Schools North East calls for urgent government review into the effects of high impact disadvantage on student attainment

In response to a story that states children in disadvantaged parts of the North are 18 months behind their wealthier peers.

The EPI’s Annual Report, released yesterday, highlights that nationally the gap between disadvantaged students and the rest of their peers has widened at the secondary level. For primary schools, the disadvantage gap continues to narrow, but the early year’s gap has begun to open up again. 

Chris Zarraga, Director of Operations Schools North East, said, “The report is timely and welcome.  No one wants to accept that a child’s future will be determined by their past or where they are born, but sadly this is too often the case.  The news that the attainment gap in secondary schools has widened for the first time in eight years, although disappointing, comes as no surprise and signals the urgency with which the new Prime Minister must act to deliver on the vital funding he has pledged for the education sector.”

The North East’s schools and colleges are utterly committed to closing the disadvantage gap and work tirelessly to improve the life chances of young people from deprived backgrounds.  However, the disadvantaged gap begins early and continues to grow throughout a child’s education.  In the North East the most deprived children fall behind their classmates in the early years by approx. 4.6 months. The secondary disadvantage gap has grown with the least affluent children falling 20 months behind the more affluent members of their class.

Unfortunately, these figures have led to a simplistic narrative that the North East’s primaries are good, but the secondaries ‘need to try harder’.  It also leads to claims of a ‘North South gap’ and the inevitable comparison with ‘higher performing’ London schools.  This is absolutely not the case.   

Deprivation, especially income-related, is a valid measure for comparing pupils differing levels of achievement, but it is far more revealing to measure what is happening with regard to students suffering from high impact disadvantage.  We know that within the North East there is a far higher concentration of children experiencing the highest impact, long-term disadvantage.  The academic achievement of those students cannot be directly compared to non high impact deprived students within London, or local authorities that have far lower numbers of such students.   

The work of academics, such as Durham University’s Professor Stephen Gorard, show that once you account for the impact of long-term deprivation, the region’s secondaries perform as well as any in the country.  Neither ‘the south’ nor London performs better, let alone significantly more so, with students from those backgrounds.

Furthermore, Professor Michael Jopling of the University of Wolverhampton points out “secondary pupils are generally more exposed to austerity measures than primary pupils.  This needs to be explored further in relation to regions like the North East where austerity measures have hit hard.”

Schools North East calls on the government to urgently review the effects of high impact disadvantage on student attainment and the most effective measures to combat it.

Chris Zarraga concluded, “Schools North East welcomes the new Prime Minister’s commitment to invest £4.6bn in education.  However, he must ensure that this funding is targeted appropriately at those areas, such as the North East, that face the greatest challenges from high impact deprivation and that funding is used to support those methods that are proven to be most effective with the most deprived students.”


No Funding for Schools in Spring Statement

In this week’s Spring Statement, no new funding has been announced for schools. The Spring Statement prioritised spending for the police to tackle knife crime, alongside announcements regarding housing and the environment.

Instead Chancellor Phillip Hammond has announced that, pending a Brexit deal, he intends to launch a spending review before the summer recess. This would be due to conclude by the Autumn Budget announcement and would set funding for a number of government departments including the Department for Education for the next three years.

This announcement comes after news last week that Education Secretary Damian Hinds refused to meet Head Teachers to discuss their concerns about funding.  The Worth Less? Campaign contacted over 3 million parents to tell them that requests to meet had been rejected twice. This has been part of ongoing concerns about the state of school funding and increasing calls to tackle the school funding crisis. A debate on the issue was held in Parliament last week after a petition spearheaded by St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Head Teacher Andrew Ramanandi from Gateshead attracted over 100,000 signatures.

The news also comes as Schools North East prepares to launch a national funding campaign to engage schools, parents and students in calling on the government to tackle the funding crisis. Keep an eye out for the launch of the campaign next week.

You can read more on the Spring Statement here.

ONE Vision Schools Launch: Major new investment in North East schools

Yesterday Schools Minister Lord Agnew launched the ONE Vision Schools initiative at a meeting of school , education , business, and university leaders. A central part of Opportunity North East, the programme aims to support thirty schools in the North East, improve social mobility and raise aspirations for up to 25,000 young people.

The schools involved will be partnered with high-performing institutions who can provide support and share best practice. They will also be given bespoke support from expert leaders in education to raise standards and help children learn the skills and knowledge that will help unlock their potential.

Some of the schools identified to be part of the initiative include:

  • Duke’s Secondary School, Northumberland
  • Trinity Catholic College, Middlesbrough
  • Berwick Academy, Northumberland
  • St Aidan’s Church of England Academy, Darlington
  • Haughton Academy, Darlington
  • Unity Academy, Middlesbrough
  • Hetton School, Sunderland

While the region has some of the best performing primary schools in the country, some data shows secondary school performance to be below other regions, and the region has one of the highest proportions of young people not in education, employment or training after year 11.

Young people in the North East are the least likely to apply to higher education of any region in the country.  18 year olds from London are 50% more likely to apply to university than 18 year olds from the North East.

Opportunity North East will invest £24 million, with half of this designated for targeted approaches to improve the transition from primary to secondary school and drive up standards at secondary schools.  The remaining £12 million is earmarked for training for new teachers and to help improve the quality of teaching in North East schools. Other aspects of the programme include working with secondary schools and colleges to encourage young people to consider progression routes, such as university and degree apprenticeships, and working with local businesses to improve job prospects for young people across the region.

Schools North East will be representing schools from across the region on the Strategy Board alongside other local experts.

You can read more about this story here.

Heads’ anger at Government’s funding “snub”

More than 7,000 Heads have written a joint letter to 3.5 million families expressing concerns about worsening budget shortages.

This comes in the same week that a petition by Gateshead Head Teachers, which has already gathered more than 107,000 signatures, forced a debate on school funding in the House of Commons.

The letter being sent to millions of families is the latest in a series of campaigns organised to make the Government understand the depth of feeling over school funding shortages.

Organisers of the WorthLess campaign, started by West Sussex Head Jules White, say requests to talk to Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds have been turned down because his time is too “pressurised”. But a Department for Education spokesperson said it was “fundamentally untrue” to suggest funding was not a priority for him.

The letter warns of the impact of cash shortages and quotes a letter to head teachers rejecting a request to meet Education Secretary Damian Hinds or Schools Minister Nick Gibb.

The letter, written by an official at the DfE, says: “I hope you will understand that their time is heavily pressurised and their diaries need to be prioritised according to ministerial, parliamentary and constituency business”.

The group says this was “ill judged” and wrote again to ministers in January to raise the seriousness of their concerns about school budgets. They say they have yet to receive a response.

This comes in the same week that an e-petition on school funding launched by the Gateshead Head Teacher Association was debated by MPs, after attracting over 100,000 signatures. The campaign was spearheaded by St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Head Teacher Andrew Ramanandi. The full debate is available to read in Hansard.

Opening the debate Liz Twist, MP for Blaydon, pointed out that:

  • 91% of schools across England have experienced real-terms cuts in per-pupil funding since 2015.
  • Per-pupil funding fell by 8% from 2009/10 to 2017/18, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb  repeated claims of record education spending levels and rising school standards, despite calls from across the political spectrum for additional investment. Liz Twist MP argued the Minister was “saying to headteachers such as Mr Ramanandi and others that their experience is not valid”.

Writing in this week’s Talking Heads column, Mr Ramanandi said:

“The Head Teachers of Gateshead would like to thank everyone who has provided support for this campaign.  The collective force of our school communities has raised the issue of school funding loudly and robustly so that Government will find it difficult to ignore.

We will continue working with other agencies, unions and departments to drive forward our campaign to attempt to get the funding required for the best education possible for all our children.”

Read Andy’s full comments in the Talking Heads section of today’s newsletter.


Funding boost for schools in next week’s Spring Statement?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has pledged to increase public spending should MPs back the Prime Minister’s EU withdrawal treaty next week, prompting hopes that schools could be in line for a modest funding boost.

In his October Budget Mr Hammond stated he had £15.4bn worth of room for movement. However, he warned that part of that money may be required to aid the economy in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The prospect of additional spending is therefore heavily dependent on a series of votes in Parliament next week. The schedule of votes is likely to be as follows:

  • The first vote, known as the “meaningful vote” will be a yes-no choice between approving the Prime Minister’s plan or not. The deal was heavily defeated when the previous vote was held in January. This is likely to happen on 12 March.
  • If the Government is defeated, Ministers will then allow a vote on whether to have a no-deal Brexit. That would mean leaving the EU and reverting to World Trade Organization trade terms before the end of the month. This would be likely to happen on 13 March, just before the Chancellor’s the Spring Statement.
  • If a no-deal Brexit is rejected, then MPs will be given the chance to say whether they would like an extension to the Article 50 period, potentially prolonging the UK’s membership of the EU beyond 29 March. This would happen on 14 March.

It is unclear what the implications for spending would be in some of the possible scenarios. Treasury officials have said there will be no new tax or spending measures announced in the statement, so any budgetary bonus would not be spent immediately. Instead, Mr Hammond would make more money available in the public spending review later this year.

FFT Education DataLab launches “Schools Like Yours” tool

Researchers at FFT Education DataLab have built an online comparison tool, Schools Like Yours, that allows you to find schools similar to your own – and you define what similar means.

So far, the tool is available for mainstream Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 schools. They both contain data on:

  • performance (last three years);
  • school characteristics (governance, region, denomination etc.);
  • pupil characteristics;
  • absence;
  • finance;
  • workforce;
  • Ofsted ratings

You can then view and download a range of publicly available data about the set of schools like yours.

Access the tool online here.

Education Links w/c 4th March 2019 – Chronicle Live, Hundreds of children with special needs suspended from schools in County Durham last year – Chronicle Live, Students refusing to use ‘disgusting’ toilets in ‘dilapidated’ schools due to funding ‘black hole’ – Chronicle Live, The effect funding cuts are having on North East schools – in the words of head teachers – Shields Gazette, Primary school celebrates ‘unique achievement’ after getting top marks from Ofsted – Darlington & Stockton Times, Bedale boarding school ‘excels’ in independent inspection – The Northern Echo, ‘Breaking point’ – Headteachers write to parents to explain reality of school funding crisis – The Northern Echo, Young newshounds unveil first edition of school newspaper – Teesside Live, Poor pay and lack of work-life balance highlighted as reasons why teachers are quitting in droves – Sunderland Echo, Students win £10,000 university scholarship award in memory of Sunderland businessman Sir Tom Cowie – Hartlepool Mail, Youngsters help organise poetry event at former miners welfare hall – Berwick Advertiser, Schools urged to sign up for challenge – Chronicle Live, School staff forced to pay for supplies from their own pocket while help for pupils with mental illness is cut – Shields Gazette, Pupils take the spotlight in history of theatre project in South Shields – The Northern Echo, Travel training offer to special needs children in Darlington = The Northern Echo, Federation of schools proposed in Weardale – Berwick Advertiser, Apprentices event to be held in Berwick

Schools North East holds consultation events on new Ofsted framework


As part of our engagement with school leaders on the new Education Inspection Framework, Schools North East yesterday held two sub-regional consultation events with school leaders. The input we receive will inform our response to Ofsted’s consultation, which closes in April.

Opinion was gauged using Slido, an online audience interaction tool, before delegates discussed the different aspects of the framework around their tables.

Leaders indicated strong support when asked, “Overall, is a new, curriculum-led framework a positive move forward?” and near unanimous support when asked, “Will this give North East schools better opportunity to give a good account of themselves?” Conversely, however, only 11% said they had confidence Ofsted would be able to deliver a curriculum-led inspection framework on the ground.

Leaders questioned how the emphasis on curriculum in the new framework would sit alongside the DfE’s preferred focus on exams results and league tables as the barometers by which schools should be judged.

The key proposal of a new “quality of education” judgement received majority support, while 100% agreed or strongly agreed with splitting the behaviour and personal development judgements.

Reaction to the proposal to extend inspections of “good” schools to 2 days was more mixed, with around 50% in favour and 40% opposed.

Delegates strongly opposed the idea of inspectors undertaking on-site preparation on the afternoon prior to inspection and the proposal to no longer look at non-statutory internal progress and attainment data received a mixed reaction.

combined poll


Schools North East view

Ofsted argues the new framework will “make it easier to recognise and reward good work done by schools in areas of high disadvantage…” We very much welcome this commitment, though of course the devil will be in the detail. Currently there is significant evidence that Ofsted judgements lean against schools, particularly secondary schools, with high proportions of white, disadvantaged pupils.

The consultation runs until 5 April 2019. If you were unable to attend one of our events you can still inform our response by submitting your views online here.

Schools North East and Social Mobility Commission co-host first regional roundtable

Tuesday 26 February 2019 saw the first regional roundtable co-hosted by Schools North East and the national Social Mobility Commission in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The newly reconstituted Social Mobility Commission has as its aim to improve upwards social mobility across England and focuses on people from disadvantaged communities. The Commission is led by Chairwoman Dame Martina Milburn and comprises twelve commissioners, amongst which is the North East’s Sammy Wright, Vice Principal of Southmoor Academy in Sunderland.

Schools North East has worked with the Commission to bring the national debate on social mobility to the region, giving schools a voice in the work of this influential body.

The roundtable debate brought together representatives from numerous sectors, including schools, universities, local enterprise partnerships, the Department for Education and the NHS.

Participants discussed a range of factors which impact on social mobility and educational outcomes in the region, including:

  • Poverty – its impact on education and more widely on communities, behaviour and parental engagement.
  • Pupil outcomes.
  • Recognition of difficulties and complexities, especially at secondary school level.
  • Ethnicity and the impact of poverty on outcomes – specifically recognising the evidence of its impact on children from white disadvantaged communities.

The roundtable debated on / around these themes, with a view to putting forward how the Commission could establish a set of medium-term social mobility principles.

Schools North East Director Mike Parker commented: “Through this forum, Schools North East has been able to support voices from in the region within the Government’s national agenda, playing an active role in shaping policy. We’re keen to see how this helps shape the work of the Commission in future.”

Find out more about the Social Mobility Commission here.

Education Links w/c 25th February 2019 – Chronicle Live, Investment pledge for high schools in Amble and Berwick confirmed by Northumberland Council. – Chronicle Live, Ofsted inspectors note ‘significant progress’ in Sunderland’s learning and skills service. – Chronicle Live, £18.5m Newcastle schools expansion approved – but uncertainty remains over Great Park plans.  – Chronicle Live, School kids to be taught about sexting, online safety and relationships in compulsory sex education. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Schools warn parents ‘Momo Challenge’ appearing in Peppa Pig videos. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Redcar Head Teacher using own salary to fund school. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Pupils to be taught about trolling, FGM and sleeping in curriculum shake-up. – The Northern Echo, Police Interceptors star helps deliver safety message to pupils. – The Northern Echo, Middlesbrough bus station signs up to scheme to tackle period poverty. – Darlington’s Northwood Primary School’s ‘good’ Ofsted rating. – The Northern Echo, Darlington teachers learn from Shanghai maths master.  – Shields Gazette, Pupils at Jarrow Primary School brush up on their oral health with help of visiting dentists. – Berwick Advertiser, Delight at funding for new school. – Berwick Advertiser, Borders pupils set to get iPads. – Berwick Advertiser, Music-making and life-saving.