Headteacher board elections: What you need to know

As the DfE reveals who will sit on powerful committees overseeing England’s schools system, here are the crucial facts you need to know.

The HTBs are a key part of our education system and help make decisions that will affect schools across the country for generations to come.

But despite their importance, they are little known and little understood, so here is a quick run-down of what they do, why they matter, and what to look out for when the election results are published.

Read the full article on the Tes and see below your new elected representatives:

North of England

RSC: Janet Renou


Zoe Carr (WISE Academies)

Chris Clarke (Lunesdale Learning Trust)

Nick Hurn (Trinity Catholic Trust)

Lesley Powell (North East Learning Trust)

Lancashire and West Yorkshire

RSC: Vicky Beer


Julie Bradley (Tauheedul Education Trust)

Karen Bramwell (Forward As One Church of England Multi Academy Trust)

Royston Halford (The Rowan Learning Trust)

Duncan Jacques (Exceed Academies Trust)

East Midlands and the Humber

RSC: John Edwards


Peter Bell (Community Inclusive Trust)

Anne Martin (QEGSMAT)

Roisin Paul (Chorus Education Trust)

Paul Stone (Discovery Schools Academy Trust)

West Midlands

RSC: Christine Quinn


Dame Mo Brennan (Matrix Academy Trust)

Mike Donoghue (John Taylor MAT)

Sinead Smith (Holy Spirit Catholic Multi Academy)

Margaret Yates (All Saints Catholic Collegiate)

South West England

RSC: Lisa Mannall


Sally Apps (Cabot Learning Federation)

Suzanne Flack (The Redstart Learning Partnership)

Paul Jones (Retired from First Federation Trust Academy)

Steve Savory (Gloucestershire Learning Alliance)

North east London and south east England

RSC: Sue Baldwin


Brian Conway (St. John the Baptist Catholic MAT)

Caroline Derbyshire (Saffron Academy Trust)

Karen Kerridge (Benflet Schools Trust)

Nardeep Sharma (Thrive Partnership Academy Trust)


North west London and south central England

RSC: Martin Post


Sarah Bennett (Inspiring Futures Through Learning)

Dame Sue Bourne (Retired from The Avenue School – Special Needs Academy Trust)

Tom Rees (Northampton Primary Academy Trust)

Claire Robins (Sir John Lawes Academies Trust)


South London and south-east England

RSC: Dominic Herrington


Sir Andrew Carter (South Farnham Educational Trust)

Jon Chaloner (GLF Schools)

Paula Farrow (Nexus Education Schools Trust)

Justin Smith (The Primary First Trust)


David Laws: 30-hours free childcare policy ‘utterly nuts’

Former schools minister says free childcare for working parents operates as “negative early years’ Pupil Premium” benefiting the wealthy, and almost prompted him to resign from the Coalition.

The government’s policy of giving working parents 30-hours free childcare but denying it to disadvantaged parents who are unemployed is “utterly nuts”, David Laws told the SCHOOLS NorthEast Summit.

The former Liberal Democrat schools minister, who now chairs the Education Policy Institute, branded the offer a “negative early years’ premium” benefiting wealthy parents, and said that when the policy was proposed by the Conservatives while the Coalition government was in power, it prompted his only threat to resign from government unless it was dropped.

Read the full article in the Tes.

Ofsted review: ‘Schools are narrowing the curriculum’

Findings in the Ofsted curriculum review report that schools are narrowing the primary curriculum by focusing too intensely on preparing for SATs.

Ofsted has highlighted the intensity of exam preparation for pupils, as well as questioning why some schools are shortening Key Stage 3, with some pupils not taking subjects such as history or a language after age 13.

The review found there was “a lack of shared understanding” of what the school curriculum actually means, and a “lack of clarity” around the language of the curriculum.

In the findings, Amada Spielman, Chief Inspector of Ofsted, said:  “It is unlikely that any school has prioritised testing over the curriculum as a deliberate choice.”

In the review, problems with attracting the right staff to help schools develop the curriculum was also flagged, inferring that schools have an issue with teacher training.

Ms Spielman continued: “Primary school leaders reported that recruiting staff who could design a curriculum was becoming increasingly difficult.

“Some Head Teachers thought that too much of what trainee teachers currently learn is focused on teaching to the English and mathematics tests.”

Commenting on Ofsted’s preliminary findings from its review of the curriculum, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “ASCL has long argued that every child should experience a broad and balanced curriculum. It’s good that Ofsted now also espouses what would be taken for granted in most other countries.

“However, it’s hardly surprising that schools focus intensely on KS2 tests and GCSEs as that’s how their performance is measured, with GCSEs crucial to the life-chances of their pupils.

“If Ofsted wants them to focus less on these assessments, we would suggest it lobbies the government for a change to the accountability system rather than criticising schools.

“Everybody wants to teach a broad curriculum. It is essential that we have an accountability system which supports rather than narrows that aspiration.”

Announced in March, the Ofsted curriculum review included research visits to 40 schools in its first phase, a review of inspection reports and five regional focus groups with Head Teachers. The review also garnered responses from a questionnaire given to Ofsted’s parent panel and online information from schools’ websites.

Speaking about the first phase of the Ofsted review, Amanda Spielman said: “It has revealed the depth of the challenge and school leaders need to recognise how easy it is to focus on the performance of the school and lose sight of the pupil.

“The Ofsted inspection, however, may well have helped to tip this balance in the past.

“The substance of the curriculum is a matter for government policy. Ofsted has a role in judging how well schools reflect the government’s intentions and don’t distort the aims that have been set.

“This is complex and is why this is a long-term investigation for us. It is one that I have no doubt will shape how we inspect in future.”

DfE to review ‘disproportionate’ exclusions of certain ethnicities

It has been reported this week that the Department for Education is to launch a review into the correlation between exclusions and pupil ethnicity, with a focus on the rates of exclusion between certain ethnic groups and their disproportionality to others.

The review will be part of the audit conducted by the Government on how different ethic groups are treated across public services.

There has been significant disparity reported in regards to exclusions particularly in pupils from black Caribbean backgrounds. Pupils from this ethnicity group are three times more likely to be excluded than white pupils, at a rate of 0.29 per cent compared to a rate of 0.1 per cent.

The highest rate of exclusions come from pupils with an Irish traveller or Roma/gypsy background at 0.49 per cent and 0.33 per cent respectively.

According to Schools Week, analysis by The Difference, a teacher training programme for the alternative provision sector, has found that in inner cities, where populations tend to be most diverse, local pupil referral units have disproportionately high numbers of pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds.

“In our cities where we believe we have the best schools, and the most diverse populations, actually what you see within the PRUs are many pupils from those diverse backgrounds,” said Kiran Gill, the group’s founder.

Speaking to Schools Week, Dave Whitaker, the executive principal of Springwell Learning Community in Barnsley said: “The issue of pupils from certain ethnicities being excluded is geographical and most pupils I deal with are from poor, white, working class backgrounds.

“The review is very timely, as something needs to be done about exclusions, and alternative provision, full-stop.”

In a press release issued by the Government, it states that ‘(the Government’s) education attainment data shows that there are disparities in primary school which increase in secondary school’ and that ‘Chinese and Asian pupils tend to perform well and white and black pupils do less well, particularly those eligible for free school meals.’

More information on this subject is to be released in due course.

Ann Mroz at the Summit: “The profession lacks confidence to stand up for itself.”

Tes Editor Anne Mroz told delegates that major changes in teaching are underway, but the Government is only engaging with a favoured few and “the profession lacks confidence to stand up for itself.”

Using debates over the use of phonics as an illustrative example, she said the Government tends to treat dissenting opinions from school leaders not as the sign of an active, involved profession, but as unacceptable defiance that needs to be stamped out.

Calling on Ministers to get out of the Westminster bubble more, she said: “If Westminster wants to know how good schools are they should come here.”

She went on to talk about scripted lessons, which some MATs are now rolling across all their schools. There are a range of opinions on this, with proponents saying it lends consistency to teaching and critics saying teachers risk being reduced to robots.

However, she said that regardless of its actual merits or otherwise, it seems to have already been accepted by the profession with little debate.

Calling on heads to stand up for themselves more, Ms Mroz said she was being a critical friend. She said that the profession was exceptionally good at standing up for others, but was “useless” at standing up for itself.

She highlighted the need to have a more confident profession which had robust input on the debate and involving a wide range of professional opinions. She said it shouldn’t accept fundamental changes in the practice of education without discussion.

Concluding her speech, she said the entire landscape of teaching is changing but only a favoured few who share the Government’s own perspective are taking part. Headteachers now fully expect to be ignored by Ministers and seem resigned to their fates, whereas if Heads were better at standing up for themselves the Government would be less keen to make ill-considered changes in the first place.

Summit 2017: Speaker Highlights

David Laws: Can English schools close the disadvantage gaps?

The Rt Hon David Laws, Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), was the first speaker of the day. The former Schools Minister relayed to the crowd the findings of EPI in closing the disadvantage gap in England, with a particular focus on the North East.

Mr Laws said: “To have achieved so much with so many economic issues in the past decade is something to be extremely proud about.

“However, while we’re doing well in narrowing the gap in primary and early years, it is in secondaries where we have these problems.

“Collectively in England, schools have narrowed the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged massively in the past decade, by 22% at the end of Early Years, 23% at Primary and 14% at Secondary.

“Nevertheless, schools with large amounts of disadvantaged pupils did better to close the gap than those with a lower amount of disadvantaged pupils.”

Read the full article here and read the EPI report here.

Sir Kevan Collins: Education policy, education reform and social justice. Harnessing evidence to improve outcomes for all

The focus of Sir Kevan Collins’ rousing speech was on three key topics: Early Years (self-regulation, language and communication and parental engagement), Teaching ‘Best Bits’ (meta cognition, improving feedback, securing early literacy and going beyond academies) and Post 16 and the ‘forgotten 40%’ (tackling misconceptions, diagnostic assessment and planned learning programmes).

Addressing the delegates, he said there had been a “total failure” to address the group of pupils who don’t get 5 A*-C or 4/5 grade GCSEs. He also spoke of the 1 in 7 schools where free school meal pupils perform as well as non-free school meal pupils and his ambition to see this move to nearer 1 in 3 or better in the future.

Mr Collins then went on to criticise a myriad of organisations who sell non evidenced solutions to schools, saying that there is “a lot of snake oil in the system.”

“Education evidence is more accessible than ever before. Our professional obligation is to start from what we know and reject uninformed fads.”

His presentation was rich with information for schools looking to use proven solutions, such as meta cognition and feedback, and to improve progress and attainment for all pupils. Sir Kevan received outstanding feedback, rallying the packed crowd and leaving them on the question of “why is the education sector so weak at spreading and sharing lessons from disciplined and informed innovation?”

Panel discussion: Ann Mroz, Rt Hon David Laws, Sir Kevan Collins, Rebecca Allen, John Hardy and Leslie Powell

In the half hour debate led by Ann Mroz, editor of the Tes, the panellists were asked what their number 1 leadership issue was:

Lesley Powell said it was the “Challenge of recruitment and retention.”

John Hardy told the crowd it was “funding” as for the “first time in 20 years heads are dealing with static or shrinking budgets.”

Becky Allen said for her it was “reconciling the accountability system with the things that Heads really want to do with their schools.”

Sir Kevan Collins told the audience it was “building the confidence and joy back into teaching so people feel rewarded.”

And for David Laws it was “delivering school improvement in the current system in the face of accountability and financial pressures and school structure issues.”

Early Years

The debate then turned to the topic of Early Years, with a question on the access to Early Years for disadvantaged children.

John Hardy questioned why the Government provided incentives to narrow the gap before nursery and then removed the incentives for non-working families, allowing the gap to widen again for the children who needed it most as they are only entitled to 15 hours, not the 30 hours working families are given.

Becky Allen said there was an urgent need for more evidence on the benefits of Early Years, saying “it’s important, but there is no evidence on it currently.”

David Laws then said that the government’s policy of giving working parents 30 hours free childcare but denying it to disadvantaged parents who are unemployed is “utterly nuts”. He described it as being akin to a “negative Pupil Premium”.

Kevan Collins then said that he is “keen to have funding proposals put forward to study effectiveness of Early Years interventions.”

Accountability and Progress 8

The panellists were then questioned on whether or not accountability drives school behaviour on Progress 8 and how can we improve the measure.

Becky Allen said that “it’s not an awful accountability metric” but that it is a “curriculum compliance measure”. She also believes that “Humanities should be in the bucket” and has a “real concern over languages as Progress 8 actively discourages entering pupils for this subject”.

Leslie Powell told the crowd that she thought the focus on ‘every child, every grade’ is good but is concerned that “Achievement 8, Progress 8 and EBacc contradict themselves

“We need to do more to recognise children at the very bottom. I have concern over outliers as the system is too sensitive.”

Ms Powell concluded that it should be considered as a measurement of the school and “not the cohort so should only be a measure over time.”

Kevan Collins got the biggest cheer of the day when he spoke passionately about his concern that the accountability framework was focused on “finding groups of children who are the best to go to university and ignored all other routes for children.”

He said: “The system is ill-equipped to support children that may not be right for university. We are just obsessed with route one kids.”

David Laws followed this with his point that for the system to have this level of autonomy, it “has to have accountability.”

“We had to move away from threshold approaches (the old 5 A*-C) which drove all the efforts around the C/D boundary.

“I believe Progress 8 is an incentive for people to lead tougher schools.”

Finally, a question from the floor asked: “what is the London view of the difference between primary and secondary performance in the region.”

The panel concluded that primaries may “feel like home” to pupils more, but that there are concerns over rural communities where pupils have to “travel larger distances and out of their communities to attend school.”

Iain Veitch and Mike Parker: SCHOOLS NorthEast Update

In their speech to the large crowd of delegates at the SCHOOLS NorthEast Summit, Mike Parker, SNE Director and Iain Veitch, SNE Vice Chair, used their impassioned speech to not only promote the achievements and successes over the past 10 years of the charity, but to implore to the audience the importance of becoming a partner school, highlighting the ‘moral purpose’ that comes with partnership.

Iain Veitch said: “The primary aim for SNE was to build a network for schools to collaborate and work together across geographical boundaries. In this, it has undoubtedly been a resounding success.”

They began with taking the audience back to 2007, when the last Harry Potter book was published and Tony Blair ended his time as Prime Minister. It was also an important year for SCHOOLS NorthEast, as that was the year the charity was established.

Iain Veitch brought a spotlight onto the varied successes of the charity – from the HealthMindED commission to the inception of Jobs in Schools North East, having saved his school almost £16,000 per year in recruitment fees.

Talk then turned to the influence of SCHOOLS NorthEast.

Mike Parker said to the crowd: “While we celebrate collaboration, and champion practical solutions to the problems school leaders face, the USP of SCHOOLS NorthEast is the voice it gives you in a national education system that is dominated by the Westminster bubble.

“What you have collectively achieved is to create a coherent voice for the region’s schools in the national debate.  To have an organisation that stands up for you both within and outside of the region is repeatedly cited nationally as a real asset.”

The influence of SCHOOLS NorthEast was cited in policy, media and in challenging the Government.

Mike said: “This is the tip of the influence iceberg. SCHOOLS NorthEast is now represented on All-Party Parliamentary Groups on school leadership and governance; our research has been quoted in the House of Commons and by members of the Education Select Committee; we represent you on national boards including the Careers & Enterprise Company strategy group alongside the director generals of the CBI and British Chambers of Commerce; we are invited to the DfE to participate in national forums and policy-specific groups such as the development of Achieving Excellence Areas under the last White Paper.

“All this work culminated in the presence of the Education Secretary here on stage at the Summit last year. And the fact remains that this is an organisation that increasingly has a voice that is listened to in Westminster and is not one of the stone throwers that is automatically ignored.”

Closing on the moral purpose of the organisation, Mr Veitch said: “I believe that we have something special here – there is no organisation like us anywhere else in the country, no apolitical institution which is prepared to be the voice of the children in the region it serves. Those notions of being independent and apolitical are crucial to our success; our legitimacy comes primarily from the fact that so many have chosen to be Partner Schools programme, members who will contribute to the agenda.

“It is the fact that we as members own the organisation and dictate its direction which prevents us from being open to the charge of being just an events based company or a partisan mouthpiece.

“If you value this organisation and not only appreciate everything it has done so far but also want it  to grow in influence and strength, then please be a Partner School. Those of you have not joined yet, please do; those of you who have, go out and recruit another school.

“At a time of London centric politics, it is vital that not only do we have a strong regional voice but also partnership which binds. Put simply, together we are stronger.”

North-East has the highest number of under performing schools

NEW research has revealed that the North-East and Yorkshire and Humber has the highest number of under performing schools in the country.

The figures, taken from Ofsted reports released in September this year, show that a total of 456 of 3,254 schools in the area were considered inadequate or requiring improvement.

The figure represents 14 per cent of the total and was the highest percentage in England.

Read the full article in the Northern Echo.

Dr Becky Allen at the Summit: EBacc for the many, not the few

Secondary school leaders at the SCHOOLS NorthEast 2017 Summit were given a real-time dissection of newly released secondary schools performance tables by Dr Becky Allen, Director of the respected Education Datalab research organisation. Delegates heard that:

  • The North East is the worst performing English region in terms of Progress 8, partially due to grade re-scaling.
  • We are falling behind in English, Maths and Ebacc but performing well in the open slot – for reasons that are unclear.
  • Relative to other slots the Ebacc is our worst performing area, with performance in modern foreign languages being particularly bad.
  • Entry rates in languages are low relative to the rest of the country, with Middlesbrough, South Tyneside and Redcar having especially low rates. Even very able pupil premium children in the North East tend not to take language subjects.

Dr Allen concluded by saying that the North East now needs to have a conversation about whether language study should remain part of the standard curriculum. She added that the odds seem to be stacked against the continued inclusion of languages, given that the grading difficulty makes it the most frequently “wasted” subject on Progress 8 calculations and the significant problems that exist in recruiting language teachers.

Previously a critic of the Ebacc, Dr Allen also said she had changed her mind and now sees the merit of enforcing a more academic curriculum. She cited a number of reasons for this:

  • Children’s subject choices will, unavoidably, be socially conditioned. If given free rein they may therefore make choices that are not in their long-term interests.
  • The key problem with allowing low-attaining pupils to study vocational subjects is that their literacy is then not increasing while they learn. To get better at literacy, a pupil has to be in a classroom even if that means studying subjects they may not necessarily enjoy.
  • Maths and English GCSEs serve as a passport to further study, with those holding them far more likely to go on to post-16 education.
  • There is no evidence that the introduction of the Ebacc has negatively affected outcomes in Maths and English, as was initially feared.

David Laws at SCHOOLS NorthEast Summit: ‘Success of schools less well known in North East’

SCHOOLS in the North East do well to close the disadvantage gap but this is relatively unknown in the rest of the country, according to the Rt Hon David Laws, Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute.

The former Schools Minister spoke to a packed crowd at the SCHOOLS NorthEast Summit today, held at St James’ Park, Newcastle and explained that, compared to other regions such as inner London and the South, North East successes are less well known.

David Laws, Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said: “To have achieved so much with so many economic issues in the past decade is something to be extremely proud about.”

However, research from the EPI suggests that in the North East, the narrowing of disadvantage gaps is more prevalent in primary and early years, compared to secondary level.

Mr Laws continued: “While we’re doing well in narrowing the gap in primary and early years, it is in secondaries where we have these problems.

“Collectively in England, schools have narrowed the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged massively in the past decade, by 22% at the end of Early Years, 23% at Primary and 14% at Secondary.

“However, schools with large amounts of disadvantaged pupils did better to close the gap than those with a lower amount of disadvantaged pupils.”

Speaking at the 10th Anniversary Summit, David Laws told the assembled school leaders that in the North East, performance is very good in primaries, but “doesn’t translate well into secondary education”.

“This is prevalent in rural areas and Northumberland particularly, as the disadvantage gap in primaries at the end of Key Stage 2 is only 9 months, whereas in secondaries, at the end of Key Stage 4, it is 25 months.”

In figures published by the Education Policy Institute, the North East as a region has the largest gap in the country of schools serving lower income households with children staying in post-16 education.

However, according to calculations by the Institute, the National Funding Formula in the North East will boost funding by 3% which totals £44 million across the region although this won’t, according to David Laws, offset wider pressures.

Mr Laws continued: “Having made the issue of disadvantage gaps a priority, both for the Government and ourselves as educators, we have made it a success.

“If we don’t continue it’ll stall or go backwards. The Secretary of State, Justine Greening, is committed to these policies that keep giving money to disadvantaged children.

“In the North East, there has been great progress made in closing the gap and great progress made in attainment. The region has much to build on proudly over years to come.

“There is a lot done, but there is still a lot to do.”

Read the full EPI report here.

North East Schools Succeed Despite the Loaded System

As SCHOOLS NorthEast prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary at their annual Summit on 12th October, Mike Parker, the charity’s Director, asks why the state of education in the region is so consistently misunderstood.

WHEN Sir Michael Wilshaw cast a glaring eye across an audience of c.450 Head Teachers at the SCHOOLS NorthEast Summit in 2015, it was advance warning of the much-anticipated lecture on the gap in performance at Primary and Secondary phases that was to follow.

The North East has grown tired of the custodians of the schooling system (the message was repeated by Education Secretary Justine Greening at the Summit in 2016) who chastise on the one hand while doing precious little to pull the policy levers to support lasting change in a region that has more than its fair share of challenges.

The region’s Secondaries are also a little frustrated, to put it mildly, that the Orwellian ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ narrative ignores the underlying achievements in a region beset by systemic problems.

This is best illustrated by Dr Rebecca Allen, Director of Education Datalab, whose research on contextual value added illustrated that the region’s schools are in fact the best in the country, both at Primary and Secondary level, in terms of positive impact. What we miss by looking only at national attainment indicators is any understanding of the challenging societal circumstances in which schools in the North East operate.

And, to be sure, there are many such circumstances. The North East has the lowest Gross Value Added per capita of all English regions, the highest unemployment level of all UK regions, the lowest university entry rate of any English region, the lowest levels of population mobility in England and Wales, the lowest level of owner occupation outside London and the highest levels of free school meals eligibility outside London.

A more nuanced view than the ‘Primaries good’/’Secondaries bad’ interpretation is that our schools by and large make the best of a less than ideal situation, whilst recognising the need to continually improve. This should never be an apology for attainment at KS4 being below most other areas, but it is important context when considering how the national education system needs to be supportive of all parts. The fact is that Becky Allen’s reading of the data shows that schools across the region succeed despite, rather than because of, the system.

A case in point is the 12 new ‘Opportunity Areas’ announced by the Secretary of State since last October. The aim is to provide extra investment and support to schools in areas identified by the Government’s Social Mobility Index as having low levels of social mobility.

ROBERT Goodwill, Minister for Families & Children, made this very point at the Conservative Party Conference this week when he used a speech at an Education Policy Institute fringe event to eulogise the ability of Opportunity Areas to “offer every child the opportunity (of a quality education), no matter their background”.

It’s a noble sentiment.

What a shame then, that the only two areas not to benefit from an Opportunity Area are the richly-funded and highly supported London boroughs and the North East. The skew of high performing primaries, the relative abundance of teaching schools and the impact of low house prices on the Social Mobility Index outcomes has, perversely, excluded North East local authority areas from being included under the current methodology for choosing locations for this targeted support.

Moreover, it is clear that as far as the Government is concerned, Opportunity Areas are essentially the only game in town for schools that are most in need. Many of the successful bids for the first round of the Strategic Schools Improvement Fund (SSIF) are in or close to Opportunity Areas and, again, no funding from this pot was awarded to bidders from the North East.

Other elements of the Government’s education policy also misunderstand the region’s needs. While the decision to overhaul the funding system into one National Funding Formula (NFF) is to be welcomed, we have serious concerns about the decision to include an ‘Area Cost Adjustment’ (ACA) element. The purpose of the ACA is to adjust for regional labour market costs by applying a multiplier to the total per pupil formula settlement. In practice, this means the North East will lose funds to the South. By way of example, a pupil with low prior attainment in any North East local authority (we are the only region where no local authority will receive any uplift from the ACA) would attract £5,347 of funding, but in Chelsea that same child would get £6,305, almost an extra thousand pounds. Social mobility in action? You decide.

Sir Nick Weller’s Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy pointed out that schools in the North are already struggling to retain and recruit the best teachers, and that secondaries with lower APS intakes are more likely to get a negative Ofsted grading. Evidence also shows that Progress 8, on average, skews against schools with higher FSM numbers. That’s before you get onto the Ebacc driving already disengaged working class pupils, particularly boys, down narrower curriculum choices.

We wouldn’t argue for special treatment. A level playing field on funding and support would be a tremendous start. A clearer understanding of the drivers of quality education for all and greater engagement in re-empowering the profession to lead that change is essential.

There must also be greater focus on improving the environment around schools; driving up parental aspirations and skills so that they can engage and support children through their school years; ensuring those crucial early years are immersed in the spoken and written word and rich in social capital.

As one North East Head once put it, “if you started building the Channel Tunnel an inch out either side, you’d have one heck of a gap at the other end”.

Schools are working hard to bridge that gap. Let’s get an education system scaffolded around them that ensures they achieve because of, and not despite, the system.

The SCHOOLS NorthEast Summit will be taking place in Newcastle on 12th October. To book your place, head to www.schoolsnortheast.com/summit