Leading Edge network 2019-20 FAQs

What is Leading Edge?

Leading Edge is a national network for high-performing primary, secondary and special schools who are committed to:

  • working in partnership to raise achievement
  • innovation
  • sharing practice both within and beyond the network.

The main purpose of the network is to support connections between high-performing schools, enabling staff at all levels to work collaboratively with like-minded colleagues nationally.

The Leading Edge network has existed since 2003. Since 2011, the network has been led by a steering group of headteachers from within the programme and managed by SSAT. Prior to 2011, it was offered as a specialism for high-performing schools (HPSS) and funded by the DfE.

Core principles:

  • We believe that schools are stronger when they work together.
  • We recognise and celebrate the wealth of expertise within the network, and support all Leading Edge schools to learn from each other.
  • We share innovative and highly effective practice that offers both challenge and support to our schools.
  • We offer a broad perspective on best practice that may not be available locally.
  • We see the network as a two-way process – you give expertise and get expertise.

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

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

Joining criteria for 2019-20 is:


  • Ofsted 1, or Ofsted 2 with statistically significant learner outcomes:
    • Top 25% for KS2 progress in each of reading, writing and mathematics
    • Sig+ for KS2 progress in each of Reading, Writing, Mathematics


    • Ofsted grade 1, or Ofsted 2 with statistically significant student outcomes

We review the national data each year and invite schools who are Ofsted 2 or above and who are on or above the 75th percentile nationally for Progress 8.


  • Ofsted grade 1, or Ofsted 2

How do we apply to join the SSAT Leading Edge network?

If you have received an invitation to join the network you have already been identified as being eligible to be a part of the network. There is no need to evidence your eligibility, simply get in touch with us by email and we will process your application.

If you have not received an invitation to join the network get in touch with us by email. We will review your data profile and let you know whether any further evidence is required.

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

Where a school does not meet the joining 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. Since the network is designed to support high-performing schools, schools will need to evidence that their performance is in line with the top quartile of schools nationally.

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

Leading Edge costs £1600+VAT. Please note that participation in the Leading Edge network is only open to SSAT member schools.

Can a school lose its SSAT Leading Edge status?

Yes. The data of all schools in the network will be reviewed annually and if a school no longer meets the criteria then they may not be eligible to renew for the coming year.

Our performance dipped last year. Does that mean our eligibility to stay in the network might be questioned?

No. The criteria are based upon schools’ performance over time. Your eligibility to stay in the network would not be questioned on the basis of one year’s performance.

However, if your Ofsted grade drops to a 3 or a 4 then you will not be eligible to renew in the coming year.

What if our Ofsted grade changes mid-year?

We never ask schools to leave the programme mid-year. Where this happens, we recommend that schools make the most of the network for the remainder of the year, we can support in finding connections within the network to support with your development areas.

Can we join the SSAT Leading Edge network if we are not a member of SSAT?

No, Leading Edge is coordinated by SSAT and so is only open to SSAT member schools.

Is it possible sign up for a smaller package of activities?

The Leading Edge programme is sold as a package and it is not possible to have partial involvement. However, if you are joining the programme late in the year and have missed key activities, get in touch with us by email to discuss your options.

The SSAT Leading Edge 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. All of our visit team are exceptional former headteachers, with extensive experience of leading a high-performing school. Your consultant headteacher can support you and your team with self-review and school improvement planning. If you decide to apply for accreditation in the Framework for Exceptional Education the Leading Edge visit will become a moderation visit. If you wish to have an additional visit you may do so at an extra cost of £300.
  • SSAT 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.’
  • SSAT Leading Edge Leadership Conference. Our annual Leading Edge leadership conference is exclusive to Leading Edge schools and designed to provide inspiration and updates for senior leaders of high-performing schools. One free place at the conference is offered as part of the Leading Edge programme.
  • 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.
  • Leading Edge Innovation Radar – a termly update sharing best and next thinking from across the network and from thought leaders nationally and internationally.
  • 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.

What can you expect from Leading Edge activities?

Leading Edge offers a range of high-quality activities throughout the year that enable different members of your team to engage with colleagues from across the network.

What happens at the Leading Edge Leadership Conference?

Audience: Headteachers or senior leaders

The leadership conference offers an opportunity to hear presentations from high-profile speakers and learn about innovative practice from schools within the network. It is also an invaluable opportunity to network informally with like-minded colleagues from other high-performing schools. The content of the day is tailored to reflect the current issues facing high performing schools nationally and the agenda is planned in consultation with the headteachers in the steering group.

The agenda for the 2019 SSAT Leading Edge leadership conference will be published shortly.

View last year’s agenda 

Feedback from previous leadership conferences:

It was enjoyable not to be discussing Ofsted/outstanding but how to keep a school successful.
Nick Holmes, Principal, The de Ferrers Academy

Different perspectives on what keeps a strong school moving forward and applying them to my own context.
Clive Zimmerman, Executive Principal, Lydiard Park Academy

We’ve gained a great deal from Leading Edge – the conference was great. Gave me clear ideas about how to continue to improve our outstanding school.
Mark Wignall, Headteacher, Downlands Community School

What is the purpose of the Leading Edge visit?

Leading Edge visits are designed to help your self-review and school improvement planning. All visits are undertaken by an exceptional former headteacher with direct experience of leading a high-performing school. You can use your time with them however will be most beneficial to you. The visits also play an essential role in supporting links between schools and ensuring that we are sharing the most effective and innovative practice in the network. They are in no sense an inspection, rather they provide a constructive professional conversation with someone who can offer practical, friendly advice.

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