New Education Secretary, but Schools North East’s message remains the same.

After a dramatic week, a Government reshuffle has seen Nadhim Zahawi replace Gavin Williamson as the Secretary of State for Education. Nick Gibb has also been removed as Schools Minister.

In office since July 2019, calls for Williamson to be removed have been growing ever louder during two covid-hit and controversial exam years, with a mixture of algorithms, teacher assessed grades and U-turns all being put forward as reasons for his removal.

In a statement following the announcement, Zahawi noted his previous role in the Department for Education as a Parliamentary Under Secretary: “Education is a crucial part of our levelling up agenda so it’s an honour to be back at the Department for Education as Secretary of State.”

The new Secretary of State then went on to acknowledge the “tough time” that children and their families had faced during the pandemic, before sharing how passionate he was for them all to have a brilliant education. 

However, there is room for doubt as to whether or not the new Secretary of State fully appreciates the context the region’s schools work in or the impact that covid has had on them.  In regard to school meals, Zahawi has previously stated that although parents “valued the meals, they didn’t like the labelling of them being free” and that “they actually prefer to pay a modest amount of £1 or £2”; a message that hardly chimes with the resources of many of the region’s poorest communities or the efforts of NE schools, throughout the pandemic, to feed and support disadvantaged communities. 

Therefore, despite the change in personnel, Schools North East’s key messages to the Education Secretary remain the same:  Most immediately, the Government needs to provide early and clear guidance on how this year’s examination process will be carried out. After Gavin Williamson’s numerous U-turns on this subject over the last two summer exam periods, teachers, students and their families are all expecting Mr Zahawi to put forward his plans for 2021-22 at the earliest possible opportunity and here at Schools North East, we hope that they will be delivered in a way that is fair and accessible for each student in our region.

We strongly urge Mr Zahawi to visit the North East and learn more about the regional context in which the consequences of his policies will be felt. By seeing how talented, passionate and driven North East Schools are, the newly-appointed Secretary of State can see with his own eyes how his decisions will affect the pupils and staff who are now in his charge.  Furthermore, it would be a golden opportunity for him to learn what it is like for teachers working day-in and day-out in the classroom, noting their daily challenges and to learn from them, as they are the profession’s experts to whom he should most closely listen. 

Schools have still to be fully recognised for their part in supporting students and their communities and, indeed, in keeping education afloat during the global pandemic.   By exercising a less hands-on, micro-managing approach and trusting the teaching profession,  Zahawi can instill some much-needed confidence into a group of people who already go above and beyond for the students in their care.  The young people of our region live in a patchwork of different contexts, and this diversity needs to be properly catered for by Mr Zahawi in his new role.  Any new education policies that are put forward must take local context into consideration and be tailored with each region in mind, rather than continuing to adopt a one size fits all approach. 

On a more hopeful note, the new Education Secretary stated that he’ll be listening to the children of Britain and their families “as we accelerate our work to build back better and fairer”, indicating that he believes that a simple return to how life was in March 2020 is not good enough; a message Schools North East will continue to relay as loudly as possible. His use of the word ‘fairer’ also implies that Mr Zahawi is aware that the playing field for young people is not level and that those whose educational careers begin at a disadvantage need to be given extra support in order to fulfill their potential in the same way as their more advantaged peers.

Linking education to his previous role within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was also clear in Zahawi’s statement, as he claimed that, through a strong education, individuals can secure good jobs and that this is “both vital for them and also our economy.” Many will hope that this demonstrates a focus on making things easier for school staff to provide an appropriate curriculum that will serve the needs of their pupils, so that they can earn the good jobs Mr Zahawi has referenced.

Moving into a new regime, Schools North East is here to ensure that your voice is heard. 

Chair of Ofsted questioned on governance of the inspectorate

Dame Christine Ryan, Chair of Ofsted’s board, attended an accountability hearing of the House of Commons’ Education Select Committee this week, answering questions about the governance of the inspectorate.

Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the committee, asked about the ways in which the board was able to hold Ofsted to account. He noted that while the Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, always attended accountability hearings, these did not hold Ofsted to account on a day-to-day basis. He asked how responsive Amanda Spielman was to the board, and whether or not it was worth having a new level of accountability for Ofsted.

Dame Christine said that the governance and accountability of Ofsted was typical of most ‘arms length bodies’, having to carefully walk the line between being politically independent of the Department for Education and working harmoniously with them. She argued that during the pandemic (the period for which she has been chair), Ofsted and the DfE had worked positively together.

On holding Ofsted to account, Dame Christine said that Amanda Spielman is completely committed to working within Ofsted’s remit, working constructively with the board through formal meetings every two weeks, and keeping the board up to date with developments. She noted, however, that how we defined good governance of agencies like Ofsted had changed over the past decade, and within the governance of Ofsted this hasn’t been revisited.

Beyond governance, Dame Christine was questioned whether or not Ofsted put enough emphasis on personal development and careers guidance. MP for Gateshead Ian Mearns expressed concern that Ofsted had a laissez faire approach to careers education, despite its importance in progression for young people. Robert Halfon added that in 2 out of every 5 providers rated good or outstanding, weaknesses had been reported in careers guidance, and questioned whether or not Ofsted was hammering schools for some things, but not for others.

Dame Christine defended Ofsted’s record, saying that all schools were inspected to the same standards, and that Ofsted has been strengthening the guidance to inspectors on careers education. 

As Ofsted inspections start up again following the pandemic, it is crucial that schools are judged fairly. In Schools North East’s Manifesto for North East Education, we emphasised the impact contextual factors have on student attainment and outcomes. While the current inspection framework goes further on this than previously, there are still concerns that Ofsted does not have the right tools to hold schools to account on what has been expected of schools during the pandemic, or to understand the different experiences across the country of Covid-related disruption.

On the 25th November, Schools North East will be holding our annual ‘Ofsted Update’, where we will be joined by Belita Scott, Senior HMI, North East, Yorkshire and Humber. For more information, please visit the following link.

Family-friendly Covid-19 exhibition to go on display at Newcastle Cathedral

Following its successful launch in Northumberland, a family-friendly interactive exhibition based on the North East’s experience of coronavirus is heading to St Nicholas’ Cathedral in Newcastle.

Created by students at Duke’s Secondary School in Ashington (Part of Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust), the ‘Pan@NCEA’ project combines elements of the STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to tell the story of the pandemic through a series of fun, hands-on experiments and collections of student’s work.

Perfect for the whole family to enjoy, the exhibition explores what it’s been like for people in our communities to ‘live through history’, drawing on the real life experiences of pupils from Duke’s, as well as individuals from around the world.

The whole school has been involved in aspects of the project, from taking part in activities during science lessons and tutor time to support the conceptual research, to the construction of the exhibition itself.

Visitors to the exhibition while it was in situ at Newbiggin Maritime Centre were impressed by the creativity of the exhibition and the candid way in which students had expressed their thoughts and feelings about the pandemic.

During a visit to the exhibition, Councillor Tom Roll from Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Town Council, commented:

“It’s been really interesting to gain an insight into what the pandemic has really been like for our young people. Lockdown was hard for everyone, but it’s our youngest citizens who have probably suffered the most – missing out on school and spending time with their friends. It’s great that they’ve had an opportunity to express how everything that has happened has made them feel through this project.”

Dr Jodi Harrison, Academic Mentor at Duke’s Secondary School, has led on the project for the students, she said:

“Coronavirus has been the single biggest challenge that many of our young people have ever had to face. To help pupils to fully understand the pandemic, we wanted to give them an opportunity to understand some of the science behind the virus, as well as provide them with a creative outlet to express how the events of the past year have made them feel.

“The students worked incredibly hard, coming up with creative ways to demonstrate how viral infections spread and how things like vaccines and lateral flow tests work, as well as producing some wonderful pieces of creative writing which we felt it was important to share with the local community to help promote wider understanding of what we’ve been through and where we’re heading.

“After such a fantastic reception in Northumberland, we’re excited to now be taking the exhibition to Newcastle and we’d like to thank St Nicholas’ Cathedral for their support in making this possible.”

Comprising three large posters to visually represent the three scientific stages of the pandemic, audio recordings of students and contacts from around the world talking about their experiences of lockdown and a host of interactive activities including real-life X-Rays to show healthy lungs versus lungs infected by Covid-19, a smell test and an experiment to show how bacteria spreads using slime, the Pan@NCEA project will be on display at St Nicholas Cathedral between 30 September – 7 October 2021.

To find out more about the project, visit www.dukes@ncea.org.uk or email pan@ncea.org.uk.

Multi Academy Trust celebrates launch of four new schools

Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust (NCEAT) has celebrated the start of the new academic year with the launch of four new primary schools.

The multi academy trust, which operates across South East Northumberland, has successfully demerged its 1,500 pupil primary academy to create five separate primary schools in their own right, ready for the start of the Autumn term.

The project, which has been completed in close collaboration with the Department for Education, local authorities and the local community, will see the schools become more firmly embedded in the local communities they serve, while continuing to benefit from being a part of a wider academy trust.

Each new school will have its own, simplified admissions system and its own Headteacher. In line with current Government funding allowances, it is expected that the demerger will also bring an additional £250,000 to the schools this academic year to support investment in teaching and learning resources, such as IT equipment and books.
Alan Hardie, Chief Executive Officer at NCEAT, commented:

“At the end of August, we received the final permission needed from the Department for Education (DfE) to split the former Bishop’s Primary School into five separate schools.

“At NCEAT we are dedicated to providing the highest quality learning experiences for our pupils and we felt that this would be best achieved through the creation of a family of primary schools which would sit firmly at the heart of their local communities while retaining all of the benefits of working together as part of our Trust.

“This has been a huge project for NCEAT staff, in consultation with parents and carers, local authorities and members of our community so we’re absolutely delighted that the demerger has gone ahead successfully. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly welcome Grace Darling C of E Primary, James Knott C of E Primary, Thomas Bewick C of E Primary and William Leech C of E Primary into the Trust as new schools.”

The successful demerger has doubled NCEAT’s portfolio of schools in the Northumberland area. The Trust, which was founded in 2009, also comprises Warkworth C of E Primary School, Duke’s Secondary School and Castle School, a speciality school for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities.

Bishop of Berwick impressed by children’s ‘resilience’ on visit to Northumberland schools

Pupils at Grace Darling C of E Primary School in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and Duke’s Secondary School in Ashington have welcomed a very special visitor, The Right Reverend Mark Wroe, Bishop of Berwick.

Formerly the Archdeacon of Northumberland,the Right Reverend Mark Wroe was installed as the Suffragan Bishop of Berwick in January this year – only the second person to have received the title in living memory after the Diocese of Newcastle resurrected the role in 2016 following a 444 year hiatus. 

Serving the areas between the Tyne and Tweed rivers, the Bishop’s role is vast and varied. Having been consecrated during the Covid-19 pandemic, this visit has been one of the first opportunities for the Right Rev. Mark to get out to meet some of the children and young people in the South East of the county.

During his visit, the Bishop was treated to a tour of the full Grace Darling C of E Primary School campus, visiting each class in turn to view their displays and find out how they were settling back into school after the summer holidays. He met with the school’s ‘Gardening Gang’ who look after the school’s outdoor spaces and spoke with staff about the school’s involvement in the Thrive programme for promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in children.

On arriving at the Duke’s Secondary School campus in the afternoon, the Bishop met with the school’s Principal, Russ Atkinson, and was shown around some of the classrooms where Covid-19 catch up sessions were taking place for students in critical exam years. The day was rounded off with a meeting of school leaders from across Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust (to which Grace Darling C of E Primary School and Duke’s Secondary School are members).

Commenting on his visit, the Right Reverend Mark Wroe, said:

“I’ve been really impressed by what I’ve seen today. The resilience that has been shown by teachers and pupils during what has been an incredibly challenging time for schools is just amazing and it’s great to see how people have come together to support each other. I’d like to thank Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust for having me today and I’ll look forward to visiting again in future.”

Alan Hardie, CEO at Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust, added:

“It was wonderful to have Bishop Mark with us today. At NCEAT, we value our close working relationship with the Dioceses of Newcastle and Durham and it is always a pleasure to host members of the clergy at our schools.” 

For more information about Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust, visit www.ncea.org.uk.

Northern Education Trust North Shore Academy rockets to become an OUTSTANDING school in all categories

Northern Education Trust is immensely proud to announce that North Shore Academy has been judged by Ofsted to be an Outstanding school in all categories, following its inspection on 7 and 8 July 2021.  Previously rated Requires Improvement, the academy has undergone rapid transformation thanks to the relentless determination of senior leaders in the school and the Trust, and the support of governors.

Inspectors were hugely impressed with the quality of education delivered, the behaviour and attitudes of students and their development, and the leadership and management of the academy.  They noted that students are exceptionally proud to attend the school.  Relationships between them and their teachers are highly respectful and very caring, with students believing that teachers help them to do their best.  Students told inspectors that the teachers “make them feel good about themselves” and that they feel cared for by staff.  

Rob Tarn, Chief Executive of Northern Education Trust, added: “I am very, very proud of what we have achieved for our students at North Shore Academy.  For any school to rise from Requires Improvement straight to Outstanding is a phenomenal achievement, and extremely rare; and is even more noteworthy given that the academy is located in one of the most deprived areas in the country.  Research has shown that educational disadvantage is most highly correlated with whether a student is eligible for free school meals – around 65% of North Shore Academy students attract pupil premium (the average for the North East of England is 27.5%).  

“Since the introduction of the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF), 277 section 5 inspections of secondary schools have taken place, with only 11 being rated Outstanding.  None of these schools were located in an area of such high deprivation as North Shore Academy.    

“The work required to improve a school to this level this should not be underestimated, and is testimony to the rigorous school improvement model we now have in place for all academies within the Trust.  I am absolutely delighted that Ofsted have recognised the extent to which we are striving to improve the life chances of our magnificent students, and my heartfelt thanks go to our students, their families, staff, Trustees and governors for their support”.  

The academy’s journey to success has involved implementing all the Trust’s improvement strategies including establishing and consolidating a strong and dedicated leadership team, a robust level of governance and improved teaching and learning, to provide every student, regardless of background, ability or need, with the best education possible.

Inspectors recognised this, commenting that: “Students are confident in lessons, they believe they can succeed, and they do succeed”.  Inspectors noted the buzz in the academy about reading, due to both the teachers’ enthusiasm about how much students enjoyed reading, and the students’ own inspiration gained from the many initiatives the academy employs, such as visiting speakers (athletes, poets, journalists), ‘The Masked Reader’ and Reading Routes.  Parents comments echoed the pride and passion staff feel about the academy, telling inspectors about their delight at the ‘amazing work of the school’.  

Inspectors also stated: “Students’ behaviour in lessons and at social times is exemplary.  In the social space (known as the ‘heart space’) there is a calm, friendly atmosphere, where students enjoy talking about what they are learning with teachers”.  Students told inspectors that they enjoy these conversations, with inspectors noting that teachers regularly talk about important issues during social time, as well as in tutor groups and assemblies, in order to foster a well-developed understanding of modern Britain, and encourage the high levels of respect students have for each other and their community.  

Andrew Murphy, Principal of North Shore Academy, said: “We are over the moon that Ofsted have recognised the incredible hard work that has been done to improve our school.  The Trust and senior leaders at the academy have been on a mission to achieve our ambitions to provide a superb education for our wonderful students, which we have achieved with the support of our phenomenal, dedicated staff, the parents and carers of our students and our trustees and governors.  My sincere thanks go to everyone who has supported us through this journey, and I hope both the school and local community join us in celebrating this magnificent achievement”.

A new academic year: Schools North East continues to represent your voice.

Everyone at School North East is delighted to welcome you all back for the start of academic year 2021-22.  We hope you had a relaxing Summer – after the last academic year, we’re certain that you deserved a much longer one!  Last year was without doubt the most difficult and unprecedented that any of us have ever encountered, but what wasn’t surprising was the amazing response of all North East Schools, their staff and their students. The passion and commitment that you all demonstrated for the young people of this region and their education was nothing short of awe inspiring.

As we enter a new academic year, however, it should be stressed that despite the hope that we are entering a post-Covid environment, there is the all too real concern that we are not out of the woods yet.  Like the past academic year, we are aware that this year could be just as tough and unpredictable. As your network, Schools North East aims to help you as much as possible to understand the challenges you might face and to bring you together with your colleagues so that you can support each other and face the future with confidence and hope.

To that end, we sent out a poll to a selection of school leaders from across the region earlier this week, asking how the start to the year has gone and what they anticipate will be the main challenges for their schools this term.

We are delighted that 100% of the schools surveyed have been able to open for the beginning of the term, with 69.2% opting for a full opening, with all students returning on the same day and at the same time as each other.

Of the 30.8% who favoured phased returns, only secondaries, a mixture of phases were utilised, with Years 7 and 11 unsurprisingly being the main year groups to be the first to return.  Some schools staggered two year groups returning per day, to allow each student to have a Lateral Flow Test, with all students returning in full the following Monday.  Other schools opted to stagger their students’ return, with Years 7, 8 and 12 arriving on Tuesday, followed by Years 9 and 13 on Wednesday and Years 10 and 11 on Thursday.

It’s also interesting to note that over 90% state that they are retaining the risk assessments they had in place before the summer, ensuring that they are still keeping many of their Covid-related measures in place.  30.8% of the schools polled stated that they are retaining the Risk Assessments they had in place before Summer, with a further 61.5% stating that they are retaining their pre-Summer Risk Assessment, but purely as a contingency. Only one school had gone so far as to rewrite their risk assessment in line with new guidance from the government.

Many schools are continuing to stagger their lunch and break times, as well as using one way systems, social distancing and encouraging facial covering use in corridors and social areas. Other measures being utilised included ensuring all desks are facing forward and that – weather permitting – lunches are eaten outside. Hand hygiene, as well as ventilation reminders and the use of e-meetings are all also still in place.

The pandemic created a lot of uncertainty and many challenges for schools last year and it would be naive to think that the upcoming year will not include its fair share of obstacles.  At the end of last academic year, staff and pupil attendance was the main issue, with many individuals having to self-isolate after being contacted by the Track and Trace system. Subsequently, schools found it very difficult to manage the blend of online and in-school learning, as well as provide support for those students who, due to the pandemic, struggled  socially and emotionally. Furthermore, schools were faced with staff fatigue and wellbeing issues, as well as  a real financial strain.

Moving into 2021-22, schools anticipate facing many of the same challenges again. As well as working to recover the learning lost last year, a major concern is once again staff absences, with schools rightly anxious that relaxed measures in the community could see spikes in positive case numbers. This will, of course, have a further detrimental impact on the education delivered to our young people,  negatively impacting on staff wellbeing, and also further impacting on the already stretched finances of schools, with many relying on supply staff to fill the gaps made by long-term staff absences.

The mental wellbeing of both staff and students is still a major concern for many school leaders, particularly with regards to teachers facing continued uncertainty over how next year’s examinations will go. 

Despite schools doing their best to put in place Covid-secrure measures, the feeling remains that should a significant number of staff be affected by a rise in cases (whether it is themselves who contract the virus or a family member who needs care), schools will struggle. Many have pointed to more concrete guidance from the Department for Education as something that would easily allay their anxieties for the coming year.

Early and clear guidance on how next summer’s examinations will take place is a major issue for many schools, as well as more clarity on vaccinations for under 16s and support on how school leaders should manage unvaccinated staff, such as those who are pregnant. 

Identifying what guidance from the Department for Education is missing, our poll pointed out that much more clarity on expectations, particularly for disadvantaged pupils, is needed.  There were also calls for more information on updates to performance tables. School Leaders also expressed considerable concern over where the money would come from for schools to cover the cost of tutoring and catch-up programmes moving forwards.  

Throughout the pandemic and subsequent ‘pingdemic’, schools in the North East have shown tremendous resilience to do their jobs under unprecedented circumstances. The fear now is that, moving forward, they are now expected to continue with this as the new norm.

However, real clarity from the government will allow them to step into this new academic year with a renewed sense of understanding of their role and how 2021-22 will play out. 

Care to take part in our poll? Voice your opinion on these issues here

Education select committee 07/09/21

DfE and Ofqual questioned on arrangements for exams in 2022

Following this year’s A-levels, GCSEs, vocational and technical qualifications, the Education Committee of the House of Commons questioned Ofqual’s interim Chief Regulator and interim Chair, Simon Lebus and Ian Bauckham, as well as Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb and Susan Acland-Hood, Permanent Secretary at the DfE.

Before asking about exams, chair of the committee Robert Halfon MP asked about vaccinating 12 to 15 year olds. Nick Gibb said that if the decision is made to vaccinate this age group then this would be administered in schools, however this wouldn’t require additional resources from schools, but would be done through the School Age Immunisation Service, and so would require capacity from the health side.

Robert Halfon then moved on to the return of schools, asking if schools could now return to pre-pandemic behaviour. Nick Gibb said that their recommendation is clear, that schools do not need to use bubbles. When asked if the DfE would intervene where students are being sent home as part of bubbles, Nick Gibb said that the DfE is in constant contact with schools through the regional schools commissioners, and that there is a contingency framework to allow Directors of Public Health to reintroduce rules.

Following on from questions relating to Covid safety, Robert Halfon asked about the widespread grade inflation as a result of the system used to deliver grades in summer 2021. Nick Gibb said that exams were the best system for delivering grades, however as this wasn’t possible teacher assessed grades (TAGs) were the next best option. He defended TAGs, saying that they are based on evidence collected by teachers who know their students best.

Simon Lebus added that it is wrong to expect the same results from TAGs as from exams. It was important, he said, to deliver grades to ensure students could progress, and the only fair way to do this was to assess students on what they had been taught. On exams next year, Ian Bauckman said a decision would be reached for GCSE and A Level grades next month, with a decision on adaptations for exams expected in the next two weeks. Contingency plans for if exams are cancelled are also under discussion.

Throughout the pandemic, communication between the Government and schools about exams has been poor, with schools expected to gather data to deliver grades without clear and timely guidance. While it is promising that the DfE and Ofqual are looking to publish plans in the coming weeks and months, it is disappointing that these weren’t in place before to school term to allow schools to more effectively deliver the curriculum. Schools North East will continue to lobby for coherent guidance, and fair assessments that take into account the variety of experiences students have had of Covid.

DfE questions 06/09/21

Catch-up interventions having an impact, but still much more to do, Gavin Williamson tells MPs

As parliament returned from the summer recess this week, education ministers faced departmental questions in the House of Commons on Monday. 

Following on from GCSE and A Level results over the summer, Shadow Secretary of State for Education Kate Green asked about the stalling of progress on closing the attainment gap. She asked what steps the Government is taking ‘to ensure that all children reach their full potential’, noting on the importance of literacy, numeracy, digital and life skills for young people to succeed at work.

Minister for Apprenticeships and skills, Gillian Keegan, responded. She said that up until the pandemic, the attainment gap had been closing, and that following the disruption of the pandemic it is essential to get children back into school. She said that the DfE has put forward a considerable long-term plan to help recovery for schools over the next few years, and that there will always be a focus on disadvantaged children.

It is encouraging that in Gillian Keegan’s responses, she emphasised that they are looking at longer-term, rather than short-term solutions, and that education recovery funding remains under review. However, as Kate Green noted, the Government’s recovery funding is just 10% of what the former recovery commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, recommended. Additionally, current proposals, such as the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), are not always accessible to the least well off, in addition to problems of geographical variability in access, with the North East seeing a lack of available tutors to meet demand. While one-to-one tutoring is an effective way to address learning gaps, it can only be effective if it is properly resourced, and allow schools flexibility to meet the needs of their students.

Robert Halfon, Chair of the Education Select Committee, also asked about attainment gaps, but between boys and girls, with 62.3% of boys receiving A to C grades at GCSE, but 74% of girls receiving the same results. The Secretary of State, Gavin Williamson, responded, saying that all catch-up interventions, such as summer schools and tutoring, are aimed at driving up attainment and achievement. He argued that these interventions are beginning to have an impact on the different attainment gaps, but recognised there is much more to do.

Again, while it is important that the DfE is thinking of longer-term solutions, and recognising that despite current plans there is more to do, it is not clear if the Government is aware of the full impact of Covid-related disruption. While driving up attainment is important for improving the opportunities for children and young people from all backgrounds, it is equally important to recognise the impact of Covid on students’ mental health and wellbeing. As we begin the new academic year, Schools North East will continue to campaign for a recovery plan that is properly funded and resourced, that trusts the profession to identify what interventions work best, and that considers the impact of Covid on both academic progress and wellbeing.

Newcastle School for Boys pupils show great character to achieve top GCSE grades

Despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and changes to how grades have been assessed this year, Year 11 boys at Newcastle School for Boys have shown great character in achieving an excellent set of GCSE grades.

50% of GCSE grades awarded to the school’s Year 11 cohort were awarded at the top grades 9 to 7, with a 100% pass rate across the board. Almost half of the boys also received at least one grade 9 with many receiving multiple.

There was also cause for celebration on an individual level for those boys receiving a full set of grade 9s including Oliver Long and Thomas Nattress who have both been at the school for their entire education, joining Newcastle School for Boys’ Junior School before entering the Senior School.

‘We are immensely proud of the boys.  Today is a time to celebrate their achievements and character and to recognise the dedication of our staff and the support of parents and families,’ says the school’s Head, David Tickner.

‘We are very much looking forward to seeing the boys all back in school in a few weeks as sixth formers.’

Many of the boys will now go onto study A level and other courses in the school’s Sixth Form alongside a full enrichment programme designed to develop the boys’ character, employability and life skills beyond their academic grades.

Alex Newman, Deputy Head for Teaching and Learning said of the result, ‘The boys have shown great resilience putting such effort into the exams sat here at school and in their coursework submissions, all through the uncertainty of isolation periods and the disruption to their education over the past 18 months.

It shouldn’t go unsaid that there is particular challenge at GCSE as the boys have to apply themselves to ten quite varying subjects and they have adapted incredibly over the change between classroom-based and online learning on a number of occasions. Their efforts and resilience really are reflected in the excellent set of results they have produced.’

Find out more about the North East’s GCSE success stories here