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.

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.

DfE ministerial briefs announced, whilst former ministers vie for committee chair

Early Years Minister post disappears, whilst former education ministers Robert Halfon and Tim Loughton compete to Chair the Education Select Committee.

This week, the Government announced the ministerial briefs at the Department for Education. As was widely expected, Anne Milton has been given the Apprenticeships and Skills brief, whilst Robert Goodwill becomes Minister of State for Children and Families. Education Secretary Justine Greening, Nick Gibb (School Standards) and Lord Nash (School System) remain in post.

However, one key change is that the number of ministers in the department has been reduced by one, as Early Years Minister Caroline Dinenage has been moved to the Department for Work and Pensions and has not been replaced. Instead, most of this brief has been taken up by the Children and Families Minister.

Whilst there is now no Early Years Minister, Jeremy Corbyn has appointed Tracy Brabin to the shadow education team and given her responsibility for early years. Brabin is a former soap actress who was elected as MP for Batley and Spen in Yorkshire last year, following the murder of Jo Cox.

Education Select Committee Election

Nominations are currently open for the influential position of Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee. The position is currently vacant following the defeat of Neil Carmichael in last month’s snap election.

The Chair will be elected by MPs from all parties, but has to be a Conservative. Each must be nominated by members from both their own and other parties. Nominations will run until 3pm on Friday 7 July and the election will take place next Wednesday.

So far, four candidates have been announced via the Parliament website, whilst another has confirmed that he will also run. The five candidates are:

  • Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham): A lawyer by training, he also worked as a political adviser to former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
  • Robert Halfon (Harlow): Before becoming an MP, he was Chief of Staff to Conservative MP Oliver Letwin and political director of Conservative Friends of Israel. He was sacked as Apprenticeships Minister last month and has been critical of the way that Theresa May ran the election campaign.
  • Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham): Worked in finance in the City of London prior to becoming an MP. Has previously served as Children’s Minister within the DfE (2010-2012) and came second to Neil Carmichael in the 2015 election for Education Committee Chair.
  • Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock): Worked for his family printing business before entering Parliament. During the last Parliament he served as Chair of the Science and Technology Committee.
  • Dr Dan Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich): A medical doctor who was previously a junior minister at the Department of Health.

No North East MPs are in the running for this position (and only three are eligible) but Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) and Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) have both nominated Tim Loughton.

Government needs to find £1.3 billion more for schools, says think tank

The Education Policy Institute has warned that without this additional money there is likely to be a 3% reduction in per pupil funding by 2022.

The EPI today released a research note entitled “Where next on school funding and the National Funding Formula?” The analysis shows that the £4 billion commitment made by the Conservatives in their manifesto would not be sufficient to protect schools from a real-terms reduction in per pupil spending.

An additional £1.3 billion would be needed to address the inflationary pressures faced by schools. The authors note that this may rise to £2 billion given that the Government has scrapped their plans to abolish universal infant free school meals.

In assessing the next steps in school funding, the EPI notes that the DfE now faces a number of challenges in implementing the national funding formula as originally proposed.

The Department’s intention was to begin a phased implementation of the new formula from April of next year with all schools on the formula by 2019-20. The EPI notes that the government now faces a “challenging timetable” in order to achieve this, as plans would have to be announced before the summer recess in two week’s time.

You can read the full report here.

What does the January 2017 school census tell us about North East schools?

Today saw the release of annual data from the school census. This one was conducted in January 2017 and gives a snapshot of the nation’s schools.

The data shows that, whilst the number of schools in the North East is decreasing, the number of pupils is increasing. It also shows that the region has the lowest average class sizes, despite having some of the most overcrowded classes in the country.

Fewer schools

Five years ago, the census found that there were 1,230 schools in the North East. This has steadily decreased and the number now stands at just 1,203. This is a slight decrease on last year when there were 1,205.

Durham and Northumberland have seen the biggest decreases in the number of schools in our region during this period at 12 and 11 respectively. Meanwhile, there are now 4 more schools in Stockton, 2 more in Gateshead and 1 more in Newcastle.

More pupils

Whilst we may have fewer schools, there has been a considerable increase in the pupil population. There are now 400,695 pupils in North East schools. This is up from 398,023 last year and 391,315 five years ago.

This means that the pupil population in the North East has grown by 2.4% over the past five years. This is, however, considerably slower growth than nationally where this figure is 6.0%.

Overcrowded classrooms

The North East has the lowest average primary school class size of all regions. The average size at both key stage 1 and key stage 2 is 25.8, compared with 27.4 and 27.7 nationally. This is a slight increase on five years ago, when the average key stage 1 class in the region had 25.7 pupils and the average key stage 2 class had 25.4.

However, the number of key stage 1 classes in the region with 31 or more pupils has almost doubled in five years, from 57 in 2012 to 112 in 2017. This includes 2 of only 6 classes nationally with 36 or more pupils. The largest key stage 1 class in the country – with 40 pupils – was in Sunderland.

At key stage 2, 10.6% of classes in the North East had 31 or more pupils compared to 10.1% five years ago. However, despite this slight increase, this is still considerably less than the national proportion of 15.2%.

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”.

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”.