Schools North East held their Annual General Meeting at Durham Leadership Centre on Thursday 26th September 2019, with over 60 Partner School Head Teachers attending. Chis Zarraga, Director of Operations, introduced the meeting and gave an update on the activities of the charity in 2018/19 and going forward into the next year.
We were delighted to be joined by guest speaker Professor Stephen Gorard, from Durham University, who spoke about the data behind North East attainment and deprivation, debunking the myth that students in our region perform worse than elsewhere in the country. He demonstrated that when contextual factors around deprivation are controlled for, the North East does no worse than other regions, and illustrated the significant issues for the region’s schools due to the use of measures such as Progress 8.
Delegates also debated a range of policy ‘asks’ for the region, with calls for more funding targeted to specifically address the severe impact of long term deprivation, less flux and change in the system, and divorcing educational policy from party politics.
The Partner School Head Teachers were posed the question ‘what would be in your General Election Manifesto for Education’. Alongside calls for more funding, and specifically funding targeted to deprived areas and the schools which need it most, there was a strong consensus that the education system is in too much flux and uncertainty.
School leaders were unanimous that the newly announced three year funding plan was not enough for schools to be able to forward plan, as well as feeling that it disguised the fact that many schools would not see any additional funding. In discussions it became apparent that any meaningful funding plan must be for a minimum of 10 years, in order to allow school leaders to adequately plan for the future.
Equally, many attendees felt that schools had faced too much change in recent years, as policies have changed with the coming and going of each education secretary. Many called for sufficient time to allow polices to be properly implemented and reviewed, while there were also calls for education policy to become independent of party politics in government.
It was a successful start to discussions around North East education policy which will be ongoing over the coming weeks.