Government to respond to consultation on ‘secure fit’ writing test model

Changes are expected to be announced soon following the governments consultation on the current assessment system.

Since 2016, reforms to the Sats have seen ‘secure fit’ marking system where all pupils are required to reach all of the criteria set out by government in order to reach the expected standard.

This system is seen to be too rigid, as pupils who reach all but one of the criteria are judged in the same way as those that miss all of them. It is also seen to discriminate against children with dyslexia.

The government has been consulting on these changes, and there has been a high level of engagement with teachers during the process. The response is expected to be announced soon, and the National Association of Head Teachers has advised head teachers to expect a ‘best fit’ model going forward, which would give more weight to the judgement of teachers.

This week the NAHT has written to its members following government talks, to advise them stop preparing for further tests under the current system as they expect the changes to come into effect from 2017-18.

EBacc target reduced to 75% following consultation

In 2015, the government pledged that 90% of pupils would be entered for the full slate of EBacc subjects by 2020.

Responding to a 2015 consultation on the EBacc published this week, the government is now aiming for 90% “starting to study EBacc GCSE courses” by 2025, meaning that they would not achieve the original target of 90% entered for the EBacc until 2027.

Justine Greening has stated that the consultation has allowed the government to listen to the concerns of schools and the barriers they face in achieving the original target. As a result they have now set a new target of 75% of pupils studying EBacc subjects by 2022.

One key concern that had been raised by head teachers through this consultation was a lack of specialist subject teachers, and this has played a part in the target changes announced this week.

The consultation also raised some other areas of concern for both parents and teachers around the potential for the curriculum to be narrowed, and some subjects (particularly the arts) becoming unviable due to low entry numbers.

So far the data does not support this as it shows that state-funded schools which have an increased EBacc entry, have also seen an increase in the uptake of arts subjects. Nor has there been a drop in GCSE entries to these subjects.

The English Baccalaureate, made up of English, maths, science, history or geography and a language is designed to ensure that more pupils have the opportunity to study these subjects (which are seen to open more doors to degrees), regardless of their social background. So far the numbers of pupils studying the EBacc has risen from 22% to 40% since 201o, whilst the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and non-disadvantaged pupils has closed by 9.3% at key stage 2 and 7% at key stage 4 since 2011.

Year of firsts for SCHOOLS NorthEast

SCHOOLS NorthEast broke fresh ground in a range of new areas in 2016/17 on behalf of the region’s schools.

The UK’s first and only schools-led regional network delivered new activity in leadership, governance and support for mental health in line with the new three-year strategy, Shaping Our Future, which was launched at the SNE Summit in October.

There was a landmark first for the Summit with Education Secretary, Justine Greening, putting in an appearance in her first official speaking engagement post the Conservative Party Conference.

The representative arm of SCHOOLS NorthEast’s work also involved engagement with government at all levels – regional and national – including briefing meetings with Department for Education officials and contributions to All Party Parliamentary Groups on education.

SCHOOLS NorthEast’s policy work on school funding was repeatedly cited in debates on the floor of the House of Commons and via the Education Select Committee.

The work of the UK’s first schools-led mental health commission, Healthy MindED, was recognised in debates in Westminster Hall and at national conferences on pupil wellbeing.

In line with the new strategy, work is underway to support schools in the region looking to collaborate in evidence-based education practice. Shaping Our Future outlines the ambition to support schools to create a culture of evidence-led teaching and this programme will continue to develop in 2017/18.

Considerable effort has been taken to grow capacity in the core SCHOOLS NorthEast team to meet the increasing demand from schools in the region for support. This enabled the highly-valued events programme to be further extended during this current academic year.

More than 2,000 school leaders have engaged with this year’s programme which included a number of new opportunities for schools to enjoy high quality CPD and networking opportunities. These included the Regional Governance Conference which attracted 400 governors and academy non-executive directors to the largest gathering of its kind in the country.

SCHOOLS NorthEast also delivered its first mental health conference with 150 delegates drawn from all corners of the region.

Other key events included two highly popular KS3 literacy conferences and the ever popular SBM Annual Conference.

The fourth strand of the Shaping Our Future strategy – supporting improvement in adult basic skills – saw SCHOOLS NorthEast engage in the North East Literacy Forum which led to the launch of the Read North East campaign which is targeting interventions and support to encourage greater parental engagement in reading with children, particularly in early years.

With a strengthened team, the programme for 2017/18 will be published in time for the new academic year.

We thank you for all your engagement and continued support and wish you all a restful summer break! See you in September!

Former Schools Minister announced for SNE Summit

ONE of the most ardent critics of the Government’s proposed grammar schools expansion programme has been confirmed as a keynote speaker at the SCHOOLS NorthEast Summit this October.

Rt Hon David Laws, Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute, has been vociferous in calls for greater levels of school funding and in exposing the dearth of evidence behind plans to widen selective education.

Mr Laws served in the Coalition Government from 2010-2015 in roles as Schools Minister, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Cabinet Office Minister. During his time as Schools Minister, he was responsible for policy areas including all capital and revenue funding, the Pupil Premium, accountability and policy on teachers and leadership.

More than 100 places at the summit have already been secured by schools in the first 24 hours of booking opening. To book your place, email

SCHOOLS NorthEast’s event programme continues to grow year on year, in response to feedback and input from our schools network across the region.

Following the latest changes to school inspections, we are coordinating a half-day briefing by Ofsted in September. The event will cover:

  • The latest changes and planned changes to school inspections;
  • The inspection of school governance;
  • How inspectors establish progress made by pupils who have special educational needs and/or disabilities; and
  • A questions and answer session with the panel of presenters.

We are pleased to be able to deliver this as a free event, which will be held on Monday 25th September at Boldon Quality Hotel, Boldon. There will be two, half day sessions (one morning and one afternoon) for delegates to choose from. Places will be limited to two per school as we expect demand for this event to be high. Find out more here.

We will also be holding our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Tuesday 19th September at Shotton Hall, Peterlee. This event is open to anyone from one of our Partner Schools, however only the schools appointed member will be eligible to vote on the day. Further information on this event will be sent our shortly.

£1.3billion diverted into core funding over next two years

THE Government has announced that £1.3bn will be diverted into core school funding from other pots including money earmarked for new free schools and the ‘healthy pupils’ programme.

Education Secretary Justine Greening announced the funding switch as she confirmed the Government’s commitment to deliver the national funding formula in 2018.

The £1.3 billion, in addition to the budget set in the 2015 spending review, would mean that core funding would be £2.6 billion higher in 2019-20, compared to 2017-18, Ms Greening stated.

One of the chief concerns that has been raised is that the £1.3 billion is not ‘new’ money from the Treasury, but will instead be recouped from savings to be made in other areas of the DfE’s budget.

A total of £320 million of the additional funding will come from the new tax on sugary soft drinks and had been pledged to increase the primary sports funding pot from 2017-18.

Whilst the confirmation of the money for the sports funding is welcomed, the timing leaves Primary Heads little time to effectively plan how to use it before the start of the new term.

Further money will be taken from the free schools budget, fuelling concerns that the current free schools programme is too expensive to deliver.

Mike Parker, Director of SCHOOLS NorthEast also raised the concern that the £1.3 billion will still leave schools with a shortfall. He said: “While additional funding into schools’ core budgets is to be welcomed, there is no new funding and other areas of school life will be hit to fund the redistribution. Furthermore, while £1.3bn is significant, it falls considerably short of the £3bn funding blackhole the National Audit Office has calculated that schools are facing.”


Commission makes six key recommendations to tackle educational inequality

Recommendations from the Commission on Educational Inequality, led by Nick Clegg, include housing subsidies for teachers working in deprived areas.

The commission was set up by the Social Market Foundation and is chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. He is joined by Dr Becky Allen from Education Datalab, Sam Freedman from Teach First, Labour MP Stephen Kinnock and Conservative MP Suella Fernandes.

Their report, released today, makes the following six key recommendations:

1. Reduce housing costs for teachers in disadvantaged areas

“Schools in disadvantaged areas should have access to a fund for providing incentives to teachers that make housing more affordable. This should be run as a trial and the findings used to inform whether such schemes can be expanded in the future.”

2. Introduce leadership in low-income area schools as a condition for headship

“It should become a condition of gaining the headship qualification that a teacher has been in middle leadership in a school in a disadvantaged area. This would encourage experienced and aspiring teachers and school leaders to spend time in disadvantaged schools.”

3. Make schools publish training provision and turnover rates

“The Government should compel schools to publish data on training provision and turnover rates for early-career teachers in different schools and across multi-academy trusts. This should be produced in a standardised form so as to promote comparability and shine a light on retention and development problems.”

4. Launch “family literacy” classes in primary schools

“The Government should plan and launch a programme of after-school “family literacy” classes in primary schools with above-average proportions of children eligible for Free School Meals. Funding for these classes should be ring-fenced within the Skills Funding Agency budget.”

5. Take a new approach to the relationship between parents and schools

“Schools should take a new approach to contracts between teachers and parents, which should be signed by both parties as equals who both have responsibilities. Teachers should commit to setting high quality homework that demonstrably improves the child’s educational development and to supporting parents in helping their children; parents should commit to ensuring that this homework is completed and given due care, and to having regular contact with the school to discuss progress. Contracts should be signed in the early weeks of first attending school and renewed annually with each year’s teachers as the child progresses through the school.”

6. Implement new benchmarks for independent schools to meet

“New benchmarks for independent schools to meet in order to retain their charitable status should include their provision of out-of-school activities to the children of parents who live locally. In addition, independent schools that are registered as charities should publish information on the value of any support (‘public benefit’) they provide to the local community, whether this takes the form of teaching support, making sports facilities available or running extracurricular activities for children from the state-maintained sector in the local area. This should
be published alongside an estimate of the monetary value of the tax reliefs that the school enjoys due to charitable status.”

Halfon elected Chair of the Education Select Committee

Former Apprenticeships Minister Robert Halfon has beaten five other Conservatives to be elected to the influential post.

Halfon was sacked by Theresa May in the cabinet reshuffle that followed June’s snap general election and has been critical of the Prime Minister and the way in which the Conservative campaign was fought.

In the election yesterday, he beat five other Conservative candidates including a fellow ex-DfE minister, Tim Loughton. The results were as follows:


Halfon is originally from North London, where he attended the independent Highgate School before studying for a politics degree at Exeter University and a Master’s in Russian and Eastern European politics.

After graduating, Halfon worked for Conservative MP Oliver Letwin and the Conservative Friends of Israel. He contested the Essex seat of Harlow unsuccessfully in both 2001 and 2005 before entering parliament in 2010. In 2014 he became Parliamentary Private Secretary to George Osborne, who is seen as a close ally.

Unusually for a Conservative, Halfon is a strong supporter of trade unions and is a member of Prospect. He describes his brand of politics as “White Van Conservatism”, aimed at aspirational working class voters.

Now that Halfon is in place as Chair, the rest of the committee will be appointed shortly. During the last Parliament, two North East Labour MPs – Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle North) and Ian Mearns (Gateshead) were members.

SCHOOLS NorthEast welcomes new Trustee

Hilary French, Headmistress at Newcastle High School for Girls, has been elected as the new Trustee representing independent schools.

Trustees have legal responsibility for the Charity and, much like school governors, are responsible for setting the strategic direction of our charitable work, ensuring we are financially sound and compliant with charity law.

One of our longest standing trustees, Bernard Trafford, has stood down as Trustee of SCHOOLS NorthEast following his retirement as Headmaster of RGS Newcastle last week. The other Trustees agreed that he should be replaced by another representative from the independent sector.

Two candidates came forward – Hilary French, Headmistress of Newcastle High School for Girls, and Kieran McLaughlin, Headmaster of Durham School – and the Head Teachers of our Partner Schools voted to elect Bernard’s replacement.

Hilary, who previously served on our Advisory Board as the representative for independent schools, was elected with 59.7% of the vote. Kieran will replace Hilary on the Advisory Board.

In her statement to Partner Schools, Hilary promised to “bring passion, commitment, dedication and a strong sense of purpose” to the role. We look forward to working with both Hilary and Kieran.

We would also like to thank Bernard for his commitment to SCHOOLS NorthEast and education in our region and wish him all the very best for his retirement. He will be greatly missed.

Have your say on Ofsted short inspections

SCHOOLS NorthEast would like your views on the changes that Ofsted has proposed and would appreciate it if you took the time to fill out this very short survey.

As we reported a few weeks ago, Ofsted is proposing two key changes to the short inspection process, which were introduced for “good” schools in 2015:

  • At the moment if inspectors decide that a short inspection should convert into a full inspection, this will take place within 48 hours. Ofsted is proposing  to extend this period so that the full inspection will take place within a maximum of 15 working days of the short inspection.
  • Ofsted is proposing that some “good” schools should receive full inspections from the outset instead of a short inspection if “published information, Ofsted’s regional intelligence and Ofsted’s risk assessment process indicate that there will be a need to collect more evidence than is routinely gathered on a short inspection to reach a judgement about the school”.

The deadline for submitting responses is Friday 18 August 2017 and we would urge you to respond using this online form if you have strong opinions on these proposals.

SCHOOLS NorthEast will also be responding on behalf of schools in the region and we would like your input. Please fill out this brief survey and we will incorporate your views into our response.


Year of exciting changes at SCHOOLS NorthEast topped off with office move

We are delighted to announce that we have moved office to accommodate an expanding team able to provide more support to schools in our region.

The past year has seen SCHOOLS NorthEast step up a gear, providing more support to schools and an even broader programme of events.

This has included Jobs in Schools | North East – the low-cost regional jobs portal that was designed by schools for schools – and Healthy MindED, the first and only schools-led commission into pupil mental health. This year also saw the first event in our Evidence-Based Excellence series.

Our events programme expanded significantly in response to demand from schools. This has ranged from small tailored events to large conferences, including our first conference for governors which sold out within two weeks.

At the same time, SCHOOLS NorthEast’s voice has grown louder at a national level.  We have been asked to join a number of All Party Parliamentary Groups, have been referenced repeatedly in the House of Commons and have been asked by the DfE to engage with different projects.

In order to carry out this ambitious programme, we have increased the size of our team, creating new roles. This week we moved to a larger office to accommodate this expanding team.

Our new address is:

SCHOOLS NorthEast, c/o Northumbria University, Room 115, Ellison Terrace, 1-5 Ellison Place, Newcastle, NE1 8ST

Please update your records to reflect this change.