The Network of Excellence

"In the current educational climate, the need for schools to work together has never been greater." Sarah Boyse, Head of Teaching School, Altrincham Grammar School for Girls

What is The Network of Excellence?

The Network of Excellence is Challenge Partners’ largest network of schools. This growing network currently comprises over 400 primary, secondary, post-16, special schools and APs nationally. The Network of Excellence provides all schools within the partnership the opportunity to access information about other Network of Excellence schools, experience good practice face-to-face, and access the expertise of practitioners and external consultants for specific school improvement projects.

How does it work?

To work efficiently, the Network of Excellence is organised into groups of schools that we call our hubs. Part of each school’s membership fee is returned to their local area hub to be used on collective priorities identified by you and your colleagues.

Hubs come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be structured around existing local partnerships, multi-academy trusts (MATs) or Teaching School Alliances (TSAs). Challenge Partners' Network of Excellence hubs play a crucial role in facilitating the collaboration and knowledge-sharing between schools.

Each hub agrees on a designated Senior Partner to lead the hub and to provide a voice to the national partnership of schools. Similarly, each hub has a Hub Manager who is vital in ensuring the collectively agreed strategic direction of your hub is followed, and is key to the management and delivery of programmes and activities you experience in your membership.

In addition to this, you will have a dedicated team at the centre, on hand to help you get the most of the expertise from across Challenge Partners.

The Network of Excellence membership offer

To understand what you have access to as a member of the Network of Excellence, we have separated our offer into three sections; direct support for your individual school, support for your local hub of schools to deliver CPD and training, and national events and resources you get access to throughout the year.

1. Challenge and support for your school

Quality Assurance Review (QA Review):

  • An annual peer-review of teaching and learning in your school
  • One-day training for staff to carry out the peer-review
  • CPD for senior leaders to review other schools
  • Accreditation of Areas of Excellence in your school

Read more about the QA Review

Identify support for your improvement objectives:

  • National brokering of support across the Network of Excellence, including post-QA Review support 
  • Our School Support Directory is an online tool which enables schools to connect with others across the Network of Excellence. Through the directory, schools are able to search for information on any school in the partnership including their results, Ofsted rating, and specialist areas accredited by the QA Review.
  • Leadership Development Days: these are structured visits enabling school leaders with specific improvement needs to spend time in a school with outstanding provision in a specific area of practice. See here for upcoming Leadership Development Days.

2. Support for your local hub

Funding to facilitate a menu of support:

  • Improving Teaching Programme (ITP), Outstanding Teaching Programme (OTP), Outstanding Teaching Assistant Programme (OTAP)
  • NLE/SLE support days
  • Subject reviews
  • Research projects
  • Local conferences

Evidence-driven approach to collaboration:

  • Engage with research
  • Hub leadership coaching
  • Hub reviews and action plans
  • Training to run the Leadership Residency Programme
  • Training to run the Challenge the Gap programme

3. Be part of a national community

Engage with best practice

  • Be part of a national community
  • Free and subsidised places at national conferences and events
  • Regular case studies of practice
  • Weekly email featuring news, funding and opportunities to get involved across the Network of Excellence nationally
  • National induction for new schools
  • Member discounts for selected services e.g. Researchers in Schools (RIS), OLEVI, The Key and more

Collectively address challenges

  • Join phase or theme-specific forums
  • Share emerging practice
  • Contribute to research and policy
  • Contribute to a national policy platform and joint responses to consultations

What does membership cost?

Joining the Challenge Partners Network of Excellence costs £7 per pupil on roll at your school. The minimum fee is £2,900 and the maximum is £11,000. A proportion of your membership fee is returned to the local hub to be used on collective priorities identified by you and your colleagues.

When and how can you join?

Membership of the Network of Excellence runs from April to March but you can register your interest at any point throughout the year. 

If you already know of a local hub operating near you, you are welcome to speak to us or directly with the Senior Partner or Hub Manager of the hub to find out whether they have capacity for you to join them. If you are not aware of a hub in your area, get in touch with us and we will be glad to discuss membership further.

If you are interested in starting your own Challenge Partners hub, we would be delighted to set out the responsibilities, benefits and practical considerations and to explore whether this might be a possibility for your school now or in the future.

To find out more about joining an existing local hub in your area or about starting your own, please do get in touch with us at

For more information

Membership flyer

Watch this short film about Challenge Partners 



“Our philosophy of collaboration, accountability, openness and trust guides everything we do”
Dame Sue John, Executive Director, Challenge Partners