close open in new window Secondary QM Cycle
The QM Cycle

How to apply

Who can apply?

The Secondary Quality Mark is available to all maintained secondary schools in England, including middle schools (deemed secondary), special schools, and pupil referral units that have secondary phase pupils. Independent secondary and special schools can also be accredited.

Each Secondary Quality Mark is awarded for three years. At the end of that period the award can be renewed for a further three years (and subsequently every three years), providing the school or setting still meets the criteria for all 10 elements and provides evidence that holding a Secondary Quality Mark has had a positive impact on its provision and practice in Glossarybasic skills.

Who carries out the assessment?

A school, whether maintained or independent, must be assessed by an assessor who has been trained by the national Quality Mark organisation and who is listed on the National Register of Accredited Quality Mark Assessors. In most cases this will be the school's own local authority or where the local authority is not in the partnership it can contact the national Quality Mark organisation to arrange an assessment. 

The recommendation for a Secondary Quality Mark award can only be made by an accredited assessor. There is no deadline for applications, and assessments can take place throughout the year.

The details of designated Secondary Quality Mark contacts can be found by searching under the name of the relevant local authority on, or by sending an e-mail enquiry to (This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it) .

Download the secondary self-audit template

What has to be demonstrated?

A school has to show that, at the time of its assessment:

  • it meets the criteria for all 10 elements of the Secondary Quality Mark
  • there is a whole school commitment to improving basic skills
  • the performance of learners in basic skills is improving.

While schools may spend varying amounts of time working towards accreditation, a Secondary Quality Mark cannot be gained merely through making a commitment to meet all the elements in the future. An improvement in basic skills has to have taken place because a school has added value through the quality of its provision. Any improvement will also need to relate to a period longer than a single academic year, in order to show that there is an upward trend.

Evidence to demonstrate that a school is meeting the criteria for each element may come from a variety of sources, some of which are suggested in the guidance for each element.

Documentary evidence can be presented in any format that makes it easy for the assessor to identify planning, provision and evidence of impact in basic skills. Most of what will be needed to demonstrate that the criteria are met will already be available in the school, as it will have been gathered for other purposes. Core documentation may either be presented in a specific portfolio or made available by highlighting sections in existing school files.

An assessor will also seek evidence through discussion with key stakeholders, such as staff, parent/governor representatives or pupils. Additional evidence may also be gathered through the observation of teaching and learning in lessons or intervention groups, or from taking a ‘learning walk’ around the school.  

How is achievement of a Secondary Quality Mark recognised?

The Secondary Quality Mark is a registered logo that can only be used by currently accredited award holders. Individual schools are entitled to display this logo, which is supplied electronically, on information and publicity materials, such as a letterheads, prospectus and/or advertisement. Award holders also receive a Secondary Quality Mark plaque, which can be wall mounted, and an award certificate.