Tees Valley Mayor tells school leaders about £3 million careers initiative

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen met with a group of Teesside school leaders, including Schools North East Chair John Hardy, for lunch and discussion on 7 November.

The event – the second in a new series of ‘Partner Lunches’ organised by Schools North East – was held at Carmel College in Darlington. These events bring together school leaders and their local elected representatives to discuss issues impacting on schools.

Topics covered included the Mayor’s £3m careers initiative, which would see every school and college in Teesside work with local businesses to shape careers and enterprise education, how to engage pupils from challenging backgrounds in this process, extending careers advice to primary settings, facilitating good transport links to widen opportunities for young people and engaging with parents.

Schools North East Director Mike Parker said: “I’d like to extend my thanks to Ben for taking part in a fascinating Partner Lunch. Heads discussed a diverse range of topics with the Mayor, including his new careers initiative, and heard about a number of quality initiatives in the offing.

“Engaging with politicians, decision makers and influencers is a key element of the work that Schools North East carries out on behalf of schools. It is great that we can offer our Partner Schools opportunities to speak directly with influential people like the Mayor to help them understand the environment in and around schools.”

The event was sponsored by Avec, a leading provider of professional support services to schools and academies in the region.


Lord Agnew announced as Schools North East Academies Conference keynote speaker

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, Lord Theodore Agnew, has been announced as the keynote speaker at this year’s annual Schools North East Academies Conference in January.

Lord Agnew previously served as a non-executive board member at the Department for Education, where he was chair of the department’s Academies Board from 2013 to 2015.

Lord Agnew

The Academies Conference, which is taking place at St James’ Park in Newcastle on the 31st January 2019, will bring together academy leaders from across the North.

Other speakers include Jan Renou, Regional Schools Commissioner, North of England.

Mike Parker, Director of Schools North East, said of the announcement: “We’re delighted that Lord Agnew will be joining us in Newcastle in January to speak to delegates on the academy system.

“Schools North East continues to bring a wide range of high profile figures to the region  which gives school leaders the opportunity to hear first hand from the people who are shaping the education system, including HMCI Amanda Spielman’s high profile announcement on planned changes to  inspections at our biggest and best Summit to date in October.”

Lord Agnew, who is the former chairman of the Inspiration Trust, is responsible for areas including:

  • free schools, university technical colleges and studio schools
  • academies and multi-academy trusts
  • faith schools
  • independent schools
  • school improvement
  • school governance
  • school capital investment
  • counter extremism and integration in schools, further education colleges and sixth-form colleges

Mike Parker continued: “The Academies Conference is a great opportunity for schools and academy leaders, and those who are considering academisation, to join peers to discuss the higher-level strategic aspects of academies.

“The programme is shaping up to be highly informative, and, with Lord Agnew now added to our speaker list, we know that it is going to be a very popular event.”

To find out more about the Academies Conference 2019, and to book your place, click here.

Education Secretary pledges more support for school leaders to tackle workload

The Secretary of State for Education has this week pledged to help school leaders cut “unnecessary” workload.

In a joint letter sent to all school leaders on Monday, co-signed by multiple organisations including Ofsted, NAHT and ASCL, Damien Hinds set out plans to help teachers refocus on the classroom.

Research cited in the letter suggests that more than half of teachers’ time is spent on non-teaching tasks, including planning, marking and admin, and that workload is one of the most common reasons for teachers leaving the profession.

This coincides with the publication of a report from the Workload Advisory Group – led by education expert, Professor Becky Allen – that the Education Secretary created for this very issue.

Damian Hinds said: Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds said: “Many teachers are having to work way too many hours each week on unnecessary tasks, including excessive time spent on marking and data analysis.

“I want to make sure teachers are teaching, not putting data into spreadsheets. That’s why I am stopping my department asking for data other than in the school’s existing format.”

“I am united with the unions and Ofsted in wanting teachers to do less admin. I have a straightforward message to head teachers who want their staff to cut right down on collecting data to be able to devote energies to teaching: I will support you. Frequent data drops and excessive monitoring of a child’s progress are not required either by Ofsted or by the DfE.”

To read more and this, and the research the Department for Education will be undertaking on school reporting, head to the DfE website



Initial Teacher Education providers given green light to cut lesson planning 

New advice from the Department for Education says that trainee teachers should focus on using existing resources rather than developing their own plans for every lesson they teach.

The guidance comes in a report which highlights areas where initial teacher education (ITE) providers should reduce workload for trainees, NQTs and teachers early in their careers.

The report, Addressing teacher workload in Initial Teacher Education, sets out questions and information designed to give ITE providers and managers a “starting point” to review their practice.

It calls for them to “challenge all practices and processes and remove those that have become established through custom rather than evidence of what works”, adding that this is “particularly relevant in relation to lesson planning”.

The report urges ITE providers to focus on developing the curriculum planning skills of trainees by “reducing the expectation on trainees to develop their own individual lesson plans and curriculum resources for every lesson they teach”.

Read more in the Tes.

DfE’s sex education proposals doomed to failure, say women’s groups

The Government’s sex education proposals focus too heavily on self-restraint and are doomed to failure unless radically revised, according to key women’s groups.

The organisations, responding to a public consultation into sex education proposals that closes on Wednesday, argue that the government has betrayed its promise to overhaul sex and consent teaching in schools.

On Tuesday, the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAWC), an umbrella group of more than 80 organisations, sent a letter to the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, saying that the guidance was “squeamish”, making only one mention of pornography and minimal references to menstruation.

The EVAWC has accused the Government of pandering to religious groups by failing to make sex education compulsory before the age of 15.

Sarah Green, the group’s Co-Director, said: “This proposal is a significant climbdown and not in the spirit of what was promised last year.

“The Department for Education’s proposals give a green light to schools whose leaders choose to teach only very traditional notions of sexuality, relationships and gender norms, and is generally squeamish about sex and sexuality.”

Read more on this story in The Guardian.

Education Links w/c 5th November 2018

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/walbottle-shoes-isolation-policy-uniform-15383962 – Chronicle Live, School shoes row: Furious family takes drastic action after schoolboy is kept in isolation over footwear.

https://www.darlingtonandstocktontimes.co.uk/news/national/17207120.school-music-tuition-fees-are-increasing-inequality-msps-told/ – Darlington & Stockton Times, School music tuition fees are increasing inequality, MSPs told.

https://www.darlingtonandstocktontimes.co.uk/news/national/17206983.120-teachers-contact-ministers-after-nicola-sturgeons-job-concerns-offer/ – Darlington & Stockton Times, 120 teachers contact ministers after Nicola Sturgeon’s job concerns offer.

https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/17202180.parents-urged-to-apply-for-primary-school-places-in-stockton/?ref=mac – The Northern Echo, Parents urged to apply for primary school places in Stockton.

https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/local/darlington/17208066.darlington-children-create-eye-catching-poppy-display/ – The Northern Echo, Darlington children create eye-catching poppy display.

https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/17208166.two-schools-facing-4m-budget-deficit-could-form-new-academy-trust/ – The Northern Echo, Two schools facing £4m budget deficit could form new academy trust.

https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/local/teesvalley/17201855.hartlepool-primary-school-closed-over-building-safety-fears/?ref=mac – The Northern Echo, Hartlepool primary school closed over building safety fears.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/news/education/hartlepool-school-to-re-open-after-shutting-for-three-days-over-brickwork-concerns-1-9433179 – Hartlepool Mail, Hartlepool school to re-open after shutting for three days over brickwork concerns.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/news/education/merger-proposal-for-two-primary-schools-set-to-be-discussed-next-week-1-9431171 – Hartlepool Mail, Merger proposal for two primary schools set to be discussed next week.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/news/education/councillors-urged-to-write-off-secondary-school-budget-deficits-1-9431064 – Hartlepool Mail, Councillors urged to write-off secondary school budget deficits.

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/news/mayor-joins-youngsters-on-the-dance-floor-for-a-south-shields-nursery-s-birthday-celebrations-1-9432271 – Shields Gazette, Mayor joins youngsters on the dance floor for a South Shields nursery’s birthday celebrations.

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/news/pupils-praised-as-south-shields-school-is-rated-as-outstanding-1-9426567 – Shields Gazette, Pupils praised as South Shields school is rated as ‘outstanding’.  

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/news/education/seven-year-olds-on-free-school-meals-falling-behind-in-south-tyneside-1-9429072 – Shields Gazette, Seven-year-olds on free school meals falling behind in South Tyneside.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/reading-is-rewarded-for-northumberland-youngsters-1-9432884  – Northumberland Gazette, Reading is rewarded for Northumberland youngsters.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/pictures-settling-in-at-embleton-school-1-9430325 – Northumberland Gazette, PICTURES: Settling in at Embleton School.

https://www.berwick-advertiser.co.uk/news/success-for-young-writers-1-4822937 – Berwick Advertiser, Success for young writers.

https://www.berwick-advertiser.co.uk/news/art-auction-to-be-held-at-high-school-1-4822920 – Berwick Advertiser, Art auction to be held at high school.

Are you an ethical leader?

This week’s Talking Head comes from Peter Eyre, Executive Head Teacher at Saltburn Learning Campus, Cleveland. 

The understanding of moral and ethical decision making is one of the simplest, and most fundamental learning experiences for any child. We begin this earnestly from birth based around the ideas of what is considered to be right and wrong. This framework allows us all to exist in a well ordered and sophisticated society. However, ethical decision making is far from simple in reality and as such, agreement on what is considered a “good” decision is often open for significant debate.

The trolley dilemma is a standard example of this to unpick an individual’s thoughts behind a moral debate. A runaway train trolley is heading down a track towards five unaware workers who will surely die if it crashes in to them. The track has a crossroads and you hold the lever to divert the trolley. On the other track is a lone worker. Do you pull the lever; saving the five, but killing the one? This conundrum is further explored by removing the lever and the lone worker but suggesting you could push a person onto the tracks – stopping the trolley but in effect murdering the bystander. Or perhaps you could sacrifice yourself? This is a classic debate but ultimately is very useful as it does mirror the complexities of real life. No one decision is independent. Teaching a child that it is wrong to steal from others is undoubtedly a clear ethical lesson and many children may experiment with boundaries of what is right and wrong as they grow. However, in society we may often ask what are the drivers for older children and adults to steal? What is their motive?

Ofsted and the DfE’s recent focus on permanent exclusions in schools is a topical and controversial entry point to ethical dilemmas that leaders in education face every day. A decision to exclude a student permanently should only be taken: in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy; AND where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school. The “and” in this guidance from the DfE is critical. I have never not heard any Head Teacher being very articulate and clear about the evidence and reasoning behind why a permanent exclusion has been made – each fully convinced that the mirrored example of the trolley experiment is clear. In their case; the permanently excluded student who has their right to mainstream education taken away from them was to protect the maintenance of a good education for the rest of the students. Ofsted will do well to ask this question and gather the evidence when they visit around what was the negative impact of this student on the whole school? Similarly they should ask, what was the potential risk to the whole school by not permanently excluding the student? I have been part of many conversations where it is clear that a leader feels they have clear justification and have been an ethical leader, and then others will quickly question and make an assessment on their decision, their behaviour policy and their reasoning. It would seem it is often easiest to pass judgement on others ethical leadership while maintaining security that your decisions are sound.

Amanda Spielman during her key note speech at the Schools North East Summit (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/amanda-spielman-speech-to-the-schools-northeast-summit ) noted that Ofsted’s revised focus on curriculum “will let us reward schools for doing the right thing by their pupils.”  She also noted that leaders “who are bold and ambitious and run their schools with integrity will be rewarded as a result.” This is reassuring and most school leaders are welcoming of Ofsted’s recent conversation on the inspectorates role. However, they have to accept that, along with the DfE they have driven the mixed messages for schools for a significant period of time. If you look at any of the outstanding research lead work completed by FFt Education Datalab (and I heartily recommend you do https://ffteducationdatalab.org.uk/ ) around Ofsted judgements related to Progress 8 and the progress measures at KS2 you cannot fail to see the strong correlation between these measures and Ofsted judgements. These single, often statistically flawed values show that those with the lowest progress are far more likely to be rated Inadequate despite the fact that other research would indicate that those progress measures are not just statistically flawed, but also are lacking in real contextual understanding. Professor Stephen Gorard’s work out of Durham University consistently evidences this. Yet, leaders of those school’s with the highest proportion of disadvantaged students, and the highest proportion of students with SEND face being labelled by the DfE as “Significantly below average” or “Below average” based on a single value. The media then frenzy on this annually asking parents if “your child goes to one of the worst school’s in Britain?” In addition, Ofsted patterns indicate you will be more likely to get a lower Ofsted rating, driving falling roll, parental dissatisfaction and attack, and driving higher recruitment and retention issues for your school further compounding the issues. The new direction of travel from Ofsted is entirely right and I hope that it bears out during inspections but the DfE and the media also have a role to play. If we want our leaders to be ethically driven then perhaps the modelling coming from those holding us to account and judging us should be ethically driven too and consider the individual scenario’s, barriers and contexts of schools, areas and regions first and support those leaders.

On results day this year when myself and a colleague had been debating our secondary outcomes and trying to establish if we were pleased with them she noted that her husband had asked “What would make you happy?”. It gave me pause for thought and we discussed this. I said that right now I would say a progress 8 score of 0 or above for every student in the school. But I went on to say that if you’d asked me 5-10 years ago I would have said “that a student got whatever they needed to make their next step in life and was happy with”. It really made me think about how hard it is to hold onto the true core purpose of education when leaders are so critically and quickly judged on a single measure that is not important for a moment to the learners themselves. If Ofsted and the DfE want true ethical leadership to triumph in our fractured educational landscape then they need to champion those leaders who, despite all their barriers, keep focussing on a learners experience rather than their outcomes alone.

If you would like to share your views on this, please email n.chapman@schoolsnortheast.com 

Government approves North of Tyne Combined Authority

The Government today approved the formation of the North of the Tyne Combined Authority, under which Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle local authorities have joined forces. The authority will be led by a directly elected Mayor.

Schools North East is currently supporting the three authorities in shaping the devolution deal with respect to education.

The new Combined Authority will operate separately from the North East Combined Authority, which will continue to encompass the four local authorities south of the Tyne: Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Elsewhere in the region, the Tees Valley Combined Authority has been led by a directly elected mayor since 2017.

EEF study finds weekly maths tutoring boosts progress by three months

Providing small-group tuition to disadvantaged primary pupils can boost their maths results by three months over the course of a year, according to the results of a large randomised controlled trial published today by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). There was also emerging evidence that pupils with low prior attainment tended to benefit more from the tutoring.

The tutoring was provided by The Tutor Trust, an education charity based in Manchester which offers small group and one-to-one tuition by recruiting and training university students and recent graduates to work as paid tutors.

The findings are consistent with previous evidence from the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit that show small-group tuition is an effective way of improving attainment. However, it is difficult for disadvantaged pupils to access private tuition and the EEF looked to evaluate efforts to make one-to-one and small group tuition available at low cost. The reliability of the findings were emphasised by the EEF, which said this was a “well-designed randomised controlled trial and few pupils who started the trial were not included the final analysis”.

Another a large-scale effectiveness trial published today by the EEF showed less promising results.

The project entitled ‘IPEELL: using self-regulation to improve writing’, used memorable experiences, such as school trips, as a stimulus for improving pupils’ writing.

The first trial in 26 schools showed very positive results; pupils with low prior attainment who were targeted with the intervention made an additional 9 months’ progress in writing.

However, the evaluation of the new, larger, trial conducted across 167 schools) of a scalable version of the programme delivered to the whole class shows mixed results in writing outcomes. And there was a worrying ‘spillover’ effect, with pupils receiving IPEELL making significantly less progress in reading, maths and spelling than the comparison group of pupils, perhaps because class time was diverted away from these subjects and towards the teaching of writing.

Read the full report on tuition here and IPEEL here.

IFS study finds “remarkable” refocusing of education spending towards poorer pupils

New research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows a profound shift in the focus of education spending  away from affluent pupils toward the less well off since the 1980s.

In the 1980s, considerably more was spent on the education of those from well-off backgrounds than on those from poorer backgrounds but this is no longer the case.

The report finds “Changes to the distribution of school funding, increased staying-on rates and reforms to HE funding mean that there was no difference in the amount of public money spent in total on educating the poorest and richest pupils who were taking their GCSEs in 2010….since 2010, the funding system has become even more beneficial to lower-income students relative to the better off. This is in part because of further school funding reforms, in part because post-16 participation rates have risen and in part because funding for school sixth forms (where better-off children are more likely to study) has been cut relative to funding for colleges (which are more likely to serve poorer students)”.

It concludes by recognising, however, that this shift in spending has not been accompanied by a significant reduction in the attainment gap between disadvantaged and affluent pupils. The report cautions against assuming that the shift in funding has therefore been a failure:

“[T]he last 10 years have also seen a raft of changes to qualifications and assessments for pupils at ages 16 and 18. It is difficult to disentangle these from the underlying changes in the human capital and skills formed by pupils from different backgrounds. Indeed, the recent work on the effects of school resources has tended to downplay measures of educational attainment as useful indicators of human capital and instead focused on later -life earnings. It may therefore be a bit early to judge whether changes in education funding have been a success or not.”

Is funding actually reaching those that need it most?

Researchers have previously questioned whether school funding aimed at tackling disadvantage is targeted as well as it could be. For example, Professor Stephen Gorard uses the example of Middlesbrough and Kensington and Chelsea to point out that areas with similar levels of Pupil Premium eligible state educated pupils might well have very different levels of disadvantage in practice.

FSM group Middlesbrough Kensington and Chelsea
Never FSM 53 53
FSM previously 14 27
FSM now 33 19
Source: Stephen Gorard, Education Policy: Evidence of Equity and Effectiveness (2018)

Professor Becky Allen has suggested that Pupil Premium does not target the poorest students and that poverty is a poor proxy for educational disadvantage, arguing for the continuation of the policy in a modified form. Conversely, EEF Chief Executive Sir Kevan Collins recently wrote a column in the TES arguing that Pupil Premium is the best means of reaching disadvantaged pupils.

Read the full IFS report here.