SCHOOLS NorthEast holds first introductory sessions for Voice of the Pupil Project

The SCHOOLS NorthEast Healthy MindED Commission has held introductory sessions for schools interested in participating in the Voice of the Pupil project. At the events, held at Boldon School and Inspire2Learn, attendees learned more about what would be required of them and what the Commission would provide.

Voice of the Pupil is designed to explore school children’s experiences of mental health through the use of qualitative focus groups in school settings. The findings will then be used to help shape school-based mental health interventions. The study was piloted earlier this year across a small number of primary, secondary and special schools in the region.


Colin Lofthouse, Head at Rickleton Primary and a trustee of SCHOOLS NorthEast, explained how he had used the findings from the focus groups in his school to develop the PSHCE curriculum. He said it had uncovered important issues the school had been unaware of that could now be addressed. Schools participating in the project will be given materials and guidance on how they can used Voice of the Pupil to develop the curriculum.

In May, delegates at our Healthy MindED conference heard from the school leaders involved in the pilot. Delegates were shown short video clips of what the pupils had to say and given analysis of the emerging themes.

There has been excellent feedback from the event, with almost all schools that attended now signed up to the Commission.

For more information on the project please contact our Policy Officer Christopher Hawkins at


Labour: We’ll make schools ‘accountable’ for off-rolled pupils

The Labour Party has announced it will tackle the scandal of “off-rolling” by making sure schools remain accountable for the outcomes of pupils forced out of the system.

Angela Rayner, the shadow Education Secretary, announced today that if her party wins the next election, the attainment and outcomes of pupils permanently excluded or otherwise pushed out will continue to count towards their previous school’s league table performance until they find another permanent school place.

The proposal is aimed at tackling an apparent increasing problem with off-rolling, an illegal practice whereby schools remove troublesome or low-attaining pupils before they sit their exams.

Read the full article on Schools Week.

Head Teachers will now have more power to discipline staff

Recently updated schools guidance will make it easier for Head Teachers to discipline staff for “inappropriate” behaviour outside the school context.

The Department for Education has published revised guidance for employers on staffing and employment in schools. In the main, the changes are just to update the document, but there is one important substantive change that has caused something of a stir.

The updated section provides that “all staff have a responsibility to ensure that they act appropriately in terms of their behaviour, the views they express (in particular political views) and the use of school resources at all times, and should not use school resources for party political purposes.”

Read the full analysis by Graham Burns, Partner, Stone King LLP here.

You can read  the full Government guidance here.

Teacher Pay Grant methodology released

The Department for Education (DfE) has released the methodology for the ‘Teacher Pay Grant’, designed to help schools cover the pay rise announced in July.

Use our interactive table below to estimate your school’s Teacher Pay Grant allocation for the next two years, based on the figures provided by the DfE. Select your school type and input your pupil numbers or capacity. Mainstream schools need enter only pupil numbers, special and alternative provision should only enter pupil capacity. If a school has fewer than 100 pupils or 40 capacity the formula calculates the grant as though there were 100 or 40, respectively.

Full details will be published by the DfE in October.

The formula uses pupil numbers to calculate the Grant for mainstream schools and capacity for special and alternative provision. It uses different rates for primary, secondary and special/alternative provision. An “area cost adjustment” is applied which boosts the value of the grant in London only. The amounts calculated in 2018/19 are lower as they apply for the next seven months only.

In working out the allocations the Department has used averages (as detailed on the link at the beginning of this article) so there will inevitably be winners and losers from this.

If you have any comments about the effect of the Teacher Pay Grant on your school please get in touch with our Policy Officer, Christopher Hawkins, at 

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Teach religion and worldviews instead of RE, say experts

The subject should include non-religious worldviews as well as major faiths, says the Commission on Religious Education final report.

It follows research suggesting at least a quarter of schools break the law on teaching RE. Without an overhaul, the subject could wither, the authors warn.

The independent Commission was set up two years ago by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, amid growing concerns about the quality of RE lessons.

The commission’s report confirms that the quality of RE in schools is “highly variable”.

It says that there is some excellent practice in some schools, but in others the amount of time allocated to the subject is being squeezed, and the subject is suffering from an across-the-board decline in specialist teachers.

Read the full article on the BBC.

£20m grammar school transport scheme quietly shelved

The government has confirmed that they are scrapping a £20 million scheme to provide free transport to grammar schools.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb has confirmed in a written answer to a question from the Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner last week that the scheme, which could have cost up to £5,000 per pupil in taxi fares, would not proceed. He subsequently confirmed this week that money has been returned to the Treasury.

Last March, the chancellor Philip Hammond announced that disadvantaged pupils would be offered free transport to grammar schools up to 15 miles from their home, allocating £5 million a year for the scheme between this year and 2022.

The proposal was an extension of a scheme which currently gives free transport to certain schools for pupils eligible for free school meals, or whose families receive maximum working tax credit free transport. Selective schools are not currently covered by the policy.

Read the full article in Schools Week.

Becky Allen: Pupil Premium Blog

In the first and second of a three part series, Becky Allen, the Director of the Centre for Education Improvement Science at UCL, argues that Pupil Premium isn’t working for disadvantaged children.

Becky Allen argues that Pupil Premium is not well targeted to those who are educationally disadvantaged and that it assumes Pupil Premium children all have similar needs. It also criticises the focus on closing the gap with non-Pupil Premium children, which she says is based more on the demographics of non-Pupil Premium children than anything schools have done. For example, it would be significantly easier to close the gap if you drew all your intake from one estate than if you had a genuinely mixed intake.

Ms Allen thinks comparisons of disadvantage gaps, such as the recent EPI report makes, are not especially useful because:

  1. The tests and assessments that go into attainment measures change regularly and can affect the gap. E.g. changes that benefit higher attaining students would widen the gap.
  2. The group of students classified as pupil premium varies with the economic cycle/changes in benefit entitlements/changes in qualifying benefits.
  3. Free School Meal (FSM) eligibility falls continuously from age 4 onwards as parents return to the labour market, so comparisons of gaps between stages are not useful.

You can read the first part here, and the second part here.

North-South schools divide ‘not supported by evidence’ 

Claims that schools in the north of England are worse than those in the south are based on myth and bad data, according to a large-scale research project that calls into question the education policies of successive governments.

The study also challenges the idea that selective grammar schools or academies are more likely to improve pupil progress overall than community comprehensives, tracing the progress of 1.8 million pupils, their social, family and economic backgrounds and the type of schools they attended.

The analysis of three annual cohorts of 600,000 pupils each was carried out by Professor Stephen Gorard, Director of the Durham University evidence centre for education, who says he found no evidence that schools in the north or north-east are differentially effective or ineffective with equivalent pupil intakes.

Read the full article on the Guardian.

Bright Tribe Trust accused of misusing government funds

BBC Panorama has found the Bright Tribe Trust received public money for building work, lighting upgrades and fire safety improvements that were either not finished or never done.

New trustees, appointed at Bright Tribe two months ago, have now commissioned independent investigations.

Bright Tribe has come under question over the past couple of years, with the latest investigation adding to the intense scrutiny that the Trust has faced since inception.

The Academy chain was given £1 million by the Government to set up a ‘northern hub’ which included Grindon Hall School in Sunderland, Haltwistle Community Campus lower and upper schools and Haydon Bridge School, in Northumberland.

However, it was revealed in December 2017 that discussions had started for Bright Tribe to walk away.

SCHOOLS NorthEast ran numerous stories on the Academy Trust, including:

Bright Tribe no longer sponsoring The Durham Federation (December 2016)

Bright Tribe in discussions over future of northern schools (December 2017)

Majority of Bright Tribe’s £1m ‘northern hub’ funding spent on senior staff (December 2017)

Bright Tribe pays £680,000 in related-party transactions (February 2018)

Grindon Hall school to leave Bright Tribe for North East Learning Trust (March 2018)

Northumberland County Council takes legal action against Bright Tribe (April 2018)

Northumberland County Council, which is responsible for schools in the northern hub area, has been trying to claim back some of the money spent on this.

Conservative councillor and Deputy Leader of the council Wayne Daley said the government was to blame for failing to safeguard the cash. He said: “That is a complete dereliction of duty to our community here and to the public purse. This can never ever be allowed to happen again. Ever. I’m genuinely shocked, I really am.”

Bright Tribe was set up by businessman Michael Dwan, who made his reported £114 million fortune from private contracts in the NHS.

Read the full article on the BBC, and you can watch the Panorama documentary here.