Teaching schools: a guide for potential applicants

Find out what teaching schools do, what funding is available, how to apply to become a teaching school and how to work with a teaching school.

This guidance was withdrawn on

Page withdrawn as the application process has ended. Our guidance on system leadership has information on the other support available.

Read further information about school to school support and how you can get involved.

Applies to England

Register your interest

Following the designation of the 12th cohort of teaching schools in May, the department is working with the Teaching Schools Council (TSC) to ensure the quality of system leadership remains as high as possible.

During this time we will not be opening the next designation round. If you’d like to be kept informed on future plans, please register your interest.


To help you to prepare for starting an application, you should read the application guidance (PDF, 385 KB, 23 pages) and gather the following information:

  • evidence of providing support into published cold spot areas and what your plans are to continue to grow that support
  • evidence of how your school has engaged in leading, managing and quality-assuring the training of teachers
  • evidence of collaborating with other schools and partners, in the planning, design, development, delivery and evaluation of continuing professional and leadership development provision (beyond that expected of a normal school)
  • evidence of providing significant formal support over the past 3 years (including details of the schools, the headteacher names, URNs and local authority districts) and an overview of that support and the impact it has had
  • supporting narrative in relation to your school’s performance data


Teaching schools are strong schools led by strong leaders that work with others to provide high-quality training, development and support to new and experienced school staff.

If you meet the current eligibility criteria you might want to apply to become a teaching school. The Department for Education (DfE) uses a sophisticated and balanced approach to designating system leaders – one which relies less heavily on Ofsted judgements and more on timely and accurate data, and the skills and track record of those applying.

This approach will help to ensure that more effective school leaders and schools are able to provide high-quality support, in areas of the country where it is needed most.

Target areas

Application rounds focus on areas of greatest need to ensure that all schools can access effective support, whether in professional development, school-led initial teacher training or support for those schools in challenging circumstances.

View the target areas identified in the previous application round.

Your application should demonstrate the work you are already doing to support schools in the target areas, and if you are successful, how you will expand that work to provide even more expertise to improve schools and children’s lives.

If you’re situated outside a target area, you are still able to apply as long as you can demonstrate how you are already working in target areas and your capacity to continue to expand this support. Each application will be considered on an individual basis by the designation panel.

All successful applicants will be measured against their work in target areas and will be required to report yearly on the impact this support is having. Failure to do so may result in a review of the designation.

Who can apply

To apply, you will need to:

  • be judged to be a good serving headteacher (or equivalent) with at least 3 years’ headship experience
  • provide evidence of successful partnerships
  • show excellent leadership with a proven track record of school improvement
  • have a leadership team with the capacity to lead the core areas of the teaching school role
  • be located in a target area, or be prepared to work in one

Teaching school status is open to all schools in England regardless of type or phase, such as:

  • nursery schools
  • primary, middle, secondary, all-through and special schools
  • pupil referral units and short-stay schools
  • faith schools
  • independent schools
  • academies, chains and free schools
  • sixth-form colleges

There can be more than one teaching school in an area. However, if there is a high supply of teaching schools within your locality, we would encourage you to work with the existing teaching schools or have clear rationale of why another teaching school is required.

Read the full teaching schools eligibility criteria for further information.

If you are located in a target area and might be in a position to apply for teaching school designation within 2 years, we might be able to support you through our aspiring teaching school fund.

Please note the DfE is not currently accepting applications for multi-academy trusts (MATs) to be designated as teaching schools. This is because there needs to be an accountable school that we can use to ensure that the headteacher and the school continue to meet the eligibility criteria.

It is possible to apply as a multiple alliance, but each school will need to apply individually and must meet all of the eligibility criteria. This allows continued eligibility, delivery and funding to be tracked against the accountable school.

Working with teaching schools

If your school does not meet the eligibility criteria, you may be interested in working with a teaching school to help them deliver elements of their role.

Alliance deliverers do not have to meet the teaching school eligibility criteria but do need to show that they have the competence and capacity to provide high-quality support in a particular area. This might include initial teacher training, continuing professional and leadership development or capacity to support schools in challenging circumstances.

Find teaching schools in your area using the school-to-school support directory or by contacting the TSC regional representative for your area.

Teaching school alliances

A teaching school alliance is led by a teaching school and include schools that are benefiting from support, as well as alliance deliverers who lead some aspects of training and development. Alliance deliverers may include:

  • other schools from any phase or sector
  • universities
  • academy chains
  • local authorities
  • dioceses
  • private sector organisations

A teaching school alliance may decide to work with other alliances to share knowledge and resources as a teaching school network.

Types of teaching school alliance

Alliances can be set up in 3 different ways. They are:

  • single alliance – 1 teaching school leading 1 teaching school alliance
  • job-share alliance – 2 small or special schools jointly leading 1 teaching school alliance
  • multiple alliance – 2 or more teaching schools leading 1 alliance

Alliances with more than one teaching school will agree between them:

  • the roles and responsibilities for each teaching school and their alliance deliverers
  • who is accountable for the success criteria and performance against each of the teaching school delivery areas
  • the governance arrangements

We require evidence that all the teaching schools within an alliance make an appropriate level of contribution. This makes it possible to identify the individual efforts that make up the alliance’s performance whenever its activity is reviewed.

As a teaching school, you will identify, develop and co-ordinate expertise for the benefit of pupils across a network of schools, resulting in:

  • better results for pupils
  • fewer poorly performing schools
  • more good and outstanding schools
  • a self-improving and sustainable system

Role of teaching schools

Teaching schools have an important role to play in a school-led system and school improvement. Teaching schools are centres of excellence, taking a more focused role that prioritises:

  • co-ordinating and providing high-quality school-led initial teacher training (ITT)
  • providing high-quality school-to-school support to spread excellent practice, particularly to schools that need it most
  • providing evidence-based professional and leadership development for teachers and leaders across their network

In order to ensure a self-improving, school-led system, teaching schools are required to operate by the following principles:

Effective delivery

Each teaching school alliance effectively delivers across all 3 areas of core activity: ITT; continuing professional development (CPD) and leadership development; school-to-school support.


In order to ensure credibility and high impact of all teaching schools, they must adhere to requirements set by the DfE and co-operate with necessary reporting processes.

System leadership and engagement

Teaching schools build an effective alliance of schools, and work strategically with other schools and providers within their regional and sub-regional networks to ensure every school can engage in school-led improvement.

Continuous improvement

Each teaching school is required to pursue continuous improvement supported by the peer review process in order to develop and achieve/sustain maturity of provision.

School-led initial teacher training

We expect you to provide school-led initial teacher training through School Direct (as a lead or partner), by running a SCITT or by offering placements working in partnership with a SCITT and achieve positive impact on trainee outcomes. In addition, drive improvement externally by ensuring newly-qualified teachers are recruited to schools in areas of need.

You will:

  • lead the development of school-led initial teacher training through School Direct or by gaining accreditation as an initial teacher training provider
  • take an active role in the recruitment and selection of trainee teachers
  • have a clear plan for teacher training, including:
    • access to outstanding lessons and teachers for observation and planning
    • mentoring
    • quality assurance
  • co-ordination of initial teacher training with professional development opportunities

Continuing professional development and identifying and developing leadership potential

We expect you to offer a range of evidence-based professional development opportunities for teachers and school support staff, extending your strong learning culture to schools you work with. These must build on initial teacher training and induction and will:

  • Focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes
  • Be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise
  • Include collaboration and expert challenge
  • Be sustained over time and
  • Be prioritised by school leadership

You will:

  • identify the best teachers and leaders from across the alliance to provide school-led professional development
  • tailor development to meet the specific needs of schools
  • offer coaching and mentoring
  • evaluate the impact of professional development across the alliance
  • offer opportunities for formal accreditation or school-led research

We expect you to develop successful succession planning strategies to identify and develop people to fill leadership positions in the future.

To meet this responsibility, you will:

  • develop future headteachers to help meet the most pressing national needs in primary, small rural, special, challenging urban/coastal and faith schools
  • help more women, and leaders from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to become senior leaders
  • put processes in place to identify potential leaders in areas of need
  • develop potential leaders within and across your schools
  • build strategic governance and partnerships in order to make decisions about developing and placing potential leaders

Supporting other schools

We expect you to diagnose and provide high-quality support to schools in need, by quickly matching supply and demand including identification of individuals with appropriate skills to provide high-quality support.

We expect you to lead the co-ordination of school-to-school support, including brokerage of national leaders of education (NLE), specialist leaders of education (SLE) and national leaders of governance (NLG) when required. This usually involves working with a school or academy in challenging circumstances to bring about improvement.

This includes designating and brokering specialist leaders of education.

You’ll need to identify priorities in your area and support under-performing schools and academies. Regional Schools Commissioners, TSC, local authorities, dioceses and multi-academy trusts may also work with you to support schools in need of improvement.

You’ll ensure that the best leaders are working to improve the quality of teaching and leadership where it is most needed.

This includes deciding how to use the services of system leaders to provide support to other schools, such as:

You’ll recruit and manage the placements of SLEs. This involves:

  • identifying subject area priorities within your alliance
  • setting up a panel of headteachers to assess applicants
  • using eligibility criteria to select SLEs
  • ensuring that the recruitment process is fair
  • notifying us of outcomes and confirming them to applicants
  • dealing with applicant appeals
  • organising training for SLEs
  • negotiating SLE work within your alliance
  • ensuring that specialist leaders of education are providing high-quality support that is having a positive impact


Teaching schools currently receive an annual grant known as core funding. This is paid directly to your school. It will enable you to build the leadership and administrative capacity to lead your alliance. At this time funding is allocated as follows:

  • £60,000 for the first year
  • £50,000 in year 2
  • £40,000 in subsequent years

Funding in years 1 and 2 is higher to reflect the additional costs associated with the startup process. Core funding for teaching schools has been confirmed for the remainder of this parliament. Funding beyond 2019 to 2020 is subject to future spending reviews.

Funding is paid to newly designated teaching school alliances on receipt of signed grant funding terms and conditions. Payment in subsequent years is made on an annual basis following the completion of an evaluation in the summer term and the return of signed terms and conditions relating to the current financial year. When funding is issued schools will also be sent a grant offer letter.

Teaching schools should note that all funding will be issued under the DfE terms and conditions and payment systems. The DfE is required to monitor the financial assurance of grants that teaching schools receive on an annual basis.


For further information about teaching schools, please email

Updates to this page

Published 21 March 2014
Last updated 18 September 2018 + show all updates
  1. Updated email contact.

  2. Removed contact details for teaching school and system leader help desk.

  3. Updated the 'Register your interest' section.

  4. Application round is now closed.

  5. Update to teaching school role and expectations

  6. Application round now open

  7. Application round has now closed.

  8. Application round now open

  9. Application round closed.

  10. Teaching schools application round now open until 11 December 2016.

  11. The application round has now closed.

  12. The teaching schools application round is now open.

  13. The application round is now closed.

  14. Application round open.

  15. Eligibility criteria updated to cohort 8.

  16. Application round is now open

  17. application round closed

  18. application round opens

  19. The application round has opened and the guidance has changed.

  20. First published.

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