School Business Managers set MASSIVE Goals at SBM Conference

School business management professionals from across the North East and beyond gathered at St James’ Park in Newcastle yesterday for the fifth annual SCHOOLS NorthEast School Business Management Conference.


The theme of the conference, the largest of its kind in the country,  was MASSIVE goals, so in welcoming delegates SCHOOLS NorthEast’s Director of Operations and Development, Chris Zarraga outlined our own MASSIVE goals to support schools and ensure that all children and young people in our region get the best possible start in life.


Delegates were also welcomed by our Chair John Hardy, Head Teacher at St John Vianney’s Primary School in Hartlepool. John stressed what a vital role School Business Managers played in the education of our children and young people.


The keynote speaker this year was David Hyner, who told delegates that SMART goals don’t work and that they should instead set themselves MASSIVE goals. He made this case in two highly engaging and entertaining sessions.


Delegates were then given the option twelve breakout sessions, giving them practical advice in areas like HR, communications, finance and regulation.


Throughout the day, delegates had the opportunity to peruse a packed exhibition and network with colleagues from across the region, as well as a wide selection of suppliers and providers.


We would like to thank all of the delegates, speakers and exhibitors, and particularly our main sponsor for the conference First Class Supply! We would like to extend our thanks to session room sponsors Muckle and United Carlton and our delegate bag sponsors Ward Hadaway.


Top honours for North East school leaders

Congratulations to the school leaders from our region who were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2017 for services to education!

Lesley Powell, Executive Principal of The Academy at Shotton Hall and CEO of the North East Learning Trust was awarded a CBE. Lesley has been teaching for 29 years, starting as an NQT at Highfield School in Gateshead. She joined Shotton Hall 12 years ago as Deputy Head and has been Headteacher for seven years.

In this period, Shotton Hall has become a teaching school, received an outstanding Ofsted judgement and, earlier this year, became one of just 11 research schools – the first in the North East.

Also receiving an honour was Mandy Southwick, Principal of Marchbank Free School in Darlington, who was awarded an MBE. Marchbank specialises in helping primary aged pupils with Social Emotional and Mental Health difficulties (SEMH). Mandy is herself from Darlington and started teaching at Aycliffe Village Primary School.

Bethan Harding was also awarded an MBE. Bethan recently joined Bede Academy in Blyth as Head of Primary Years. She previously worked at a primary school in Cardiff. She has been recognised not just for leading her own highly successful school, but also for her contribution to school improvement across South Wales.

Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education, said:

“I would like to congratulate everyone recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. These are extraordinary people, whose achievements improve the lives of children, young people and adults through excellent care and education, and promoting equality and diversity for all.”

Grammar school proposals missing from Queen’s Speech

With the Conservatives losing their majority at the general election on 8 June, key education proposals were absent from the Queen’s Speech earlier this week.

In a toned down ceremony, the Queen’s speech – written by the government – made no mention of the expansion of selective education that the Conservative Party proposed prior to the election.

Also missing was the proposal to axe free school dinners for all five to seven year olds. The Conservatives had pledged to replace these with free breakfasts but backtracked when it was revealed that they had budgeted just 7p per meal.

One pledge that did make the cut was the delivery of fairer funding for schools. School funding was a major issue during the election campaign and the government received substantial criticism – including from SCHOOLS NorthEast – for their proposed national funding formula. It is unclear yet whether the government intends to continue with the formula as they had proposed, or indeed whether the schools budget would increase and by how much.

The Speech also contained commitments to ensuring “that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school” and “a major reform of technical education”. There was also a promise that the government “will reform mental health legislation and ensure that mental health is prioritised in the National Health Service in England”.

Queen’s Speech 2017: SCHOOLS NorthEast response

SCHOOLS NorthEast, the representative body for all 1,250 schools in the region, welcomes the Government’s commitment to fairer funding for schools, reform of technical education and a greater emphasis on mental health outlined in today’s Queen’s Speech, but the quality of implementation will be key to their success.


School funding

From the very beginning, SCHOOLS NorthEast has backed the concept of a national fair funding formula and have campaigned hard on this issue. Unfortunately there is a large gap between the Government’s view of what is fair and the reality. North East schools are currently significantly underfunded compared to both national and London levels.

Mike Parker, Director of SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: “The Government has made a commitment to fairer funding and will now have to deliver this. To do so, the Government will have to increase funding for all schools to address the drastic state of school finances. But it will also need to rebalance the national schools budget which has for too long seen North East schools underfunded.

“This was a key issue in the general election and people were very clear that they wanted to see more funding going to schools. The Government should give the voters what they have asked for.”


Grammar schools

SCHOOLS NorthEast welcomes the omission of the expansion of grammar schools from the Queen’s Speech.

“Evidence has repeatedly shown that grammar schools do not increase social mobility. The plans met universal opposition from school leaders in the North East and it is clear that their reintroduction to our region would be deeply damaging – particularly in our most deprived communities.”


Technical education

Reform of technical education is very welcome. It is important that vocational qualifications are valued as highly as academic ones.

“The Government is right to strengthen vocational qualifications. These equip young people with the skills that our regional economy needs. Putting vocational and academic qualifications on the same level is good for both our young people and our businesses. However, the Government’s current focus at GCSE level has had the effect of narrowing curriculum options to the detriment of both pupils and the wider economy.”


Mental health

Mental health is one of the uppermost concerns for school leaders in our region, so we strongly support the Government’s proposals to prioritise mental health within the NHS.

“We commend the Government on its efforts to place more emphasis on mental health and urge health officials to make sure that this vision becomes a reality.”

School leaders urge Government to do more on mental health

At SCHOOLS NorthEast’s inaugural Healthy MindED Conference last week, delegates told us what the government needs to do to improve mental health and wellbeing in schools.

Here are 5 things that schools would like to see the government do:

1. Funding

Schools have identified many different ways in which increased funding could help them deal better with the emotional and mental health needs of their pupils. Not only do schools need more money to provide support to children and young people – perhaps by funding dedicated staff – CAMHS and other services (e.g. social services) that sit around schools also need sufficient funding.

2. Training

Schools are keen to help when their pupils encounter mental health difficulties but do not always feel that they have the appropriate expertise. More training would be welcome, but so too would increased funding to access existing training.

3. Access to services

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) waiting times are far too long in many parts of our region and it is clear that many services are massively over capacity. The Government needs to invest more in CAMHS to ensure that children and young people can access the services that they need when they need them. More also needs to be done to build links and understanding between CAMHS and schools.

4. A better balance between attainment and well-being

Some school leaders feel that the focus on academic attainment – whilst undoubtedly important – can have a detrimental impact on pupil mental health. There are a range of things that the government could do to rebalance this and put a greater priority on mental health and emotional well-being.

5. Reduce pressure on schools

School accountability measures are putting a great deal of pressure on schools and school staff. Unfortunately this pressure is often passed on to pupils and does not create an environment that is conducive to positive mental health.

North East has the most pupils offered first preference school

A higher proportion of pupils received offers from their first preference school in the North East than any other region.

This week the Government released statistics on primary and secondary school applications and offers for places starting in September 2017.

The figures show that pupils in the North East were the most likely to receive an offer from their preferred school at both primary and secondary level. 94.1% of the 27,949 applicants for primary places were allocated their first preference, compared with 90.0% nationally. This is an increase on last year, where 92.7% of primary starters were offered their first choice.

Redcar and Cleveland had the highest proportion (98.7%) of primary applicants offered their first choice of all local authorities in the country. Hartlepool (97.7%), Northumberland (96.5%), Sunderland (96.4%) and Gateshead (95.8%) are also in the national top 10. Newcastle had the lowest proportion (86.9%) of the North East local authorities.

At secondary level, 90.9% of the 23,925 applicants in the North East received an offer from their first preference school compared to 83.5% nationally. This is a decrease on the figures for last year when 91.8% of applicants were allocated to their first choice of school.

Of all the local authorities in England, Northumberland had the highest proportion (98.2%) of secondary applicants offered a place in their first choice school. This is likely to be because it is a rural, and in parts sparsely populated, county. Darlington had the lowest proportion (83.8%) in the region, closely followed by Middlesbrough (83.9%).

Nationally, this is the lowest proportion of 11-year-olds offered their first choice since 2010. The Department for Education, however, says that the figures show “the number of children going to their preferred choice of school is on the rise”. A spokesperson said, “The vast majority of parents continue to secure a place at their first choice of school for their child, 86.9 per cent this year – with more than 95 per cent having received offers at one of their top three choices”.


Ofsted proposes changes to short inspections

A full inspection would be completed within a maximum of 15 working days when a short inspection converts, whilst around 20% of good schools would automatically receive full inspections.

On Thursday, Ofsted launched a consultation on new proposals to “improve the short inspection model” and “make the conversion process more manageable for all involved”.

Short inspections were introduced in September 2015 for schools previously judged to be good. They last for just one day and, in most cases, the inspectors are satisfied that the school remains good. However, around a third of short inspections are converted to full inspections. This happens when the lead inspector decides that the school may no longer be good. Within 48 hours, a team of inspectors arrives to collect more evidence and reach a final decision.

However, Ofsted has found the 48-hour conversion period challenging because it means that inspection schedules often change at the last minute, standing inspectors down at short notice. They have also noted that school leaders find the current experience of conversion “overwhelming”. Finally, they say that “in about 20% of cases, before a short inspection takes place it is already clear that a school is facing complex circumstances that warrant a full inspection”.

Ofsted is therefore proposing two operational changes:

  1. When a short inspection converts, the full inspection will be completed within a maximum of 15 working days, rather than 48 hours.
  2. A full inspection will automatically take place in around 1 in 5 cases where Ofsted has prior evidence that a school is in complex circumstances.

These changes are being piloted in around 35 schools this term. If the proposals are accepted, it is expected that the changes will take effect immediately after the October half term this year.

What do you think?

The consultation is open for around 2 months and will close at 11:30pm on 18 August 2017. As always, if you have a strong opinion on these proposals, we would encourage you to submit your own response to the consultation. You can do so here.

SCHOOLS NorthEast is also interested in hearing your views, so that you can inform the response that we will be submitting on behalf of North East schools. If you would like to contribute to our response, please contact our Policy Officer, Tom Sedgwick (

Mini reshuffle at the DfE

Anne Milton and Robert Goodwill join the Department for Education ministerial team, whilst Justine Greening and Nick Gibb stay in place.

Following last week’s general election, Theresa May has carried out a very minor reshuffle of her ministers. When it looked likely that May’s Conservatives were on course for a landslide victory, there were strong rumours that she would strengthen her position with a significant change in ministerial personnel. The reality of a Conservative minority government has resulted in very few changes.

Justine Greening remains Secretary of State for Education. She is thought by many to be unenthusiastic about the return of grammar schools, but commentators predict this will be off the table as the Government will struggle to get sufficient backing for the proposal to pass through the House of Commons. The retention of Greening is seen as further confirmation that grammars will not make a resurgence.


Elsewhere in the Department, Nick Gibb (School Standards), Jo Johnson (Universities), Caroline Dinenage (Early Years) and Lord Nash (School System) have all retained their pre-election briefs.

The two ministers who will not be joining them are Edward Timpson (Children and Families) and Robert Halfon (Apprenticeships). Timpson lost his Crewe and Nantwich seat in Cheshire to Labour’s Laura Smith by just 48 votes. Smith is herself a teacher and education campaigner. Halfon meanwhile retained his seat but was dropped by May.

Why was Robert Halfon sacked?

The decision to get rid of Robert Halfon has surprised a number of commentators. Halfon was seen as very committed to his role, with a long history of history of interest in the FE sector.


When asked why May had decided to sack him, Halfon said “I wasn’t really given a reason”. There has been speculation, however, that it was because Halfon is a close ally of the former Chancellor George Osborne who has been very critical of May since taking over as Editor of the London Evening Standard. Since his sacking, Halfon too has criticised the Conservative election campaign.

Crucially for schools, Halfon is a strong advocate of the careers benchmark scheme. Only time will tell whether his successor, Anne Milton, will give the scheme the same backing.

Who are Anne Milton and Robert Goodwill?

Anne Milton has been the MP for Guildford in Surrey since 2005. She is originally from West Sussex, where she attended a grammar school in Haywards Heath, before training as a nurse. She worked in the NHS for 25 years as a district nurse and in palliative care before her election to Parliament.

Since taking her seat in the Commons, Milton has served on the Health Select Committee and held a number of ministerial and shadow ministerial posts. Most recently she was Deputy Chief Whip (2015-17). She has now been appointed Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills.

Edward Timpson’s replacement as Children and Families Minister is Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby MP. He was educated at an independent Quaker school in York, before studying Agriculture at Newcastle University. He is a farmer and a funeral director.

Like Milton, Goodwill joined the Commons in 2005 after five years as a Member of the European Parliament. He has held a number of ministerial positions, most recently Minister of State for Immigration in the Home Office.

Labour reshuffle?

Jeremy Corbyn has also carried out a very minor reshuffle. It was thought that he might use the opportunity to bring back some of his more centrist colleagues who quit the shadow cabinet after he took office, but he has instead chosen only to fill the vacancies left by retired colleagues.

This means that Angela Rayner remains Shadow Secretary of State for Education. It has yet to be announced whether the rest of Labour’s shadow education team will stay in place, although it is thought likely. Before the election, these were Mike Kane (Schools), Tulip Siddiq (Early Years), Emma Lewell-Buck (Children and Families) and Gordon Marsden (Apprenticeships and Skills).

What about the Liberal Democrats?

In the last Parliament, the Lib Dem education spokesperson was former head teacher John Pugh. However, with Pugh not running in the 2017 election, the position was taken up by Sarah Olney who won the Richmond Park by-election against Zac Goldsmith in December last year. Goldsmith retook his seat last week, so it is unclear who will now take the education brief for the Liberal Democrats.

Following the resignation of Tim Farron on Wednesday, it is likely that we will have to wait until a new leader is in place before we know who will hold the education brief.

What can schools expect from a minority government?

The results of yesterday’s general election has caused a lot of uncertainty, not least for schools. Here we outline what schools might expect.

  1. A new Prime Minister? Whilst Theresa May is likely to continue as Prime Minister in the short term, there is a great deal of discontentment within her party about the way that this campaign was conducted. There is a good chance, therefore, that there will be a new Prime Minister relatively soon. Whoever this might be, they will have their own ideas about schools.
  2. An end to the grammar schools project? The drive to reintroduce grammar schools is largely seen as a pet project of Theresa May and her team – particularly Nick Timothy, one of her chiefs of staff – rather than the DfE. With May and Timothy weakened by the election result and the lack of a Conservative majority in the Commons, it looks unlikely that the expansion of selective education will take place.
  3. A new Education Secretary? When it looked likely that the Conservatives would return with an increased majority, there was a strong feeling that Justine Greening might be moved from Education and replaced with someone more favourable to grammar schools. Now that grammar schools look like they may be off the table, it is possible that Greening may stay. Grammars aside, she was seen to be doing a relatively good job and to be committed to rebuilding the profession. However, reshuffles often follow elections so we could be due another new Education Secretary.
  4. The death of the National Funding Formula? The National Funding Formula has proved very unpopular, including among parts of the Conservative Party. It is very likely that the new Government will revisit the formula and either make significant changes or abandon the change altogether.
  5. Schools less of a priority? Brexit will dominate – more now than ever before. We can also expect economic issues to return to the fore and a continued focused on health. It is likely, therefore, that schools will slip down the priority list unless the profession ensures its voice is clearly heard.


New faces in education?

There is a vacancy within the Department for Education as Edward Timpson, Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families, lost his Crewe and Nantwich seat.

Another influential education figure who has failed to return to Parliament was Neil Carmichael, Conservative chair of the education select committee, who lost Stroud to Labour.

What did the Conservative manifesto say on education?

In the run-up to this year’s General Election, the Conservative Party launched their manifesto “Forward, Together: Our Plan for a Stronger Britain and a Prosperous Future”.

The pledges made to the education sector were listed in a section titled “The world’s great meritocracy”. Below is a summary of their promises and plans:

  1. Deliver more school places by ending the ban on selective schools and continuing the free schools programme, aiming to build 100 new ones each year
  2. Prohibit councils from creating any new places in schools that have been rated either Inadequate or Requires Improvement
  3. Ask universities and independent schools to help run state schools
  4. Increase overall schools budget by £4bn by 2022 and ensure no school is worse off as part of the new funding formula
  5. Open a specialist maths school in every major city in England
  6. Introduce a curriculum fund for developing knowledge-rich materials
  7. Expect 75% of pupils to have entered EBacc subjects by end of next parliament, with 90% by 2025
  8. Offer forgiveness on student loan repayments for teachers to help retain them within the profession
  9. Create a jobs portal for schools to advertise vacancies in order to reduce costs and help with recruitment
  10. Offer free school breakfast to all primary school pupils and scrap universal infant free school meals 
  11. Introduce mental health first aid training for teachers in every school
  12. Replace unfair and ineffective inclusivity rules preventing establishment of new Roman Catholic schools

The Conservative Party also wants to create more nurseries by introducing the presumption that all new primary schools should include one. They promise to deliver a world-class technical education by replacing 13,000 existing technical qualifications with the new T-levels.

Read the 2017 Conservative Manifesto here.

However, it is unclear how much of the manifesto will be implemented if the Conservatives form a minority government. It is worth also looking, therefore, at what the DUP – the Conservatives’ likely partners – have said on education. The main focus on education in their manifesto is funding and resourcing. They have pledged to resolve “the funding crisis facing our schools”. This could potentially place more pressure on the Conservatives to increase the schools’ budget.


Schools must ratchet up fight for funding amid chaos of hung parliament

SCHOOLS NorthEast is urging Head Teachers to press the case for the new government to fill the looming black hole in school finances.

SCHOOLS NorthEast has today called on school leaders to intensify their efforts to secure much needed funding to stave off swingeing budgetary cuts that are threatening the quality of education for pupils across the region.

We are urging Head Teachers and staff within schools to press home the case for additional funding as the political parties grapple with the fall out of last night’s election result which left the country without a majority party.

The governing pact formed by the Conservative Party and the DUP has led to speculation that the more controversial elements of the Tory manifesto – the reintroduction of grammar schools and a move to a National Funding Formula for schools – will be abandoned.

The DUP Manifesto included a clear commitment to fight for more schools funding, saying it was committed to “resolving the funding crisis facing our schools thus ensuring that we prioritise frontline funding for our schools so that all our children receive the best educational start in life.”

SCHOOLS NorthEast has called on the teaching profession to write again to all MPs and to the Government to ensure they are aware of the punishing impact of a funding shortfall that will see a real terms cut in school budgets of between 8 and 20 per cent by 2020.

Mike Parker, director of SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: “Funding is the single greatest threat to pupils in the North East getting a high quality education in the coming years. Schools are facing an impossible task in trying to balance the books in the face of a £3bn funding shortfall over the next three years. With staffing costs accounting for 75-90% of a school’s total budget, the depth of cuts required will be devastating if the Government doesn’t move swiftly to properly fund education in this country.”