North East schools buck the trend as GCSE top grades fall dramatically

– The sharp drop in GCSE grades nationally does not mirror the regional picture, with top grades in the North East seeing the smallest change.

THIS year’s GCSE grades have seen a significant fall in pupils achieving A* – A grades.

However, official GCSE results released today show that while the North East has seen a dip of 0.3 percentage points in numbers of pupils achieving the coveted top grades, it is the region with the smallest change since last year.

Other regions such as the North West and Eastern Regions have seen a 1.0% drop in A*-A since 2015, but the North East leads the way with the lowest drop, followed by London with 0.5%.

However, the region did experience a change for the worse in A*- C grades since 2015, down 2.1% from last year’s 67.2%.

The overall drop in GCSE grades is being blamed on the significant number of pupils aged 17 or over being required to resit English and maths. An extra 31,038 entries for English and 42,649 in Maths have skewed this year’s results, as candidates resitting these exams have achieved significantly lower grades than their younger counterparts taking the exam for the first time.

Mike Parker, Director of SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: “Nationally, schools were expecting mixed results and this year’s GCSEs are a reflection of the impact that ‘one-size-fits-all’ government policies can have on education.

“There are significant issues stemming from this year’s results that need addressing. The gender gap has widened further, with far more girls achieving grade C or above than boys. The choice of subjects remains heavily divided, continuing to fuel gender stereotypes: a far greater proportion of boys chose STEM related subjects, while girls showed a heavy inclination toward humanities and social sciences.

“The Government’s emphasis on the English Baccalaureate and the new Progress 8 assessment criteria seem to be putting schools off teaching more creative and vocational subjects.

“The Government should reconsider their approach and make sure they provide all pupils with the opportunity to excel, whether it is in English and maths, or design and technology.”

Percentage of North East pupils securing university places hits new high

– North East still lags other regions for university take-up

SCHOOLS NorthEast, the representative body for all 1,250 schools across the region, today welcomed news that more pupils than ever have been accepted on university courses.


A total of 24% of 18 year olds from the North East will be off to university this autumn, up nearly 4% on the number who had secured places on A-level results day in 2012. But, the region still lags behind the rest of the country, with fewer entry rates than any other region.

Statistics released by the Undergraduate Courses at University and College (UCAS) show that, in the past five years, the region has seen a rise of approximately 4% in applications that met the A-level requirements.

Mike Parker, Director of SCHOOLS North East, commented: “The results today are a testimonial of the hard work and commitment of schools, pupils and their families and we would like to congratulate them all on their resounding success.

“Head Teachers across the region have been sharing success stories with us and we couldn’t be more proud of their pupils’ fantastic achievements, who secured places at universities across the country.

“While this is terrific, more can and should be done to raise aspirations and ensure that 18 year olds in the North East have the same chances at a university degree as their peers elsewhere in the country. Theresa May has spoken of the burning injustice of white working class boys being least likely to go to university. The Government needs to target more support in regions to break that connection.”

Mr Parker added: “Higher education is not the ‘be-all, end-all’ of post-secondary destinations, and we have seen many of our region’s pupils take on terrific vocational routes, including apprenticeships with the many brilliant companies across the North East.

“We wish them all the best of luck in this new and exciting chapter of their lives.”

End of year note from SCHOOLS NorthEast

So, the year ends as it started – with change, upheaval, turbulence, fresh opportunity … call it what you will.

twitter bannerWhere the 2015/16 academic year began with a new Common Inspection Framework, new curricula and assessment and a hefty education agenda promised in the Conservative manifesto, it draws to a conclusion with a new Education Secretary and a Prime Minister whose Chief of Staff has freshly vacated the top role at the New Schools Network.

Rest assured, more change is on its way.

Perhaps then it is time to reflect and celebrate what went on in-between?

From a SCHOOLS NorthEast perspective, it has been a phenomenal year with greater levels of engagement than ever before.

More than 2,150 school leaders have actively been involved in the plethora of activities and events from the flagship Summit, with the indomitable Sir Michael Wilshaw, to the insightful sessions on everything from British values to pupil proofing the school day.

Our responsiveness to changing policy provided the opportunity for 320 school leaders to attend full-day, independent conferences on academisation and the implications of the the education white paper.

The launch of Jobs In Schools|North East has driven down the cost of recruitment and opened up school vacancies to the widest possible group of potential candidates. Some 170 schools across the region are already signed up with more joining each week.

The response from Head Teachers using the site is overwhelmingly positive:
Derryth Hope, Head Teacher at Berwick Middle School in Northumberland: “I have advertised for several teaching positions over the years and, at different times, have had little, and on some occasions, no response even when we’ve used a very expensive national advertiser. This time we used the Schools NorthEast site and received 9 applications for a main scale post. What was really pleasing was the quality of the candidates – it was very difficult to decide who to ‘sift out’ at the shortlisting stage!”

Continue reading “End of year note from SCHOOLS NorthEast”

New PM must tackle North East poverty as region becomes the free school meals capital of England

  • Research shows pupils on free school meals are half as likely to achieve 5+ GCSEs at grades A*to C

SCHOOLS NorthEast has called on incoming Prime Minister Theresa May to take urgent action on poverty in the North East after new data showed the region is now the free school meals capital of England.

The regional network of 1,250 schools from Saltburn to the Scottish Border said a poverty strategy must be the number one priority for the North East to better support impoverished families.

Mike Parker, director of SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: “Poverty is the single greatest barrier to pupil success in the classroom. Unless our region unites against inequality we are damaging the life chances of young people and gambling with the long-term future prosperity of the region.”

The link between poverty and school attainment is telling. Only 1 in 4 (24%) of white British boys who are eligible for free school meals achieve 5+ A* to C grade GCSEs. The same is true for fewer than one in three (32%) of white British girls.

Incoming Prime Minister, Theresa May, made education a key element of her inaugural speech on ‘burning injustices’ this week, saying: “If you are a white working class boy you are less likely than anyone else to go to university.”

Continue reading “New PM must tackle North East poverty as region becomes the free school meals capital of England”

North East Deputy Head wins prestigious national STEM award

The Deputy Head of a County Durham primary school fought off stiff competition to win of a prestigious national STEM award.

Louise Parks, Deputy Head at Bournmoor Primary School, Houghton-le-Spring, won the Primary Science ENTHUSE award at the 2016 celebration in London.

The ENTHUSE Awards recognise outstanding teaching professionals and the effect they have on their pupils, their colleagues and the wider school. Ms Parks is one of the seven teachers and technicians to have had their significant impact on the science teaching in their schools recognised.

All winners took part in professional development at the National STEM Learning Centre, with support from an ENTHUSE Award bursary. Since 2008, Project ENTHUSE has given over 17,000 bursaries to teachers and technicians working in state maintained schools in the UK to support their professional development.

Congratulations from everyone at SCHOOLS NorthEast to Ms Parks and Bournmoor Primary School for this fantastic achievement, very well done!

The full list of winners is available here.

Justine Greening appointed as new Education Secretary

Justine_Greening_June_2015.jpgRt Hon Justine Greening MP was appointed as the new Secretary of State for Education today, following a Cabinet reshuffle.

The UK’s new Prime Minister Theresa May has replaced Nicky Morgan in the Department for Education with the former International Development Secretary, Justine Greening.

The MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields becomes the first Education Secretary to have been educated at a comprehensive school, having attended in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, before studying economics at Southampton University.

Schools Week has colated 9 facts about Ms Greening which you can read here.

Since her appointment only hours ago, it has been heavily speculated that the Department for Education  will expand its remit by taking on responsibility for high education and skills.

Her predecessor Nicky Morgan tweeted that she is “disappointed not to be continuing as Education Secretary and Minister for Women & Equalities, two wonderful roles it’s been a privilege to hold” and congratulated Ms Greening, adding “she’s committed to excellence in education, equalities and did great work for women at DIFID”.

SCHOOLS NorthEast welcomes the appointment and looks forward to working with the new Secretary of State for Education.

Guest Blog: The problem of policy pass the parcel

laura-cutout.jpgAnd so we enter the baton-passing stage of schools policy. Some of you in schools face the same thing as you edge toward the end of term. You, or someone else you work with, is due to move on. Cue the scrambling to tie up loose ends, the passing on of key information, the hiding of dead bodies (unmarked work). It’s exhausting stuff and inevitably some things get missed. Next term someone is bound to find a locked drawer, with no key, in which – unbeknownst to them – the coursework of 6B lurks.

Education politicians have the same problem. Since realising they were likely to be displaced from office earlier this week, activity has been frenetic. Expert reports have fallen from the sky. A new maths programme launched. Speeches delivered everywhere. It’s incredible how a department struggling to answer its email and information requests on time can pull a year’s worth of work in one week when the mind is concentrated. Almost makes you believe they could hurry up with other policies, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, schools are caught in the middle of this pass over between old and new ministers. The national funding formula consultation is already delayed, no one knows for how long. The primary tests are an admitted fudge with Nicky Morgan last week saying no one should make judgments from them about the Government’s capability. (They will still be used to judge schools, of course). And let’s not get into GCSE reform, A-level issues, school rebrokering, coasting schools, British values.

This mess of course means it’s a brilliant time to bring in an entirely new set of people, right? Sigh.

Continue reading “Guest Blog: The problem of policy pass the parcel”

Evalution report into the effect of Poverty Proofing project launched at Newcastle University event

An independent report providing an evaluation of the Poverty Proofing the School Day project was launched at a Newcastle University event on Tuesday 12 July. It found that the project was highly effective at removing barriers to learning.


The event – The impact of poverty on education: new evidence on an old problem – supported by SCHOOLS NorthEast, saw speakers from across Newcastle, Manchester and Barcelona give evidence on how much a child’s education is affected by financial constraints.

Liz Todd, Professor of Educational Inclusion at Newcastle University, gave an overview of education policy throughout the last 60 years and picked out key changes that have impacted on poverty / education.

The ‘Poverty Proofing the School Day’ project evaluation was introduced by Sarah Bryson Policy and Research Manager at Children North East. Sarah highlighted the fact that new figures show an increase in the number of children living in poverty, adding that it seems to have gone unnoticed amongst all the Brexit talk. She said that schools are becoming places that reflect inequalities, but they should be places that redress the balance and broaden horizons.

Despite schools and teachers having good intentions, Sarah explained that there are many ways they unintentionally stigmatize children living in poverty (donations for non-uniform days, school trip fees, art competitions using resources from home).

Continue reading “Evalution report into the effect of Poverty Proofing project launched at Newcastle University event”

Half of England’s primary schools to receive £41m for Asian maths method

Schools Minister Nick Gibb announced the south Asian method of teaching maths will be rolled out in over 8,000 primary schools in England.

Half of the total number of primary schools in England will receive £41m over the course of four years to adopt the approach used by some of the leading performers in maths worldwide, including Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The funding will also be allocated to the initial training of 700 teachers to support schools in maths mastery, as well as for textbooks. The expansion will be led by maths hubs – 35 school-led centres of excellence in maths teaching.

The Government said the approach is “marked by careful planning, ensuring no pupil’s understanding is left to chance”.

The Maths mastery method began being used in England in 2014 and so far 140 teachers have been trained by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM).

The Department for Education commissioned Sheffield Hallam University to conduct an evaluation of the first year of piloting the Shanghai exchange scheme. it found that the visits of English teachers in Shanghai had a strong impact on teachers’ beliefs and motivations towards teaching maths. Across all 48 schools evaluated, most teachers reported that the changes implemented since the visit had led to positive outcomes for children.

Continue reading “Half of England’s primary schools to receive £41m for Asian maths method”

New short inspections “a proven success”, Senior HMI tells SCHOOLS NorthEast delegates

One of the most senior Ofsted figures for the region has said that short inspections are a proven success, as the vast majority of schools remain ‘good’ or achieve ‘outstanding’ – a picture mirrored by the North East as well.

Speaking at the termly SCHOOLS NorthEast Ofsted Briefings, Her Majesty’s Inspector Joan Hewitt said the inspectorate’s primary focus now is clearing a backlog of schools that are more than three years outside of their last inspection. However, she reiterated that any school could expect an inspection.

Ms Hewitt said the real focus will be targeting these “legacy schools” that have been graded as ‘good’ for as long as five years and Ofsted will work on getting the numbers down.

Her briefing had a focus on reducing teacher workload by busting myths which Ms Hewitt said increased work unnecessarily. Areas in which she said these myths were creating additional work included marking and lesson planning. She mentioned previous advice that Ofsted was not there to assess teaching: “inspectors won’t expect to see teaching plans unless it’s the policy of the school to have one”.  The official Ofsted YouTube channel has a series of helpful clips called #OfstedMyths.

She also spoke passionately about her concerns that schools are investing their limited funds in commissioning ‘Mocksteds’, which she considers a waste of resources because, in many cases, they accentuate myths and cause unnecessary stress for teachers. Ms Hewitt said: “All they need is the Ofsted Inspection Handbook and the Safeguarding Guidance – if it’s not in the handbook or the guidance, it’s a myth”.

Continue reading “New short inspections “a proven success”, Senior HMI tells SCHOOLS NorthEast delegates”