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 (



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