1. The National Challenge puts forward a range of structural interventions as part
of a package of measures available to support schools where fewer than 30% of
pupils achieve at least 5 good GCSEs including English and maths. They are
referred to in the National Challenge toolkit as ―structural solutions‖. These
measures are designed to radically transform the school‘s leadership and
governance to give the school the capacity for sustained improvement. Structural
interventions must be integral to school improvement interventions available as
part of the National Challenge – e.g. National Challenge Advisers.
2. The National Challenge commitment is to ensure that every school is a good
school -, i.e. having a minimum of 30% of pupils attaining at least 5 GCSEs (A* -
C), including English and mathematics. The vision is that all schools should be
good schools. We are aware that for some schools the best way forward may
require local authorities to take radical action – brokering a clean break with the past either through the closure and re-opening of schools as Trust schools (or in
federations) or the replacement of the school‘s governing body by an Interim
Executive Board to pave the way for the school acquiring a National Challenge
Trust – or forming a hard federation with a strong school.
3. Many schools are doing an excellent job, often in very challenging
circumstances. The National Challenge Trust (NCT) route will enable those
schools that do not have the capacity to reach the set target by 2011, to work
towards sustainable improvement through collaboration with strong educational
and/or business partners. The formation of Trusts will bring innovation and
renewed drive to these schools. Structural interventions serve to embed school
improvement by affording schools the opportunity to make leadership and
governance changes that will impact on pupils‘ long term attainment.
4. This guidance is intended for LAs, prospective members of an IEB, and
potential Trust members. It will serve to provide information and guidance on
NCT models and the processes involved in their establishment. Local authorities,
working through Children‘s Trusts, will play a key leadership role in this process.
This guidance is intended to provide support for LAs in their role as
commissioners of high quality school places.
5. The National Challenge and the formation of National Challenge Trusts or
Federations contributes to our desire, as stated in the Children‘s Plan, to create
the ―21st century school‖ i.e. where all pupils have access to excellent,
personalised education that contributes to all aspects of well-being. Such schools
should sit at the heart of a preventative system and will be committed to multi-
agency working, will collaborate with other schools & colleges, seek active
partnership with parents, serve as a resource for families and the community and
actively engage with the Children‘s Trust.
1. Introduction 4
2. Structural Interventions 5
3. National Challenge Trusts 7
4. Hard Federations 9
5. Requirements for National Challenge Trusts or Federations 10 6. NCT/Federation Models and Delivery Routes 11 7. National Challenge Trust and Federation Processes 17
7.1. Partnership Formation 17
7.2. Closure of a weak school 18
7.3. Application for exemption from competition 19
7.4. Reopening of the new Trust School 20
7.5. Publication of proposals to change category 21
7.6. Interim Executive Boards 22
7.7. Establishment of a Trust 25
7.8. Implementation of Proposals 26
7.8.5 Instruments of Government 27
7.8.7 Parent Councils 27
7.8.10 Land Transfer 27
7.8.12 Admissions Policy 28
7.9. Formation of a Hard federation 29 8. Staffing and Leadership Changes 30
9. Funding 31
10. Timelines 32
11. Conclusions 36
Annex 1 - Additional useful links and further Information 38 Annex 2 - Glossary 40
1. The creation of a National Challenge Trust or Federation must follow
existing school organisation statutory processes. This guidance aims to
bring together in one place an overview of the key provisions in existing
regulations and guidance. It is intended to guide Local Authorities,
schools and potential Trust partners, through the stages of forming a
National Challenge Trust or a hard Federation and provides information,
and relevant links on the processes involved.
2. It is not intended as a substitute for the more detailed guidance on these
processes and legal requirements available in the documents referred to
throughout this guidance. In particular, the following are key reference
documents which provide fuller information to underpin the overview
? Trust Schools toolkit
? Guide for local authorities wishing to establish a new maintained
? National Challenge Toolkit
3. This guidance will provide you with information and guidance on
? Roles and responsibilities in proposing and delivering an NCT
? Brokerage/negotiations for Trust partners where NCT is being
? Options and possible models for a National Challenge Trust:
? The process involved in establishing an NCT:
I. Closure and reopening as a Trust school, or
II. Replacement of an existing governing body with an Interim
Executive Board (IEB) to take the school towards Trust status (but
? The process involved in establishing a federation:
I Closure and reopening of a hard federation with a strong school
II IEB put in place to replace GB and may publish proposals for the
school to hard federate with a strong school.
III LA requires a poorly performing school to take specified steps to
enter into a federation
4. For further information please contact:
? The Office of the Schools Commissioner‘s (OSC) helpline (020 7925
3727) on how to start the process of implementing a National
? Peter Clough in the National Challenge Team – on overarching
NC/funding information (email@example.com); and ? the Trust and Foundation Schools Partnership for Trust acquisition
information (020 7802 0967, or email
2. Structural Interventions
2.1 Local authorities should be looking at structural interventions for schools that are at most risk of missing the floor target: those which are furthest away from it and making slow progress. Structural interventions involve changes to the existing leadership or governance of schools which are judged to lack sufficient capacity to improve pupil outcomes up to the National Challenge threshold and beyond, and to sustain progress over the long term. They provide the basis for strengthening governance and leadership to create more confident institutions, with the internal capacity to drive and sustain their own improvement.
2.2 There is a range of structural interventions which local authorities can commission, depending on the individual circumstances of each National Challenge school in their area. Where a local authority judges that a clean break with the past is needed to effect a transformation it may choose to commission an Academy, or close and not replace a school directly. In other cases, where the problems are more specific or less deep-seated it might decide to commission one of the other solutions from the menu set out in the following pages.
2.3 Structural interventions will work best where they are integral to the school improvement support a school is receiving through the National Challenge. It is crucial that in implementing a structural intervention local authorities plan for the change by developing clear short and long-term improvement objectives, and establish effective arrangements for communicating with parents and the wider community, securing their involvement and support. Local authorities can commission a range of structural interventions for schools below the floor target, as set out below.
2.3. The Department is ready to work with local authorities to help determine the right
solution for individual schools and to identify appropriate partner schools or external partners for Academies, Trusts and federations1. The Department has recently
announced a pilot of up to 100 co-operative governance trusts, where the partnering organisation is a community group consisting of parents, teachers and others with a direct stake in the school.
2.4 Any solution should be considered in line with other local priorities and should take into account other national policy initiatives that may also contribute to the school‘s improvement.
1 National Challenge Toolkit (paragraph 41)
Structural intervent ions
The establishment of a National Challenge Hard Federation could involve a National Challenge
school joining with a high performing school under a single governing body and usually an executive
head teacher. Hard federations afford schools the opportu nity to form sustainable partnerships in
which they can pool their budgets, share resources, share best practice, improve opportunities for
staff, including continuous professional development and strengthen the school‘s curriculum and
Acquiring a Trust enables a school to enhance its governance by securing the long-term involvement of external partners, such as local business partners, or universities and colleges,
who should be committed to supporting and challenging the school, as well as p roviding clear strategic direction and ethos for the school, in order to drive up standards. Trust models may
involve a single school or a group of schools working under a shared Trust. It is particularly
important that Trusts and federations involving sch ools below the floor target have clear and
embedded systems for generating and sustaining school improvement. We want to see permanent partnerships in which the National Challenge school‘s capacity to improve is strongly
enhanced. Many strong schools have resources – staff, systems and innovative solutions – that can transfer as part of federations and Trusts. Through the National Challenge, revenue funding is
available to ensure that these schools can support weaker schools, while sustaining their own
performance. For example, funding is available to ‗backfill‘ senior staff seconded to the weaker school. Capital funding may also be provided from the Department, for example to create facilities
which augment the partnership arrangements involving schools below the floor target.
The local authority may have reason to replace the governing body of a school with an Interim Executive Board (IEB). An IEB has a specific duty to run the school on a basis which will secure
improvements. Local authorities may also work with the IEB initiating changes towards a long term
solution for the school, including federation, Trust or Academy status.
We shall also introduce National Challenge Trusts, as specific, hard-edged solutions for schools that are unable to raise their results, but where an Academy may not be not the right solution. National
Challenge Trusts involve a radical transformation, involving the closure of the existing school, linked to
a plan to reopen as a new Trust school. Alongside the closure plan, we envisage an improvement partnership, led by a strong, local school to collaborate and build capacity. In many cases, a powerful
external partner such as a local business or university would add energy and capacity to the Trust.
The weak school would then be re-opened as a new Trust school, involving all key partners, giving the
school and the community it serves a fresh beginning and a break with previous underachievement.
National Challenge Trusts would receive appropriate additional funding to enable the new school to restructure leadership, attract fresh teachers and develop ambitious plans for raising attainment.
Many weak schools are being closed and replaced by an Academy. Academies are publicly funded schools, established and managed by independent sponsors following the admissions code and
working in behavious partnerships and with their local Children‘s Trusts, with a track record of success
in turning around some of the most challenging schools in the country. We shall accelerate the
existing Academies programme under the National Challenge. By involving committed sponsors from
business and the voluntary sector – as well as from high performing schools, colleges and Universities
– the Academies programme can bring a radical change to the ethos, leadership, structures and support in a school.
[Extract from National Challenge Toolkit, June 2008]
3. National Challenge Trusts (NCTs)
3.1 NCTs are hard-edged solutions for schools that are unable to raise their results,
but where establishing an Academy may not be the right solution. Becoming a Trust
school is a way for schools to raise standards through strengthening collaboration
and drawing on the expertise and energy of their partners to support their strategic
leadership. They will be able to do that within a sustainable and stable partnership,
with clear aims and outcomes agreed at the outset. Trusts offer schools greater
opportunities to secure the support of partners to strengthen their leadership and to
develop their own ethos.
3.2 Trust schools can build on previous good practice and innovation around
collaborative working, but by acquiring a Trust, schools can ensure that they create a
long term, sustainable relationship that withstands changes in leadership and
therefore maximises the investment schools make in collaboration. In addition, initial
consultation with parents and engagement with partners in a formal framework will
ensure there are clear objectives and common aims from the outset.
3.3 NCTs will exist as foundation schools with a foundation (Trust) acquired under
the provisions of the Education and Inspections Act 2006. In the same way as
existing Trust schools, NCTs will be local authority maintained schools supported by
a Trust with charitable status. Equally, as for an existing Trust school, the role in law
of the foundation (Trust) of a National Challenge Trust school will be to appoint a
majority of governors to the governing body of the school – and to hold land on trust
on behalf of the school. The governing body of the school will continue to be
responsible for running the school and will receive the school‘s delegated budget
from the local authority. As a foundation school, the governing body of the school will
employ staff and will be the admissions authority, so the school will be a self-
governing school within the local authority maintained family of schools.
3.4 NCTs will be different from the existing Trust school model in the following ways:
? The decision to create a NCT is triggered by local authority intervention
rather than by the school – either by closing the school and reopening it as a
Trust school or by removing the governing body and replacing it with an IEB
to steer the school towards Trust status;
? The Trust must represent a radical option for transforming the school, with a
clear focus on school improvement and with the involvement of at least one
strong education partner – which may be a school or a non-school education
partner such as an HE or FE college;
? There must be governance arrangements which allow the strong education
partner to take over the running of the weaker school – through the Trust
appointing a majority of the governors to the weak school2 (not generally the
case with existing models);
? Up to ?750,000 in funding over 3 years (or up to ?1 million in the case of
secondary modern schools – non selective schools in selective areas) is
available to support National Challenge Trust schools where the NCT has
2 Where a Trust appoints the majority of the governors to a Trust school, including to a
National Challenge Trust school, the law requires that school to establish a Parent Council.
More information on Parent Councils is available in section 7.
NCT Guidance been approved by the Department as part of the local authority‘s National Challenge strategy.
NCT Guidance 4. Hard Federations
4.1 LAs may require, using powers under Section 63 of the Education and
Inspections Act 2006, poorly performing schools to establish a hard federation This would involve a National Challenge school joining with a high performing school
under a single governing body and with (usually) an executive head teacher. As with
a National Challenge Trust, a hard federation may be brought about either by closing a weak school and reopening it in hard federation with a strong school, or by replacing the GB of the weak school with an IEB which can publish proposals for the
school to hard federate with a strong school.
4.2 Establishing a hard federation may offer LAs more flexibility while also bringing
about transformation. Hard federations afford schools the opportunity to form
sustainable partnerships in which they can pool their budgets, share resources,
share best practice, improve opportunities for staff (including continuous professional
development), and strengthen the school‘s curriculum and specialisms.
4.3 As the models set out here show, a hard federation (single governing body) may
also be supported by a shared Trust, but is also possible without a shared Trust. The
addition of a Trust allows the involvement of external, non-school partners. Equally,
more than one school can work together under a shared Trust but without
necessarily needing to combine their governing bodies in a hard federation. So there
is flexibility in the models.
5. Requirements for National Challenge Trusts (and Federations)
5.1 NCTs and federations will be appropriate where governance is particularly weak.
Strong governance will develop a clear vision and ethos for the school, promote
higher aspirations, add capacity to strengthen the leadership team, and provide
5.2 NCTs and federations will work best where they build upon and complement the
school improvement support a school is to receive through the National Challenge. It
is crucial that in implementing a structural intervention local authorities plan for the
change by developing clear short and long term improvement objectives, and
establish effective arrangements for communicating with parents and the wider
community, securing their involvement and support. Structural interventions are not a
replacement for school improvement strategies, but an additional dimension.
5.3 Decisions on the formation of a NCT or federation should be part of the LA‘s
school improvement strategy, and a feature of its role as commissioner of school
places. When such decisions are made, LAs should endeavour to begin the
preparatory processes e.g. issuing of a warning notice, removal of delegation, as
early as possible.
5.4 Proposals for financial support through structural interventions are clearly
focused on investment that will have a positive impact on standards and on the
school‘s capacity to maintain improvement in the longer term. Where plans involve structural interventions, the plans must demonstrate how the education of children in
the school, especially those about to take KS3 tests, GCSEs or A-levels, is to be
secured in the transition period.
NC Trusts must have:
? Governance arrangements in place that allow a strong school or other education partner (HEIs, independent schools) to take charge of the running of the weak school (eg majority governance by a Trust over a weak school and/or a hard federation arrangement); and
? robust, radical and transformational proposals with an explicit focus of the Trust on school improvement and standards.
? An external, non-school partner;
? A strong school in a shared Trust or Federation. The strong school would not necessarily have to become a Trust school for this to work – its head and some governors could be members of the Trust which appoints governors to the weak school. This option could also allow strong voluntary schools or Academies to partner NC schools;
? A new head teacher and senior leadership team
? The strong school and weak school could enter into a federation in addition to having a shared Trust, perhaps starting as a soft federation before acquiring Trust status
? Similarly schools already operating with a shared trust can still enter in to a hard federation