Governors urged to pressure Government over funding crisis

Governors in the North East have been told to expect funding, workload and recruitment pressures in their schools at the SCHOOLS NorthEast Northern Governance Conference in Newcastle today.

Laura McInerney, Contributing Editor of Schools Week and Founder of Teacher Tapp, was speaking about the ‘three big trends to watch out for’ to the 200 delegates in attendance from across the North.

She said: “As a governor myself, the first question anyone asks is ‘is there going to be anymore money’. I would be suprised that, as a governor, you won’t have already been asked this.

“But at the minute, the trend is that there are ’empty vaults’. Damian Hinds previously said that throwing money at problems is hardly ever a solution. He fundamentaly believes that we don’t need money, we need efficiency. We aren’t going to see any more money any time soon.”

Clever Politics

Laura, who is a former teacher herself and now a governor at the school she previously taught at, told governors in attendance that the Government are being ‘clever’ with how they are approaching school funding.

She said: “We are seeing little pots of cash, which is a very clever move by the Government. It sounds to the electorate like a big amount, be it £4 million or £400 millon, and that it’s solving the problem by saying it’s a ‘mental health fund’, for example. But, quite frankly, it’s not enough.

Laura also warned Governors of the risk and reward implications of the time and effort it takes to bid for funding, with examples of schools even hiring professional bid writers to minimal success.

“Funding looks like it’s lucrative – but you spend a huge amount of time for very little benefit. Schools are spending a huge amount of time compared to the money they are getting back.

“As a governor, you should be asking those schools who have had success in this, but ask them what their success ratio is before you commit your time.”

Workload and resentment

Laura also spoke about the two additional trends that schools are facing, staff workload and recruitment, and the issues that governors must be aware of as a priority in their schools.

She said: “There is a huge amount going on outside of teaching hours. SLTs are getting worried as Ofsted are now going to be looking at workload, but what you need to ask is, what are staff doing that is creating this workload?

“As a governor, do you know what percentage of your staff are doing extra? There is a real issue in schools with where the working day ends and it’s causing a lot of discontent amongst staff, both teaching and non-teaching.”

Laura referenced data collected by Teacher Tapp and the pressures teachers felt to check emails over Christmas, and if the weren’t, the peer pressure they felt to do so if colleagues were, or even be part of a school’s WhatsApp group.

She told the conference: “This is really driving resentment in schools. Schools are not the only ones dealing with pressure – it affects anyone.

“For governors, you might work in an industry where this is normal. But for teachers, this way of working is unusual. It is so difficult for them to do additional duties as classroom working takes up most of the day.

“As a governor, you should be aware of this and ask your school if there is an out of office email policy and ask how it affects their staff.”

‘Missing adults’

Laura warned delegates at the SCHOOLS NorthEast Northern Governance Conference that recruitment in the next few years could be even more difficult that it currently is.

She said: “There is a concern for the North East that, over the next 5 years, the diminishing number of 21 year olds will hit.

“Teacher training numbers are already down by a third across the country because we’re saying its expensive to train, there’s not a great salary and we expect you to be contactable all time. Graduates are just not interested in this career path.”

Laura also referenced the rise of flexible working in schools, and warned governors of the potential impact this could have on the strain on staffing in their school.

“Through a survey on Teacher Tapp, we found that if 40% of teachers dropped one day per week, we would need an extra 40,000 teachers.

“If you make part time more attractive, you will need more staff to fill that deficit and as a governor, you must think of how exactly you would manage this.”


Head to to find out what events are coming up for you and your school.



Application process for strategic school improvement fund was ‘unfit for purpose’

The first application round for the £140 million strategic school improvement fund was neither fair nor transparent according to an independent evaluation of the process.

An evaluation conducted by Aldaba has criticised the government’s approach to supporting and assessing applications to the fund, which was designed to target resources at schools in need of improvement.

The report highlighted inconsistencies in the advice given to applicants by officials at the Department for Education, leaving some schools “in a better position to succeed as a result of receiving support or resources to prepare applications that other applicants did not know were available”.

Although subsequent rounds have been “improving”, its findings on the first round “cannot support the conclusion” that the application process “was entirely fit for purpose, and so we cannot be sure that resources were targeted at the schools most in need of improving school performance and pupil attainment”.

The applications ran from April 21 until June 23 last year, and the report acknowledged that the general election announcement and subsequent pre-election restrictions “inevitably had a negative impact on the process”.

Read the full article in Schools Week.

New tool breaks down KS 4 Progress 8 outcomes by feeder primary schools

A new online tool allows users to access a breakdown of Progress 8 scores by primary school.

The tool, made available to FFT Aspire users, would allow secondary schools to break down the KS4 outcomes of groups of pupils by feeder school and to see the impact different groups have on Progress 8 outcomes.

Writing for Education DataLab, FFT chief statistician Dave Thomson said “Looking at Attainment 8 CVA for the last three years and taking account of secondary school attended, we found around 30 feeder primary schools with a score of -1 or lower, indicating that pupils achieved at least one grade below expectation per subject on average. There were none with a score of +1 or higher.”

The DfE has made plans to cap the Progress 8 scores of pupils with anomalously large scores.

Ofsted considering ‘no-notice’ school inspections 

Ofsted’s chief inspector has revived the controversial idea of carrying out no notice inspections of schools.

Amanda Spielman was responding to a YouGov survey, published by Ofsted last week, which found that 61% of parents supported unannounced visits to schools by the education watchdog.

Ms Spielman is the third Ofsted chief in a row to consider no-notice inspections.

In 2009 the then chief schools inspector, Christine Gilbert, abandoned plans because of parental concerns that they would not be able to make their views known before an inspection.

In 2012 Sir Michael Wilshaw relented on plans for no-notice inspections after logistical concerns were raised by heads.

Instead Ofsted moved to a system of ‘almost no notice’ where schools are told an afternoon before a visit.

Now the new Yougov poll suggests the majority of parents support the idea of unannounced inspections.

Ms Spielman said Ofsted wanted to ensure that inspectors are seeing a true picture of the schools they inspect.

Speaking to the TES, she said: “We are trying to find that balance, of making sure schools aren’t completely caught on the hop, and you don’t turn up to inspect on a day where the headteacher is out of school, where the chair of governors is on holiday and where you can’t have the right conversations.

“It is balancing that with making sure you get a school as it actually operates with all of the children who are normally there so that you get a true picture of  behaviour and the school culture.”

Read the full article in the Tes.

Poorer pupils in England are a whole GCSE grade behind their peers in maths, report finds

Research by Professors John Jerrim and Toby Greany at the UCL Institute of Education has revealed that 4 in 10 disadvantaged pupils are failing to reach the new GCSE standard pass mark of a grade 4 in maths.

The results showed that under the new numerical GCSE grades, the average maths result of pupils eligible for FSM in England is 3.8, just under the standard pass mark of 4.

The study converted the latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) into GCSE grades, allowing for a direct comparison of pupil performance between England and other nations.

Based on this analysis, England ranks 25th out of the 44 developed nations involved in the study.

England’s scores were around a third of a grade lower in maths than other western nations, such as Estonia, Canada, the Netherlands and Ireland, and half a grade lower than Macao, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

The results also showed that there was a significant gap of a whole grade between the maths results they achieved and the grades of more affluent peers.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that the “greatest barrier to improving outcomes for disadvantaged students is the struggle to recruit teachers.

“It cannot be a coincidence that maths outcomes for disadvantaged pupils are the most concerning finding in this report given that teacher shortages are very severe in this subject.

“The government missed its trainee teacher recruitment target for maths by more than 20% last year – the fifth year in a row that it has fallen short.”

Read more on Schools Week.

Education Select Committee  to investigate school and sixth-form funding

It has been announced this week that the Education Select Committee has launched an inquiry into school and sixth-form funding, and will consider whether a 10-year plan is needed to preserve ‘high quality’ education.

The Committee has asked for written submissions to be made by the 30th May on the resources needed to properly support schools.

MPs also want to hear about the effectiveness of targeted funding for specific pupil groups, such as the pupil premium, and will also investigate how the new national funding formula should be best implemented.They also want to hear evidence to inform school funding in the government’s next spending review period, which begins in 2020. They are asking schools for evidence on the money needed for both pre and post-16 education.

Robert Halfon, Chair of the Committee, said: “Rising cost pressures have led to serious challenges in the provision of high-quality education.

“We need to move to a situation where education funding is not driven primarily by Treasury processes but rather by a long-term strategic assessment of our national priorities for education and skills.

“This inquiry will examine whether it is time to have a 10-year plan for our schools and colleges, and what resources are required to put this plan into action.”


North East Education Links w/c 16th April – Chronicle Live, Primary school places are out – how to make sure your child’s first day at school goes swimmingly. – Chronicle Live, Primary school offer day – how many children got their first choice school? – Chronicle Live, Students out of control, staff scared to speak up: Teacher’s claims about inadequate Berwick Academy. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Why are the region’s boys falling further behind girls at school? – Hartlepool Mail, Images of 17m Hartlepool school rebuild reveal state-of-art ‘superblock’. – Hartlepool Mail, New principal appointed at Manor Community Academy. – Hartlepool Mail, Hartlepool art college hailed by Sir Ridley Scott set to change its name. – Gazette Live, Young children ‘try to swipe’ pages of books as if they were using a smartphone or tablet. – Gazette Live, Five of the best: Teesside University teams up with four colleges in higher education tie-in. – Sunderland Echo, Unsafe tree forces Sunderland school to close main entrance. – Sunderland Echo, Sunderland secondary schools criticised for failing to back contraception scheme. – Sunderland Echo, Sunderland youngsters join international space project. – Hexham Courant, Expansion planned at Hexham school. – Hexham Courant, Prudhoe high school governors press case to keep three tiers. – The Northern Echo, Middlesbrough College praised for its mental health support. – The Northern Echo, University educates students on ‘acceptable behaviour’. – The Northern Echo, New College Durham shortlisted for national innovation award. – News Guardian, North Shields pupils showcase their scientific talents. – News Guardian, North Shields pupils gear up for epic 1,400-mile challenge. – Northumberland Gazette, Increasing capacity at Northumberland’s special needs schools. – Northumberland Gazette, Northumberland schools fined fewer parents despite rise in pupil absence. – Northumberland Gazette, Thousands of persistently absent pupils in Northumberland. – Shields Gazette, Reading is key to learning for students at South Shields. – Shields Gazette, Creative South Tyneside students have their work on display.

Justine Greening warns social mobility is ‘far more complex’ than grammar schools

Justine Greening has said that improving social mobility is “far more complex” than deciding whether a school is selective.

The comments from the former Education Secretary, who resigned from her position in the cabinet in January 2018, came after her successor, Damian Hinds, said he wanted to see existing grammar schools expand.

Ms Greening was speaking to Tes as she prepared to launch a new social mobility pledge, which will commit companies to work with schools to provide coaching and mentoring for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Improving social mobility was a key reason given by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, for her now-aborted plans to create new selective schools.

However, when asked about the role of grammar schools in improving social mobility, Ms Greening said: “I think perhaps the most powerful thing the government can do is to get on with putting in place the social mobility strategy that I launched immediately before Christmas, which contains a range of steps that need to be taken by the [Department for Education] to make sure schools’ standards rise across the country, but especially in the parts of the country that have lagged behind.”

Read the full article in the Tes.

System ‘can’t handle the crisis of pupils’ mental health’

A charity has this week released figures showing that a third of pupils who looked for support for mental health issues from their school or college had problems getting it.

The YoungMinds charity, which campaigns for better mental health support for children and young people, has released the figures to coincide with its 25th anniversary.

They show that just 6% of young people and 3% of parents believe that there is enough support to address children’s mental health problems.

Chief Executive of the charity, Sarah Brennan, said: “Every day we get calls to our parents’ helpline from parents whose children can’t get help at school.

“Some have been waiting months for an assessment, or have been told that they don’t meet the threshold for treatment.

“Despite the great progress being made by campaigns like Heads Together to get people talking about mental health, as well as extra government investment, there can still be unacceptable barriers to getting help.”

Read the full article in the Tes.

SCHOOLS NorthEast is hosting their annual HealthyMindED conference, focusing on children’s mental health in schools, on the 24th May. To find out more and to book your ticket, click here.

Children’s Commissioner: ‘Northern children face double whammy of economic disadvantage and ineffective schools’

Children growing up in Northern England face a double whammy of embedded economic disadvantage and ineffective schools, according to a new report from England’s Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield.

The key findings in Growing Up North, launched in Leeds on Monday, are:

  • Nursery attendance is higher in the North, but children are still less likely to achieve the expected level of development before starting school;
  • More than half of the schools serving the North’s most deprived communities are graded below “Good” by Ofsted;
  • Compared with the national average, many more children in the North are starting school with high levels of development issues, with fewer children in the North having special educational needs diagnosed before they start school;
  • Significant numbers of children across the North are leaving school too early;
  • In many Northern areas girls are particularly disadvantaged.
  • Northern schools who contributed to the report held a negative view of the effectiveness of the Regional Schools Commissioner for the North.

The Children’s Commissioner recommended:

  • Increased investment to support children in the most disadvantaged Northern areas;
  • A co-ordinated programme to boost teacher recruitment and retention;
  • Partnerships between schools and business to raise pupils’ aspirations; and
  • “Family hubs” to help families who are struggling.

The Children’s Commissioner’s contribution is the latest in a series of recent reports criticising the standard of education in Northern schools. However, more in-depth research by Education DataLab has suggested that the gap between North and South has more to do with demographics than school effectiveness. it is well known that the progress of White British children, which make up the majority of the school-age population in the North, is broadly similar to London.

As reported in last week’s SCHOOLS NorthEast newsletter, Education Secretary Damian Hinds was pressed by the House of Commons Education Select Committee as to whether the Department’s ‘Opportunity Areas’ scheme, which provides funds for tackling entrenched disadvantage, would be implemented in the North East, but was non-committal in his response.