SSAT’s Leading Edge network

Become part of the only national network exclusively for high-performing schools.
Exclusively for SSAT members
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 opportunities to learn from each other’s best practice.

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.

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 – eg 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 £1695+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.

If you would like a further conversation about the network, please get in touch.

The support and opportunities were an ideal match for our journey towards excellence. CPD, the Leading Edge Directory, the regular journals and Framework for Excellence have provided the dual vehicle of a platform to showcase City of Norwich School (CNS) as well as being able to seek best practice from similar schools.

Jo Philpott, Headteacher, City of Norwich School – An Ormiston Academy

Benefits of Leading Edge

New for 2022

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.

New for 2022

Benchmark your practice through subject peer reviews

An opportunity for your subject leaders to visit a department in another school and have their practice reviewed in a friendly, peer-to-peer environment.

Accredit your 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 100+ schools who have already been successfully accredited as ‘transforming’ in one or more area of their practice. The 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

New for 2022

Join online training led by colleagues in your network

At least once a term, you and all of your team will have opportunities to join training provided by another Leading Edge school. A great opportunity to connect and learn from the best practice in the network.

New for 2022

Connect with colleagues at the Leading Edge Leadership Forum

An opportunity for headteachers and senior leaders within the network to meet, hear from an inspiring speaker and work collaboratively.

In-school support

A visit from a Leading Edge consultant headteacher or SSAT senior education lead on a focus area of your choice – example areas include SIP review, self-evaluation or development planning.

Leading Edge Leadership Conference

A free place at this prestigious event held each year. This year’s conference is focused on creating and sustaining high-performing leadership teams.

The best [leadership conference] I have attended in terms of breadth, ideas shared and thought-provoking questions.

Neil Feist, Deputy Headteacher, Sackville School

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 you can 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 programme

There are things happening all throughout the year for Leading Edge members.

View the Leading Edge year at a glance

Your Leading Edge membership also includes:

  • a bespoke matching service to support collaboration with other Leading Edge schools locally and nationally
  • the opportunity to apply for an innovation grant of £1000 to support emerging work
  • national recognition as a high-performing school
  • regular opportunities to showcase the work of your team
  • support with professional development through links within the network
  • priority access to other SSAT services and special events.

Leading Edge programme for the year

The Leading Edge year runs from 1 April to 31 March.

What are the key events and activities of the Leading Edge network?

  • School visits programme. We visit every school in the programme every year. Our visits are undertaken by our team of consultant headteachers and SSAT senior education leads.
  • Framework for Exceptional Education. The framework supports ongoing school improvement, enabling you to review current practice and identify next steps. Through the Leading Edge network you can work collaboratively with other schools to peer review your practice and receive accreditation to recognise the areas in which your practice is ‘transforming.’
  • Leading Edge online training. At least once a term you will have the opportunity to join training provided by another school in the network. These events are targeted to practitioners at different stages of their career and are free for anyone to attend.
  • Leading Edge Leadership Forum. An opportunity for headteachers and senior leaders to meet in person, hear from an inspiring speaker and work collaboratively.
  • Leading Edge directory. The directory showcases the expertise of schools in the network, enabling you to make useful connections and share practice.
  • Leading Change magazine. The Leading Edge magazine; packed with news, articles and case studies from Leading Edge schools.
  • Innovation grants. We are committed to supporting innovative practice in Leading Edge schools. Every school in the network has a chance to bid for £1000 funding to support a project they are working on. Schools are able to submit more than one application. The outcomes of the successful projects are published to all Leading Edge schools.

Summer term 2022

Apply for a Leading Edge innovation grant

Apply for funding to support emerging practice in your school. Innovation grants can be used to support whole school or subject specific work, provided it is a project that will be of interest to the rest of the network.

Sign up to join a Leading Edge school improvement triad

Get involved in a Leading Edge triad and plan your visits for the coming year.

Framework for Exceptional Education (FfEE) peer review and moderation visits

Visits for schools who have applied for accreditation in the March window.

Leading Edge online events

An opportunity for your team to learn from interesting and innovative practice in the network.

Autumn term 2022

Leading Change Magazine – Innovation Grant Special

Learn more about the projects that were supported by innovation grants in 2021-22.

Leading Edge Leadership Forum

Join headteachers and senior leaders from across the network at a face-to-face event. Inspiring speakers and opportunities to collaborate.

Leading Edge online events

An opportunity for your team to learn from interesting and innovative practice in the network.

Sign up for subject peer reviews

Let us know which of your departments would like to be involved in a peer review with another school in the network.

Leading Edge directory

Contribute your expertise to the Leading Edge directory – a resource that enables you to see at a glance which schools in the network have expertise in a particular area so that you can open useful conversations and opportunities for collaboration. You will receive the directory in both hard copy and PDF format – feel free to share it with your whole staff.

Apply for accreditation for your ‘transforming’ practice within the SSAT Framework for Exceptional Education

The window for applications opens in November. You can apply in up to two strands of the framework.

Spring term 2021

SSAT Framework for Exceptional Education (FfEE) peer review and moderation visits

Visits underway for those schools who have applied for accreditation in the March window.

Leading Edge online events

An opportunity for your team to learn from interesting and innovative practice in the network.

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.

SSAT Framework for Exceptional Education

What does it mean for SSAT Leading Edge schools?

We have put the framework at the heart of the Leading Edge programme. Through it, Leading Edge schools can collaborate with colleagues across the network and receive accreditation for ‘transforming’ practice in one or more strands of the framework.

Transforming in

Accreditation as ‘transforming’ in a strand of the framework is open to Leading Edge schools at no additional charge. Once you submit an application, we will pair you with a partner school so that you can share practice and undertake a peer review. The full process for accreditation can be found on the Exchange. There is no additional charge for accreditation.

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’ in particular 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.

What SSAT Leading Edge schools are saying about the SSAT Framework for Exceptional Education?

The framework is really good to set a standard. We have used it as a framework to strive towards. It has been useful to start discussions with staff at all levels and initiate change where appropriate or be recognised for the things that we do well. The application is a good self-reflection, peer review visits have been really rewarding and the final moderation visit also provides good feedback.

Vyners School

Ideas for using the framework in your school or MAT

Participants have been using the framework in a range of ways to support conversations in their school. Here are a few of the ideas we have seen so far:

  • Ask members of your leadership team/your middle leaders to complete the self-review process for the whole school 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.

Join Leading Edge now

If there is anything else that you need to know, please get in touch with us by email.