Northern Education Trust responds to latest Ofsted judgement

Earlier this week, Ofsted published their judgement after inspecting the Northern Education Trust. The Trust’s response to this can be read in full below:

The Trust welcomed the request made by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector to carry out a focused review of nine of twenty of our academies in November 2016. We are pleased that the review recognises that “Principals and governors are fulsome in their praise for the support they receive”. Such acknowledgement is rare in a review of this kind. They also identify the challenge of the task of taking on schools “that have much higher levels of deprivation found nationally”.

We also welcome the review’s appreciation that “the school improvement strategy is on a firmer footing”. However, we are astonished by the lateness of the report which is therefore incapable of recognising the effect of the significant developments in our school improvement strategy since 2016. Ofsted has apologised for the inconvenience that the delay has caused, but we recognise that the regional offices are under increasing pressure due to their diminishing capacity.

We have made significant new appointments, injected substantial resources and made major changes to our systems over the last six months.

We are also concerned that there has been no acknowledgement of the Trust’s existing ‘Supporting Schools to Improve’ policy and arrangements despite evidence of this being supplied to Ofsted twice.

The Northern Education Trust took on the challenge of working with a group of schools, most of which had a history of endemic failure, at the request of the DfE and local authorities four year ago. When NET took them over from local authorities, many schools were not popular with parents and carers. Often they were not financially sustainable and they had limited support from business and local communities. Indeed, one could reasonably argue that many fell into the category that the Education Select Committee recently called ‘untouchable’ schools.

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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.

SCHOOLS NorthEast Patron’s Dinner celebrates education in the region

Last week, SCHOOLS NorthEast held its annual Patron’s Dinner in celebration of education and schools in the region.


The event is held every year in honour of our Patron Lord Puttnam of Queensgate and brings together hundreds of school leaders and educationalists from the region and beyond for an evening of fine-dining.

SCHOOLS NorthEast Patron Lord Puttnam, Prof. Dame Sue Bailey, SCHOOLS NorthEast Chair John Hardy and SCHOOLS NorthEast Director Mike Parker

This year, the Patron’s Dinner was held at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle, which is the UK’s largest independent contemporary commercial art gallery.



School leaders, educationalists and supporters attending had the chance to enjoy a glass of champagne whilst admiring the designs in the main gallery, before the dinner commenced.




Guests were welcomed by our Chairman John Hardy and listened to the inspirational story of Gary Fildes, Founder Director and lead astronomer at the Kielder Observatory, who talked us through his journey from bricklayer to founding one of the most remarkable and unique visitor attractions in the country.



Our long-serving Board member Cherry Diemoz (Breckon Hill Primary School in Middlesbrough) and Trustee Bernard Trafford (Royal Grammar School in Newcastle) were praised for their fantastic work, that didn’t only benefit their schools, but education as a whole in the North East. We would like to, once again, wish them a long and joyous retirement.

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The night came to a close when the winners of our Roald Dahl themed quiz were announced and awarded – congratulations to the team at Vision for Education!


We would like to thank the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM), Durham University for all their support and for choosing to sponsor this event yet again. We would also like to thank the following Commercial Supporters:

Avec Partnership
Calibre Secured Network
EYPS Teaching Supply
First Class Supply & Training
Newcastle University
Premier Teachers
PS Financials
Sika Liquid Plastics
United Carlton Office Systems
University of Sunderland
Vision for Education

Many thanks to everyone who attended, we enjoyed your great company and we hope you had a fantastic time!



North East LEP careers lead named Career Educator of the Year

The North East man helping to transform the quality of careers education in schools and colleges across the region has been named Career Educator of the Year at the prestigious Career Development Institute UK Career Development Awards.

Ryan Gibson, Facilitator for the Career Benchmarks Pilot at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, was awarded the title in recognition of his work with the Gatsby Foundation and the delivery of the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot to 16 schools and colleges across the North East.  Funded by the Gatsby Foundation,  SCHOOLS NorthEast is very proud of its central role in securing this innovative £600K project for the North East region, against strong competition from other parts of the country.

Designed to improve students’ transition from school to the world of work, the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks provide a clear framework for schools and colleges to deliver effective, quality careers education. Students leave school with the ability to make educated choices about their future career and the skills local employers demand. The programme has been praised by Robert Halfon MP, Minister of State at the Department for Education, and is expected to form part of new statutory guidance for schools in delivering careers advice.

Ryan said: “It’s an honour to be named Career Educator of the Year but I haven’t achieved this on my own.

“As well as the team at the North East LEP, we have collaborated with partners across the region who share our ambition to ensure children and young people have access to the best possible careers advice; allowing them to make educated and informed choices about their future.

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Study on North East pupils shows exercise levels decline ‘long before adolescence’

A long-term study of physical activity in children, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, has found that sitting is replacing physical activity from the time children start school.

It suggests that even though adolescence is thought to be the time when children turn their back on exercise, it happens much earlier at around the age of seven.

The study was carried out in Gateshead and the children who took part were tracked between 2006 and 2015.

Experts from Newcastle and Glasgow tracked the activity levels of children over eight years using monitors worn for a week at a time.

Researchers found that, on average:
– when they were 7, boys spent 75 minutes a day exercising; this fell to 51 when they were 15.
– when they were 7, girls spent 63 minutes a day exercising; this fell to 41 at age 15.

However, one in five boys bucked the trend by maintaining the same level of activity through to their teenage years. Researchers noted these boys were the ones who started off with the highest levels of exercise when they were 7.

The news comes after Chancellor Philip Hammond announced during his first Budget last week that schools will get £1bn to spend on sports activities and promote healthy lifestyles amongst pupils. The funding comes from the sugar tax introduced by former Chancellor George Osborne last year.



Schools’ guide to apprenticeship reforms: what you need to know

This week the Department for Education released guidance for schools on the Apprenticeships Levy that will come into effect next month. The Levy has been constructed in such a way that most schools will end up paying it. There will also be changes to funding for apprenticeship training for all employers.

All public sector employers, including schools, will need to consider how they can increase the number of apprentices in their workforce.


  • it applies to all employers operating in the UK, but only employers with an annual pay bill of over £3 million will pay the levy
  • charged at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s annual pay bill
  • all employers will have an annual levy allowance of £15,000 to be used to fund training and assessment only (not wider costs such as salaries) for apprentices
  • at the end of each month, employers will receive a 10% top-up to the levy contributions they have made that month

What do school leaders need to know?

The way in which the levy applies to schools depends on the type of school and the overall employer. Below is a breakdown of each type of school and who will be accountable for paying the levy in each case.

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North East Knight takes lead on BIG PIE Friday Challenge for schools

After the success of last years’ largest ever Enterprise, Engineering and Coding Education Challenge that involved over 1,000 pupils, 21 schools and 50 businesses, this year’s is planned to be even bigger and better.  The hugely successful, popular and industrious Sir John Hall has agreed to take the lead on this year’s BIG PIE Friday Challenge taking place on the morning of Friday 31st March.  The challenge will see primary schools from across Tyne & Wear, Durham and Darlington compete against one another.

Targeting 9, 10 and 11 year olds, this unique, exciting and ambitious Challenge will engage inspire and educate future generations in enterprise and Science, Technology, Engineering, Enterprise and Maths (STEEM) based activities.

The BIG PIE Friday Challenge is being delivered free to schools over three stages. The first stage being two timed activities, one engineering and another Coding based, on the morning of the 31st March. Five schools from each area that are the quickest at completing the tasks will go through to the second stage where they will each undertake a full day of enterprise.  The students will plan, create and sell something with support from local businesses, complete a formal qualification, and then be judged on the profits they have made.  The Challenge will culminate in an awards ceremony in Newcastle in June 2017.

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Two Sunderland Heads gave evidence to MPs on school buildings

Following a recent National Audit Office report which estimated that improving the condition of school buildings would cost £6.7m, the Public Accounts Committee took evidence from both acting and former Head Teachers of Hetton School in Sunderland.

The Commons spending watchdog also found that too much money is being paid for the land and buildings needed for new free schools, saying the Education Funding Agency has paid above the market value in 60% of cases.

Craig Knowles and Phil Keay told MPs they have to close various parts of the school due to bad weather and concerns about asbestos, adding that the school building “was not fit to have children in for several years”.

Mr Knowles told the Committee he will have to make two staff members redundant due to the high costs of equipment for the school.

MPs heard that removing asbestos from schools would cost £100m.

Former Head Phil Keay said: “In terms of the asbestos, most of the asbestos is encased, but there were some ceiling tiles which are taped together, so therefore should be fairly secure, but on windy days, literally the wind got through the building, would open doors and would lift ceilings. And when ceilings lift, the dust then falls.”

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Experts present brand new research at North East evidence-based education conference

The White Working Class conference, the first in a series of SCHOOLS NorthEast events around evidence-based education, took place today at the Durham County Cricket Club and brought together 100 school delegates from across the region.

1.jpgIn his wide-ranging keynote address, Professor Stephen Gorard, a former teacher who is now Professor of Education at Durham University, told delegates that whilst white working class pupils make up a large proportion of the North East’s pupil population, it might also be a red herring. The evidence shows that there is a great deal of variation within ethnic groups and that labelling and categorising pupils may not be a particularly helpful approach.

4Professor Gorard also noted that identifying “working class” pupils can be difficult due to “imperfect” existing social measures. Free School Meals is commonly used as a proxy for deprivation, but this does not pick up all pupils from deprived backgrounds and Prof. Gorard argued that, in fact, it misses some of the most deprived.

He then challenged the theory that there is a negative “North East effect” on attainment. Regression modelling demonstrates that, when relevant social factors are taken into account, there is no underachievement in the North East. In fact, there is actually a very slight positive effect on pupils’ attainment from attending a school in our region.

Professor Gorard then moved on to look at which interventions have been proven to work and which have no evidence-base. In general, the most effective interventions have been found to be those that are bespoke and focusing on individual pupils. These include Accelerated Reader and Switch-on. He noted that interventions that were clearly proven to be effective are relatively rare, so it is important to celebrate those that are. One of the interventions mentioned by Prof. Gorard that is not proven to have any positive impact on attainment is computer-aided learning. Whilst computers can aid learning, there is no evidence that pupils will learn more just because a computer is involved.

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