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?

By building a trusted practitioner-led network, we identify the knowledge and skills of the best, and facilitate collaboration with others, to reduce variability in provision. We link outstanding schools with external knowledge, to drive up the performance of all schools, leaders, teachers and pupils. And we harness our collective voice to influence national policy and practice.

This growing network includes more than 430 primary, secondary and special schools and alternative provision settings nationwide. Challenge Partners schools can access information, share good practice and expertise.

Schools are organised into local hubs, working together to secure improvements and personal development on shared priorities. They link with hubs around the country, and play a crucial role in facilitating collaboration and knowledge-sharing between schools.

How does the network work?

Hubs can be structured around existing local partnerships, multi-academy trusts (MATs) or Teaching School Alliances (TSAs). Each hub agrees on a designated Senior Partner to lead them and provide a voice to the national partnership of schools, as well as a Hub Manager who is key to the management and delivery of programmes and activities.

In addition to this, there is a dedicated team at the centre, on hand to help you get the most of the expertise from across Challenge Partners. At school level we offer leadership development and peer review and at national level we help ensure schools can learn from each other with events and support to share excellent practice.

The Network of Excellence membership offer

There is direct support for your individual school, support for your local hub of schools to deliver CPD and training, and national events and resources you access throughout the year.

Challenge Partners schools benefit from:

  • annual peer review and knowledge exchange
  • training in key leadership skills and competencies
  • sharing innovative practice online and at local and national events
  • working with business and other charities to learn from other sectors
  • bespoke programmes to reduce gaps in educational achievement and extend excellence

Quality Assurance Review

We have developed a powerful tool for peer review and collaboration. The Quality Assurance Review is an opportunity for schools to work together through an open, challenging process which supports learning and reflection. These rigorous annual reviews take place over three days, and are led by an Ofsted-experienced Lead Reviewer, supported by senior leaders and headteachers from other schools in the network. This means they provide great professional development for reviewers, as well as sharp evaluation for the host school. The QA review has been externally validated and found to offer schools multiple gains. Post review we put you in touch with relevant outstanding people and practice in the partnership and beyond to help accelerate your school’s improvement. Areas of Excellence identified in your school are shared with the network.


Read more about the QA Review

Evidence-informed collaboration

Further strategic support is available to enhance the effectiveness of your teaching school alliance, local partnership or multi-academy trust, including Leadership Development Days and our collaborative, high-impact pupil premium programme developed by outstanding schools. Read more about our programmes to support excellence in school leadership here or find out about upcoming Leadership Development Days here.

Be part of a national community

We also help you identify and link-up with best practice nationally through:

  • Our online School Support Directory of expertise to connect with schools like yours
  • Free or subsidised places at national events to engage with other colleagues, research and high-profile speakers
  • Regular case studies of practice and a fortnightly email featuring network news, research, funding opportunities and opportunities to get involved
  • Discounts from partner organisations e.g. ImpactEd 

​You can get further involved:

  • 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

Support for your local hub

Funding from school membership facilitates activities such as these:

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

What does membership cost?

Joining the Challenge Partners Network of Excellence costs £7.20 per pupil on roll at your school. The minimum fee is £2,978 and the maximum is £9,800. 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. 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 other considerations. 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

Watch this short film about Challenge Partners 

Download a short guide to Network of Excellence benefits


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