday classroom" look like? This is the question which inspired NACE’s popular seminar series, “Challenge in the everyday classroom”, led by experienced education practitioner, adviser and author Sue Mordecai.

Now in its third year, the series is suitable for teachers, school leaders and more able coordinators, and is offered at both primary and secondary levels. Each one-day workshop focuses on strategies to ensure all learners are effectively challenged and supported, across all areas of ability and all key stages.

Curriculum, teaching and support

Meeting the challenge of the new English GCSEs
At NACE member and Challenge Award-accredited school Chelsea Academy, learners achieved 41 grade 9s this summer. In this blog post, the school’s curriculum leader for English, Emily Rawes, explores the impact of the new English GCSE curriculum on more able learners and their teachers.
September, 2017

Curriculum, teaching and support

Ofsted to share good practice for a broad and balanced curriculum
In this blog post for the NACE community, Mike Sheridan, Ofsted’s regional director for London, previews upcoming research commissioned to identify and share good practice to ensure all learners benefit from a broad and balanced curriculum.

CEO’s blog

New year, new focus on challenge…
Sue Riley, NACE CEO

Welcome back to a new academic year – I hope you feel refreshed for the coming term.

Like NACE, I am sure many of you spent much of the summer preparing for the new academic year – reflecting on policy and development, results and the new challenges that lie ahead.

In my first blog post of the year, I want to share with you some of NACE’s developments – and how NACE members will benefit in the coming weeks and term.

Responding to member views

Research and reports

Fair Education Alliance Report Card 2016-17: key messages
This month the Fair Education Alliance (FEA), a coalition of almost 90 organisations spanning business, education and the third sector, has published its third annual State of the Nation Report Card. In this blog post, FEA director Lewis Iwu outlines key priorities for UK government and schools, to ensure all young people are supported to fulfil their potential, regardless of their starting point in life.

Leadership and governance

Challenge for all: the Maiden Erlegh approach
Reading’s Maiden Erlegh School recently gained NACE Challenge Award accreditation for the third time, marking its continued commitment to high-quality provision for more able learners in a context of challenge for all. In this blog post, deputy headteacher Sara Elliss outlines some of the key initiatives undertaken at the school to ensure more able learners are challenged and supported throughout their studies. 

Whole-school leadership

Supporting more able disadvantaged learners: “marginal gains”
At the 2017 Pupil Premium Awards, NACE member Fullhurst Community College was celebrated as a regional champion for its success in raising attainment for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Deputy principal Tom Hague, who oversees the school’s pupil premium strategy, outlines the key factors behind this success.

July, 2017

Leadership and governance

Translating policy into practice for more able learners in Wales
Siân Farquharson, post-16 challenge adviser and Seren programme coordinator at Education Achievement Service for South East Wales (EAS), explores ongoing reforms to education in Wales and new initiatives to improve provision for more able learners across Wales.
Education in Wales is being reformed. From curriculum to assessment and teacher training, regions and schools are at the heart of this “self-improving” transformation. 

Curriculum, teaching and support

Life without levels: working towards depth
Jennifer Richards is headteacher and headteacher consultant at St Mark’s CE Primary, Aquinas Trust. She outlines the school’s approach to “life without levels” and preparing learners to achieve greater depth.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein

The new grade 9: a challenge and an opportunity
Keren Gunn, senior assistant principal for teaching school and staff development at Sir Christopher Hatton Academy, explores the challenges and opportunities of the new top GCSE grade.

Sir Christopher Hatton Academy is an outstanding (Ofsted 2015) mixed comprehensive, the lead sponsor in the Hatton Academies Trust, a teaching school and lead of the Hatton Teaching School Alliance. It achieved its second accreditation with the NACE Challenge Award in 2015, and is working towards its third. 

Rethinking support for the disadvantaged more able
Colin Parker, headteacher of King Edward VI Aston School, outlines the school’s inspiring approach to admitting and supporting more able learners from disadvantaged backgrounds.
At King Edward VI Aston School (Aston) we have one of the highest proportions of students coming from a disadvantaged background at any selective school in the country, with around 40% of Year 7 and 8 students receiving financial support.
June, 2017

Curriculum, teaching and support

Wevva for Schools: help to shape the app
Professor Simon Colton shares his experience of speaking at the NACE National Conference 2017, and invites NACE members to help develop his new app for schools.
Building independence through marking and feedback
Ynysowen Community Primary School is a successful primary school in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. The school is a Digital Pioneer School for the Welsh government and is a self-improving school. Ynysowen achieved its second NACE Challenge Award accreditation in May 2017.
Tom Hills, deputy headteacher and additional learning needs coordinator, gives an overview of the substantial work the school has done in the area of marking and feedback.

Leadership and governance

Making the most of the NACE Challenge Award report
Tom Cragg, vice principal and line manager of the more able coordinator at Chelsea Academy, describes the steps taken to maximise the feedback given by NACE following the Academy’s successful Challenge Award assessment day.

May, 2017

Identification and transition

From identification of potential to profiling for provision
Becky Catlin, gifted and talented coordinator at Sir Christopher Hatton Academy, explains how a school policy for the identification of more able learners can become a guide to profiling for provision across the curriculum.

When taking on the role of gifted and talented coordinator at Sir Christopher Hatton Academy, and beginning my research into the needs of gifted children, the initial and ultimately the broadest debate I encountered was the problem of how to define and identify giftedness.

April, 2017

Curriculum, teaching and support

Developing a “menu of challenge” for modern language learning
Anna Wynd, head of modern foreign languages at North Oxfordshire Academy (NOA), explains how the school approaches language learning through a “menu of challenge”.

In our approach to modern foreign language teaching and learning at North Oxfordshire Academy, we strive to nurture and encourage our pupils’ enthusiasm and curiosity, offering a varied menu of challenge.

Inspiring able maths students through peer-led workshops
Bonnie Powell, aspirations leader at The Bicester School, explains how inviting a group of sixth-formers to run a workshop has given her school’s able maths students new inspiration.

As part of the raising aspirations agenda at The Bicester School, this year we arranged a maths workshop session for more able Year 11 students. We wanted to deliver something different from their usual classroom experience, and inspire them to consider maths at a higher level.

Monitoring and evaluation

The lasting impact of the NACE Challenge Award at Kennet School
Berkshire’s Kennet School recently attained its third accreditation under the NACE Challenge Award scheme, one of only a small number of schools to achieve this so far. Paul Dick, chief executive of the Kennet School Academies Trust, explains how the Award and underlying framework have helped the school raise standards for all students.

Kennet School is very proud of being only the 12th school in the country to achieve a third-time accreditation of the NACE Challenge Award.