SSAT’s Leading Edge network

Become part of the only national network exclusively for high-performing schools.
We understand the challenges of achieving and sustaining high performance and believe that these challenges are best met with the support of like-minded professionals. As the only national network specifically for high-performing schools, SSAT Leading Edge connects you to colleagues across the country, providing structured collaboration and regular insights into the practice of other schools.

How does SSAT Leading Edge work?

SSAT Leading Edge connects high-performing SSAT member schools. It is led by a steering group of headteachers from within the network who meet termly.

For an annual fee, Leading Edge schools benefit from an extensive programme of activities, events, publications and support throughout the year. The Leading Edge year runs from 1 April to 31 March.

How do we get involved?

If you are interested in joining the network, please complete our application form and we will send you what you need to sign up. Or, if you would like to discuss the programme with a member of our team, email us at

What is the criteria to join the SSAT Leading Edge network?

The Leading Edge network is open to secondary and special schools, including academies, colleges, independent schools and free schools. The criteria is reviewed annually by the Leading Edge steering group.


  • Ofsted grade 1
  • Or Ofsted grade 2 with evidence of high performance
    This might include:

    • Examination outcomes (including 2020 and 2021)
    • Positive trends over time in examination outcomes
    • Evidence of effective or innovative practice in a particular area – e.g. recognised expertise in formative assessment or leadership development.


  • Ofsted grade 1, or Ofsted 2

What is the cost of joining the SSAT Leading Edge network?

Leading Edge costs £1,695+VAT. Please note that participation in the Leading Edge network is only open to SSAT member schools.

Is it possible to join the SSAT Leading Edge network if we do not meet the joining criteria?

Where a school does not immediately meet the membership criteria but feels that it has a strong case to be recognised as high performing, the decision about joining the network will be referred to the steering group. In this instance, the school will be asked to provide evidence to support their case. This evidence may include evidence of strong pupil outcomes and examples of effective or innovative practice.

Benefits of Leading Edge

Collaborate through Leading Edge school improvement triads

Work collaboratively with two schools in the network over a six month period. Leading Edge triads provide an opportunity to learn from established practice in other schools and work collaboratively with senior leaders to address development areas.

Accredit your ‘transforming’ practice through the SSAT Framework for Exceptional Education

The Framework for Exceptional Education (FfEE) is a self-review and planning framework designed by SSAT with the support of a pilot group of Leading Edge schools.

Join the 150+ schools who have already been successfully accredited as ‘transforming’ in one or more area of their practice. Accreditation involves a peer review from a school in the network and a moderation visit from a consultant headteacher or SSAT senior education lead.

 [the Framework for Exceptional Education] is a great auditing tool and a yardstick to measure where we are

James Granville Hamshar, Headteacher, St John The Baptist School, Woking

Leading Edge Leadership Conference

A free place at this prestigious event held each year.

Online training

Learn from practice across the network. This year, the online events will be focusing on leadership of teaching and learning. Open for any members of your team to attend or watch back after the event.

Connections for your subject leaders

Each year we support connections and practice sharing for subject leaders. In 2024-25 we will be focusing on Design and Technology, Art and Religious Studies.

In-school support

A visit from a Leading Edge consultant headteacher or SSAT senior education lead on a focus area of your choice.

Leading Edge Directory

Designed to provide an easy way for you to make connections within the network, the directory will help you identify schools locally and nationally that would be useful to collaborate with.

Leading Change journal

The Leading Edge exclusive journal features case studies from innovation grant winners and best practice from across the network.

Leading Edge innovation grants

Apply for a grant to support the development of one of your projects – big or small!

Showcase your practice

Membership of Leading Edge offers great opportunities for you and your colleagues to share what you do with the Leading Edge and SSAT networks.

The Framework for Exceptional Education

The Framework for Exceptional Education (FfEE) is a self-review and planning framework designed by SSAT with the support of a pilot group of Leading Edge schools. It is available to all SSAT member schools and supports you in taking a fresh look at your current practice – offering a principled approach to school improvement that takes you beyond statutory inspection frameworks.

We have now awarded over 250 accreditations under the Framework for Exceptional Education. Four schools have achieved ‘transforming’ status in all 12 strands.

Accreditation offers a great opportunity to focus in detail on an aspect of your practice. Participating schools are linked with a partner school for a peer review and then receive a second review from a member of the Leading Edge team. Accreditation is a key part of Leading Edge membership and is offered at no additional charge. Schools can apply for accreditation in up to four strands per year.

SSAT Framework for Exceptional Education

How can I get involved?

You can get started with the framework at any time – simply download the framework from the Exchange and start the self-review process with your team. You can find more ideas for using the framework below.

To apply for ‘transforming’ status in one or more strands of the framework you need to submit your application during one of the application windows. You can find the forms for applying in each strand of the framework on the Leading Edge section of the Exchange, or get in touch with us by email.

Ideas for using the framework in your school or MAT

  • Ask each member of your leadership team to to work through the framework individually. How far are your judgements similar or different? Why?
  • Ask middle leaders to complete the self-review process with their department. Use their feedback to support CPD planning and whole-school self-evaluation.
  • Use the framework across your MAT to explore strengths and areas for development across the different schools. Use this to plan cross-MAT learning opportunities.
  • Use the framework with your governors – engage them in the self-review process and structure visits that enable them to review and feedback on practice in a particular strand.
  • Build the framework into your action planning and school development plan.
  • Use feedback from your peer review and your Leading Edge visit to evidence the quality of your practice in a particular area.