SCHOOLS NorthEast hosts first Evidence Champions event

More than 70 Heads, teaching and learning leads and school professionals from across the region joined SCHOOLS NorthEast last Friday to shape an Evidence Champions network for the region.

The event, which took place at the Evolve Centre at Rainton Bridge, was an opportunity for school leaders to meet and discuss how they can collectively make a difference in the the world of evidence-based education, particularly in the North East.

Evidence-Based Education is the first of four pillars that make up SCHOOLS NorthEast’s Shaping Our Future strategy 2017-2020 to support schools to make a step-change in education in the region.

The project has been set up to provide a consistent network of collaboration and debate that continuously strives for improvement in education.

The Champions event was opened by SCHOOLS NorthEast Director of Operations and project lead Chris Zarraga and supported by Iain Veitch, Vice Chair of SCHOOLS NorthEast, who is the charity’s Trustee lead on this initiative.

Chris outlined the purpose of creating a Champions Network was to:

  1. Implement a long-term shift in regional educational culture to one led by informed debate, research, collaboration and excellence; beginning in Early Years and continuing through to university or employment.
  2. Drive regional and national policy.
  3. Create a nationally recognised platform and ‘Centre of Excellence’ for educational thinking and the showcasing of cutting edge research.

The network will be founded on two key principles:

  • Based on Moral Purpose – a requirement for ethical and moral ‘buy-in’ from any participants e.g. any school involved must commit to a drive to eradicate educational disadvantage within the system, as well as principles around honesty, an ‘apolitical’ agenda, willingness to debate and learn, a focus on professionalism and driving classroom practice, strictly no ‘sacred cows’;
  • School-led – owned and driven by North East schools, as a community of professionals in charge of their own destiny;

Chris said: “School improvement in the North East must be driven by a commitment to collaboration across boundaries and the moral desire to ensure the very best for our young people, our schools, and our communities; regardless of policy changes.”

SCHOOLS NorthEast will also set up an online community for practitioners in the region wanting to collaborate, share and engage with one another.

Tom Martell, Grants Manager at the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), was also in attendance to set out aims for the project and to explain the partnership that EEF will have with the Evidence Champions.

Attendees on the day worked in groups to discuss what is already happening around evidence-based practice in the region, what gaps there are, what the aims of the project are and to illustrate what an Evidence Champion should ‘look’ like.

Since 2017, SCHOOLS NorthEast has hosted a number of events to support the movement, attended by hundreds of delegates from across the North East which include:

  • Evidence-Based Education: White Working Class – Durham, March 2017
  • Evidence-Based Education: Literacy – Durham, February 2018
  • Webinar: ‘Closing the Vocabulary Gap’ with Alex Quigley, Huntington Research School, January 2018
  • Webinar: ‘Reading Fluency’ with Tom Martell, Education Endowment Foundation, March 2018
  • Webinar: ‘Ready Made Staff Meetings’ with Tom Martell, Education Endowment Foundation, April 2018

Delegates from the event on Friday will be given the first opportunity to sign up to be an Evidence Champion.

For more information on the project, please contact Chris Zarraga (c.zarraga@schoolsnortheast.com).

 

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Sunderland dad’s anger over school ice cream treat for good attendance

A Sunderland dad has hit out at a school reward scheme which he claims is ‘cruel’.

Graham Robson said the new treat at Hasting Hill Academy of an ice cream from a visiting van for the children who have 96% attendance or above is unfair on the other youngsters in the hot summer weather.

Do you think rewards for good attendance is fair on children? Vote here

Although the 45-year-old said he is fully supportive of the school praising the childen who have good attendance, he said doing it this way makes the pupils who miss out think they have done something wrong.

Graham, who lives in Tilbury Road, said primary-aged children are not responsible for their attendance records, it is down to the parents, so why should they have to watch their friends going out to the ice cream van for a treat while they sit in a hot classroom.

The dad, who has a seven-year-old son at the school, said: “Everyone knows how excited children get when they see or hear the ice cream van and for some of them to be taken out of the class to get an ice cream and not others is cruel.

“They are just innocent bairns, some are younger than five, they don’t really understand about attendance, they are just wondering what they have done wrong.

Graham said: “I know the school needs to reward good attendance, but they could give the children a certificate or prize in assembly.”

He said his child’s attendance was just below the 96% because he spent a week in hospital with kidney problems and there is another child who has a life-threatening condition who is regularly in hospital and they were not allowed the treat.

Jane Walton, headteacher at Hasting Hill Academy, said: “Hasting Hill Academy is delighted to have been judged to be a good school with many strengths by Ofsted in June 2018. Only three areas of improvement were identified – one of them being to improve attendance.

Hasting Hill Academy parent Graham Robson is angry over free attendance ice cream
“The school is trying many and varied strategies to improve pupil attendance and can see a positive impact.

“Recognising good pupil attendance is one of the many ways pupils are rewarded in the school. Hasting Hill Academy is sorry that this particular approach has been perceived in a negative way.”

 

Data shows North East exclusions hotspots

New statistics released by the DfE show exclusion rates in some areas of the North East remain significantly higher than the national average.

The region’s fixed period exclusion rate across all schools was 5.92 in 2016/17, compared to 4.76 for England as a whole. The North East saw far bigger rises in both fixed period (22.35%) and permanent exclusions (31.75%) than the national average.

At a local authority level South Tyneside primaries made 42 fixed period exclusions in 2016-17, a rise of 425% from the 8 recorded in 2015-16. Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland recorded small overall decreases in 2016-17, following unprecedented rises in previous years. The fixed period exclusion rate in Middlesbrough remains significantly higher than elsewhere at almost four times the national average.

South Tyneside, Stockton-on-Tees and Gateshead all saw rises of over 100% in fixed-period inclusions while Newcastle Upon Tyne had by far the biggest climb in permanent exclusions from 2015-16, rising by 177.78%.

SCHOOLS NorthEast recognises that exclusions are a last resort for the vast majority of school leaders. This is a complex issue and the data alone does not tell the full story.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england-2016-to-2017

National funding formula delayed by another year

The Department for Education has delayed the full roll-out of the “hard” national funding formula for schools for another year.

A document published yesterday afternoon revealed that local authorities would continue to allocate school budgets until at least 2021. Previously, the “soft” formula that gave flexibility to local authorities was set to continue only to 2019-20.

The document states that 73 local authorities have brought their local formula closer to the national formula, while 41 are “mirroring the NFF factor values almost exactly”.

It adds that: “…In light of this significant progress in the first year of the NFF, and to continue to support a smooth transition, local authorities will continue to determine local formulae in 2020-21.”

Record year of achievements for SCHOOLS NorthEast

It has been a record year here at SCHOOLS NorthEast, and in some respects a year of firsts. We expanded the team last summer, and since  then our engagement, our output and our activity has grown and grown.

The end of  term, and the end of the academic year, is a good place to reflect on the achievements of the year that has past. Like all schools, it’s a time to reflect on the good times, and sometimes the challenging times, before we start all over again in September.

At SCHOOLS NorthEast we are proud of the work that has been delivered on your behalf. We have been delighted to work with you all on helping to improve the education of the children in our region.

We have outlined a few of the biggest achievements, and highlights, below as well as some of the headline-grabbing decisions and changes made in the education world this year.

From all of the team at SCHOOLS NorthEast, we wish you a relaxing summer and we look forward to seeing you again in September.

The year that was…   

There are four main pillars to the SCHOOLS NorthEast Shaping Our Future strategy 2017-2020 – Evidence-based education; recruitment and retention; pupil mental health; and, improving basic skills in the communities around schools.

On Evidence-based education, we …

  • Worked to deliver a network for teaching professionals in the region keen to engage with evidence-based education which is now well underway, including…
  • Working with schools across the region to establish an Evidence Champions network, and…
  • Signed a partnership with the Education Endowment Foundation to support work to support the creation of a culture of evidence-based practice in the region – a key element of our programme of activity next year.

On recruitment and retention…

  • Efforts to support schools to recruit and retain staff saw more jobs than ever before posted to Jobs in Schools|North East. We also supported a new DfE programme to attract international teaching talent to fill gaps in specialist subjects in the region.
  • We had record numbers of school leaders engage with our programmes this year – with nearly 3,000 delegates alone attending our events this year.
  • SCHOOLS NorthEast has had greater engagement with the Department for Education, including running focus groups with teachers in the region to shape national policy on recruitment and retention of teachers in challenging areas; and, also supporting the pilot and the rollout of a DfE national recruitment jobs portal which is in its fledgling stages.

On pupil mental health…

  • Successfully piloted a new Healthy MindED Voice of the Pupil work stream which will be rolled out to c.30 more schools next term with CPD training and networked support for professionals.
  • We helped c.160 schools get involved in a new mental health research project led by the Anna Freud Centre.
  • Working with partners in the health sector on new mental health ‘trailblazers’ that the Government is establishing across the country.
  • Ongoing engagement with the NHS Northern England Clinical Networks in support of pupil mental health

On ensuring communities around schools better support education…

  • SCHOOLS NorthEast has been a key part of the North East Literacy Forum which developed and launched the Read North East campaign to promote parental engagement in reading with children pre-school.
  • The charity has supported the shaping of the education strand of the planned North of Tyne Devolution deal – shaping education plans and providing the support of the Jobs in Schools|North East platform for recruitment and retention.

In addition, headlines include…

  • Working with the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House, SCHOOLS NorthEast helped secure 15,500 free books for schools across South Tyneside and Middlesbrough with accompanying CPD on engaging primary aged children in reading for pleasure.
  • The Gatsby Careers Benchmarks, piloted in this region thanks to the work of SCHOOLS NorthEast and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, became the golden thread in the new National Careers Strategy.
  • SCHOOLS NorthEast celebrated its 10th anniversary!
  • Holding nine major events including the annual Summit and SBM Conference and 13 single issue events – the most events we’ve ever held.
  • Launched the brand new SCHOOLS NorthEast webinar programme.
  • We brought more big names in education to the North East including Sir David Carter and the Rt Hon David Laws, as well as Olympian Sally Gunnell. Next year we have Amanda Spielman and other major speakers lined up to come to the region…
  • SCHOOLS NorthEast signed up 41 new Partner Schools, a 12% increase on last year.
  • SCHOOLS NorthEast worked with school business managers to launch the new South Tyneside SBM network.
  • We recorded the highest turnover ever for the charity this year.
  • Embedded a brand new staffing team, the biggest we’ve ever had.
  • Virtual Communities are now under development and is soon to be launched.
  • We have had record engagement with our communications and social channels, including an 11% increase in Followers on our Twitter, and a 110% increase in likes on our Facebook.
  • We had a 29% increase in engagement in the media from 2016/17, with coverage on subjects such as funding, the Northern Powerhouse and Alternative Provision.
  • SCHOOLS NorthEast now has a monthly column in Tes for the first time in its history.
  • SCHOOLS NorthEast secured the first-ever media partnerships for our major events programme with Tes and Schools Week.
  • Alongside our loyal supporters, in the last year we have had 31 new companies who have joined us as members and an additional 19 organisations who have sponsored some of our bigger events. A special thank you to the main sponsors of our events this year: CEM Centre, CER, Edukit, EEF, First Class Supply,  GCSE Pod, Muckle, Pebble, vInspired, Ward Hadaway, and Womble Bond Dickinson.

 

The year that was for education in this country…

 

1st September 2017          

New exclusions guidance comes into force

Increase in primary PE and sport grant funding

Removal of general funding rate for the education services grant (ESG)      

Students begin studying new GCSEs graded 9 to 1 in the last subjects to convert over   

Maintained school governors gain powers to remove elected governors     

First school year since abolition of employment tribunal fees

First school year of “Analyse School Performance”, replacing RAISE        

14th September 2017           

National funding formula for schools and high needs policy paper published

21th September 2017          

DfE publishes response to consultation on short inspection proposals

9th October 2017           

Teaching Excellence Framework: lessons learned

4th December 2017          

“Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision: a green paper” published

4th December 2017          

“Careers strategy: making the most of everyone’s skills and talents” published

14th December 2017           

“Improving social mobility through education” published

8th January 2018          

Damian Hinds becomes Secretary of State for Education

1st February 2018           

DfE submits evidence to the STRB: 2018 pay award for school staff

16th March 2018         

“Alternative provision: vision and reform” published

16th March 2018          

School exclusions review: terms of reference published

April 2018                 

DfE Teacher Vacancy Service pilot launches

10th April 2018           

DfE drops plan to regulate all out-of-school education

4th May 2018         

“Principles for a clear and simple school accountability system” published

8th May 2018         

DfE “Supporting mental health in schools and colleges” research published

23rd May 2018         

“The future of the Social Mobility Commission” document published

23rd May 2018         

Department for Education publishes single departmental plan

25th May 2018        

GDPR requirements come into force

25th June 2018          

“Childhood obesity: a plan for action, chapter 2” published

27th June 2018        

Ofsted change statistical reporting of inspection outcomes for state-funded schools

30th June 2018        

“Reducing teacher workload” document published

What a year it has been. Have a lovely, restful summer break and we’ll see you on the other side!

Sir David Carter ‘worried’ about non-teachers leading MATs

It is worrying that academy trusts will increasingly be led by people from business with no experience of teaching, the National Schools Commissioner has said.

Sir David Carter said that currently about 90% of multi-academy trust CEOs had previously been Head Teachers, but he expected this proportion to drop in the future.

The National Schools Commissioner told Tes that “as the landscape gets more complex, we will need a more complex skills set in some places”.

He said that in the future there would be “more people than there are at the moment who are in a CEO role who have maybe worked in industry or in business or in a university rather than just the single school route coming through”.

And although he thinks that the number of MAT leaders with experience of school leadership “will not drop alarmingly”, he said more CEOs would be appointed because they have “a broader experience and broader skill set around change management strategy, delivery, action planning”.

Read the full article in the Tes.

Private tutors ‘should face DBS criminal record checks’ 

The UK’s biggest teaching union has called for all private home tutors to face criminal record checks before being allowed to work with children.

The National Education Union (NEU) said teachers barred from classrooms may try to work as private tutors.

Research by the Sutton Trust charity suggests the number of children in England and Wales who received tuition has doubled in a decade.

It is estimated more than 350,000 secondary-aged school children have received private tuition in 2018, according to a survey commissioned by the Sutton Trust, up from about 160,000 in 2009.

One in three children said the extra private tuition – where a parent has paid for the child to have additional academic teaching on top of their lessons at school – was to help with their GCSE exams.

Read the full article on the BBC.

Compulsory Mental Health education to be added to curriculum by 2020

All schools will teach children about good physical and mental health, how to stay safe on and offline, and the importance of healthy relationships under new plans published this week by Education Secretary Damian Hinds.

Under the proposals, all pupils will study compulsory health education as well as new reformed relationships education in primary school and relationships and sex education in secondary school.

The guidance, which was last updated in 2000, will become compulsory in all schools across the country from September 2020, and and the Government says it will put in place the building blocks needed for positive and safe relationships of all kinds.

The announcement said that schools will be supported as they prepare to teach the new subjects and will be able to begin doing so as soon as the materials are ready and available from September 2019, building on the existing best practice that will be shared by high performing schools.

Mr Hinds said that by making health education compulsory, it will ensure pupils are taught about the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, what determines their physical health and how to build mental resilience and wellbeing. It will also make sure children and young people learn how to recognise when they and others are struggling with mental health and how to respond.

The proposals, which follow the publication of the Childhood Obesity Plan and the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Green Paper, will ensure that the importance of good physical and mental health are an integral part of the updated subjects.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “I want to make sure that our children are able to grow up to become happy and well-rounded individuals who know how to deal with the challenges of the modern world. Part of this is making sure they are informed about how to keep themselves safe and healthy and have good relationships with others.

“Good physical and mental health is also at the heart of ensuring young people are ready for the adult world. By making health education compulsory we are giving young people the tools they need to be ready to thrive when they leave school.”

Under the updated guidance, teachers will talk to primary school pupils in an age appropriate way about the features of healthy friendships, family relationships and other relationships they are likely to encounter. At secondary school, teachers will build on the foundation of relationships education in primary and, at the appropriate time, extend teaching to include intimate relationships as well.

At both primary and secondary, pupils will learn about staying safe online – complementing the existing computing curriculum – and how to use technology safely, responsibly and respectfully. Lessons will also cover how to keep personal information private, and help young people navigate the virtual world, challenge harmful content and balance online and offline worlds.

The new guidance has been developed in response to a national call for evidence earlier this year and includes topics like mental wellbeing, consent, keeping safe online, physical health and fitness and LGBT issues. It will now be subject to a further 12-week consultation on the content and how the subjects are taught.

As well as teaching about the benefits of healthy eating and keeping fit, the new compulsory health education will include content on the prevention of health problems. It will help support the development of qualities such as confidence, resilience, self-respect and self-control. Good quality education on wider social and economic issues will continue to be taught in schools across the country through PSHE or other subjects, for example teaching about financial issues through maths and citizenship.

 

Ofsted refuses to name 300 schools with “particularly high levels of off-rolling”

Ofsted has refused to give details of the 300 schools it identified as having “particularly high levels of off-rolling” in a 26 June blogpost.

The inspectorate responded to a Freedom of Information Request submitted by education author Sue Cowley yesterday, stating that they consider the requested information to be exempt under section 33 of the Freedom of Information Act.

Going into further detail in an Appendix to the response, Ofsted state that revealing the names of the schools in question may allow them to prepare for inspection in advance and would “harm our inspection function”. The relevant section of the response states:

“Should schools believe that they may be inspected, as a result of this data being disclosed to public, they may try to prepare for the inspection; or to present the school in a particular way. This would make it more difficult for inspectors to assess the true performance of the school, particularly when other school leaders are only given notice of an inspection taking place on the afternoon before inspectors arrive.

We are satisfied that disclosure would harm our inspection function and that consequently the exemption at section 33 applies. As section 33 is a qualified exemption we are required to consider whether or not the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs that in releasing the information.”

Read the full response here.

Bronze Rusty Bullets in the Battlegrounds of our North East Schools

Rusty bullets

Jon Tait, Director of Acklam Grange Teaching School

Twitter: @TeamTait

You’d be forgiven for thinking this article was about gun crime in school. Thankfully, even with a recent Donald Trump visit to the UK and his efforts to try and persuade everyone to believe the American dream, it’s not. What it is though, is a story of perceived crimes against education. Crimes of perceived educational ignorance in the North, that the educational courtrooms of the south are trying to hang us for. A desire for the exporting of southern silver bullets to be used to win over the battlegrounds of the North.

Evidence based research and evidence informed practice are certainly the new buzzwords in town when it comes to education. There has certainly been a concerted effort in the last 2-3 years to get the education profession to adopt a more research based approach to its practices, similar to how our colleagues in the medical profession go about their business. On the face of it, it sounds entirely plausible….you wouldn’t expect to go and see a doctor when you were ill and let them experiment with different medicines on you, would you? You’d probably be quite annoyed and concerned if you found out that they weren’t using any form of research behind their methods and were just using a certain drug or procedure because they had a ‘feeling’ that it might make you better?

One of the crimes adjudged to have taken place over the last few years is an experimentation on students’ education without any clear, robust and detailed evidence to back up most of the strategies that teachers are using on a day to day basis in their classrooms. However, in the defence of teachers up and down the country, education is quite different to medicine. In education, context is key. Unlike an injury or illness that can generally be treated with the same drug (with relative success) whether you are 18 or 80 and live in Middlesbrough or Middlesex, children’s learning is affected by so many more things. The context in which we are working is absolutely crucial. What works for one child in one class, may not work for another child across the corridor in the same building. However, the prosecution will claim that there is also a danger that teachers and leaders dismiss some of these academic research studies and use their differing context as an excuse to not look at it in any depth. The key is therefore to have professional conversations about the research and make informed decisions about if it will have an impact on student learning in your context. As Tom Martell from the Education Endowment Fund points out ‘most research travels quite well within education, we just need to be open minded about its context and how we implement it’.

In terms of parity, Chris Zarraga, Director of Operations at SCHOOLS North East quite rightly points out, that the other big difference between the medical profession and education is that you’ll never expect to see a politician come out and publicly tell medical professionals how to perform open heart surgery or how to cure the common cold. Their crucial lack of understanding of context is a crime in itself. Take for instance the London Challenge and the stance by many, including esteemed dignitaries within education such as Sir Michael Wilshaw, that the North East just need to simply follow in London’s footsteps to ensure educational parity. However, this is where context really does come into play and where ignorance to it, or a refusal to accept it, is just as criminal. Closing the disadvantaged gap on paper can be very different when you’re working with families who show up as ‘Ever 6’ where a London city investment banker has been made redundant for six months, compared to a family in a North East coastal town where they have been part of a culture of generations of unemployment. Simply transferring the principles of a London Challenge, without the same funding and without the same context is clearly not going to be the silver bullet that some people think it is. This approach to medically treating educational ill health is more fitting with firing a gun loaded with bronze blanks.

Subscribing to the theory that you can pick an intervention off the shelf and just jump on that silver bullet because it says it’s going to improve student outcomes by a certain amount of months is just as criminal as being ignorant to the research in the first place. If school improvement was that easy, then we’d all do it overnight. The DfE would write the manual, we’d all read it and employ the strategies in our classroom and hey presto.…silver bullets all round. But we know (or we should do) that it’s not that straight forward. Taking context to the extreme view, Tom Martell from the Education Endowment Fund tells of a research trial in the 1980’s that found that caning students increased student outcomes by two months! Are we all going to jump on that silver bullet any time soon? Clearly the context here is different and this is where professional conversations need to be had to decipher whether or not an intervention can travel well through time or geography.

Evidence based research and evidence informed practice looks here to stay, but it’s all about your choice of weapon and ammunition. A highly skilled marksman will pick his gun and his bullets for the type of shot that he is aiming to execute. A comic book image of a man with a bag full of silver bullets and a shiny gun does not exist, not even in education.