SCHOOLS NorthEast analysis brought up in Parliament funding debate

School funding in the North East of England was the topic of a House of Commons Debate led by Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson on Wednesday.

Figures published by SCHOOLS NorthEast as part of a campaign to drive positive change in funding allocation for the region were mentioned, as well as some of our recent comments on changes to education policy.

Mrs Hodgson looked at the national situation, how the funding arrangements are affecting schools in the region and how the Government’s approach to the education system is affecting “the very nature of our schools, whose purpose is to educate our children and address societal issues, such as child poverty and social mobility”.

She gave Rickleton Primary School in her constituency as an example of schools which will see dramatic cuts, theirs nearing the £150,000 mark. Mrs Hodgson added:

The Head Teacher of Rickleton Primary School, Mr Lofthouse, set out clearly in an email to me, which I have sent on to the Secretary of State for Education, what those funding pressures will mean for his school, from potential staff redundancies to the impact on his pupils’ education, and it is not only Mr Lofthouse.

Many other headteachers across Sunderland have expressed similarly grave concerns. Those concerns were reflected in a meeting I held in Sunderland recently with around 30 headteachers and school governors, who all agreed that our schools were at a crisis point. That led me to securing this debate today.

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Frequent changes to education policy are school governors’ biggest challenge

Keeping up with the numerous education policy changes and effective time management are the main issues school governors are faced with,  according to delegates at the first SCHOOLS NorthEast Regional Governance Conference .DSC_0392.JPG

Over 300 school governors in the region attended the Regional Governance Conference today, coming together under one roof to hear from sector experts and bring their own input.

When asked what the biggest challenges are for one of the largest volunteering forces in the country, the attendees listed multiple factors but agreed that the many changes in education policy are hard to keep up with, and managing their time effectively can also be problematic.


Fears over school budgets and funding, as well as the recruitment and retention of senior staff in their schools, were amongst the challenges listed at the top.

But delegates were also keen to share what their greatest achievements were, with a significant majority quoting the improvement of their school and seeing pupils’ lives being transformed.

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SCHOOLS NorthEast responds to stage 2 of the NFF consultation

In December 2016, the Department for Education announced it was seeking views on the detailed design of the schools national funding formula, as part of the second stage of its consultation.

SCHOOLS NorthEast has submitted a response on behalf of schools in our region. Changes to the funding structure will have an impact on all of our schools and we are concerned that the proposed formula does not give North East schools a fair deal. In particular, the Government has included an Area Cost Adjustment multiplier which takes money away from our region on the basis of low house prices.

Even schools that look like they will gain from the national funding formula are likely to experience cuts as a result of the under-funding of the schools system. We have urged the Government to increase the size of the budget.

You can read our response in full below. We also urged school leaders across the region to submit their own response, either individually or as part of a cluster or local authority.

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North East schools forced to ask parents to help fill funding blackhole

The Head Teachers of two schools in the region have written to parents with a plea for donations, as both schools face losing hundreds of thousands of pounds in the next few years.

Dozens of school leaders in Darlington also reached out to parents, urging them to lobby the Government over the funding crisis by writing to the Education Secretary and the Schools Minister.

New research conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says the proposed national funding formula could leave 1,000 schools across the country facing additional cuts of 7% beyond 2019-20. The National Audit Office forecast a £3bn shortfall in school budgets in the next couple of years.

Parents of children attending Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham and Hexham Middle school were told the quality of provision is at “genuine risk”, as the school leaders of both institutions expressed their worry at the impact the funding cuts will have on pupils.

Two teaching unions warned that Queen Elizabeth High School could lose £521,172 by 2019, while Hexham Middle School would see a dent of £176,258 in its budget over the next two years.

The Chronicle reported that one of the letters reads:

We do not undertake this step lightly. However, the reduction in funding over the next few years in the face of rising costs puts at genuine risk the quality of provision to which we have become accustomed at both our schools.

We appreciate that some families are hard pressed and will not be able to make a financial contribution, which is absolutely fine.

However, for those who are able – be it parents of existing students, former students or indeed members of the wider community – it will help enormously.

According to the paper, parents are being asked to donate voluntarily by a single payment or setting up a regular standing order.

While not wanting to “cause panic”, the letters from Darlington Heads expressed worries at the “lack of regard for the next generation”.

This comes after Head Teachers representing around 3,000 schools in England wrote to their local MPs and ministers calling for a rethink of school funding plans.

Around 4,000 school governors recently surveyed by the BBC called the prospects for schools under the proposed arrangements as “diabolical”, “devastating” and “catastrophic”, with some respondents describing their “desperate” attempts at fundraising to fill gaps.

Whilst SCHOOLS NorthEast welcomed the decision to create a new National Funding Formula, we have been campaigning against certain aspects of the proposed plans, particularly the Area Cost Adjustment which will give additional money to schools in more expensive areas than the NE.

The deadline for responses to the Government’s second stage of the National Funding Formula consultation was yesterday. SCHOOLS NorthEast responded on behalf of Head Teachers in our region – you can read our views here.

BUDGET 2017: the key points

Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his first Budget yesterday, making a series of education-related announcements. Below is a breakdown of the key points he made during his speech, along with comments from SCHOOLS NorthEast.

Free schools and grammar schools expansion

The Government will extend the free schools programme with investment of £320m in this Parliament to help fund up to 140 schools, including independent-led, faith, selective, university-led and specialist maths schools.

Of these, 30 were announced to open in September 2020 and the new free schools “will be located where they are most needed to improve the choice of schools available to parents, following a rigorous assessment of local factors”.

The Government has also expanded the current ‘extended rights’ entitlement for children aged 11-16 who receive free school meals or whose parents claim Maximum Working Tax Credit. Under these conditions, they will now get free transport to attend the nearest selective school in their area.

In Autumn Statement 2016 the Government also pledged £50m per year of new funding towards the expansion of existing grammar schools.

Mr Parker commented: “Demand for school places, particularly in secondary schools, is rising sharply so additional funding to increase capacity is welcome. The argument that grammar schools is the solution has yet to be proven. In fact, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that, in areas where grammar schools are in operation, pupils who do not attend selective schools ‘make less progress in partially-selective and wholly-selective areas than in areas without selection’.

“The fixation on school structure gets in the way of the real issue which is that we need to make sure we’ve got sufficient places at good quality schools across the country.”

T-levels: funding technical education 

The Government pledged to increase the number of programme hours of training for 16-19 year olds on technical routes by more than 50%, to over 900 hours a year on average, including the completion of a high quality industry work placement during the programme.

The routes will be introduced from 2019-20 and £500m of additional funding per year invested once routes are fully implemented.

The new T-levels were announced by the Chancellor as “game-changing” reforms to technical qualifications.

Director Mike Parker said: “Giving vocational qualifications an equal standing to academic ones is a positive step and efforts to streamline the system will make it easier for pupils and parents to make the right choice.

“However, if the Government does not focus on funding 0-16 education adequately, it risks harming the ability of children deciding to study for these T-level qualifications. We must ensure children don’t miss out on the strong educational grounding that is essential to give them the skills and ability to go on to achieve advanced qualifications – both vocational and academic.”


Funding for school maintenance 

The Chancellor announced a further £216m investment in school maintenance, to help rebuild and refurbish existing schools. The money will be allocated over the course of two academic years, with half spent in 2018-19 and the other half in 2019-20.

Mike Parker commented: “Funding to help rebuild and refurbish existing schools is much needed. However, it doesn’t fill the operational blackhole in schools across England.”

£1bn for school sports from the sugar tax 

The Chancellor announced that the sugar tax revenue was lower than initially forecast, as manufacturers reduced the sugar content in some products. Despite the shortfall, the Treasury will give the Department for Education £1bn over the rest of this parliament to spend on sports activities in schools and to help promote healthy lifestyles amongst pupils.


National Careers Week 2017 #NCW2017

National Careers Week 2017 is taking place this week between 6-11 March, promoting the importance of good careers education in schools and colleges.

Every year this is a celebration of careers and free resources in education across the UK and encourages education providers to bring together students, local employers and advisers through careers events and activities.

SCHOOLS NorthEast will hold a Spring Term Ofsted briefing with a themed discussion around careers education. This will be led by Adrian Lyons HMI, Ofsted’s National Lead for economics, business and enterprise, who spearheaded the ‘Getting Ready for Work’ report, published by Ofsted in November 2016.

We will hold two events in two different locations in the region, to maximise the opportunity for school leaders to attend. These will take place on Wednesday 5 April:

South of the region
Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm
Venue: Inspire2 Learn, Normanby Road, South Bank, Middlesbrough, TS6 9AE

North of the region
Time: 2:00pm – 4:00pm
Venue: The Durham Centre, Belmont Industrial Estate, Durham, DH1 1TN

Visit the event page for more information or email to book your place.

SCHOOLS NorthEast also held its annual careers conference last month. FutureReady 2017 helped schools from across the region to access best practice in careers guidance, vital in making sure their pupils are equipped with the knowledge and experiences, along with the key attributes and attitudes, they need to succeed in the 21st century. You can read a summary of the event here and you can access all speaker presentations here.


Hammond must use first Budget to fill funding blackhole in schools

SCHOOLS NorthEast is calling on Chancellor Phillip Hammond to use his first Budget to tackle the funding crisis within schools.

Increases in employers’ pension costs and national insurance contributions, coupled with cuts in support services and heightened pressures such as growing pupil mental health issues have left schools facing a £3bn shortfall by 2020, according to the National Audit Office.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has identified that schools are losing £339 for every primary age pupil and £477 for every child in secondary school.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies has calculated a drop of 6.5% in real-term spending on schools over the course of this parliament.

The issue is worse for North East schools where a legacy of underfunding has left schools exposed. Analysis by SCHOOLS NorthEast shows that, on the basis of the current 2016-17 funding levels, our region would benefit from an extra £323m per year if it were funded at London levels, and around £42m if funded at national levels.

Schools in Sunderland and Northumberland would be entitled to over £7m more if funded at national level, and those in County Durham would see almost £60m more cash a year if funded at London level.

Click here to view a regional breakdown.

Middlesbrough is the only Local Authority area in the North East that receives more funding than the national average. However, as the second most deprived area in England (based on the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) score), Middlesbrough schools are proportionally underfunded.

Mike Parker, Director of SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: “The Government has to recognise that if it wants a world class education system it has to fund schools appropriately. The education budget as a whole must increase and the share for the North East has to rebalance the legacy of underfunding in this region.”

Newcastle MP asks NFF question in Parliament, after meeting SCHOOLS NorthEast to discuss funding concerns for the region

Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, asked the Schools Minister Nick Gibb whether the Department for Education had made an assessment of the effect of the area cost adjustment on school funding in the North East.

The question followed a meeting between the MP and SCHOOLS NorthEast during which the growing concerns around the new National Funding Formula, and the Area Cost Adjustment in particular, were raised.

The Schools Minister replied:

Our proposals for a national funding formula include an area cost adjustment to reflect the different labour market costs across the country. Schools in the North East would not receive an uplift through the area cost adjustment, as it is only applied to areas where labour market costs are particularly high. Our proposed national funding formula would increase funding for 622 schools in the North East, with funding for schools in the region as a whole increasing by 1%.

The consultation on the national funding formula will conclude on 22 March. We will confirm final arrangements in the summer, and introduce the formula from April 2018.

While the NFF will increase the funding for some schools in the North East, the situation is predicted to worsen across the country, with the IFS forecasting a drop of 6.5% in real-term spending on schools over the course of this parliament. The Area Cost Adjustment will only divert resources from schools in disadvantaged areas to affluent boroughs.

SCHOOLS NorthEast has strongly campaigned against the ACA in our response to the first stage of the NFF consultation, and will continue to in our final response by the 22 March deadline.

Strong start for first schools-led commission into pupils’ mental health

Healthy MindED, the first schools-led commission into pupils’ mental health, held its inaugural meeting on Monday.

The Commission agreed its vision, scope and terms of reference, and discussed what kind of evidence they would like to ask for when the call for evidence opens later this year.


Professor Dame Sue Bailey will be co-chairing the Commission with Steffi Ellison, Head Girl at High Tunstall College of Science in Hartlepool.

They are joined by:
Kate Chisholm, Head Teacher at Skerne Park Academy;
Hilary Ellam, Senior Manager at the National College of Teaching and Learning;
Dr Lynne Howey, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust and Children and Young People’s Mental Health Clinical Lead at Northern England Strategic Clinical Networks;
Colin Lofthouse, Head Teacher at Rickleton Primary School;
Dr Peter Mulholland, Senior Educational Psychologist and Team Manager for the Emotional Wellbeing and Effective Learning Service at Durham County Council;
Maura Regan, CEO of Carmel Education Trust;
Sue Fisher, Executive Head Teacher of Teaching School at Percy Hedley School;
Steve Wilkinson, Executive Head Teacher at Monkwearmouth Academy.

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SCHOOLS NorthEast submits evidence to the inquiry into children and young people’s mental health – role of education

The House of Commons Health Committee opened an inquiry into the role of education regarding children and young people’s mental health.

On behalf of schools and Head Teachers in the region, SCHOOLS NorthEast submitted evidence to the inquiry, explaining how the newly launched mental health commission Healthy MindED will help schools address these issues.

Below is the executive summary to the submission, but you can read the whole document here.

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