Curriculum is important and not just because of Ofsted

Our first Curriculum Conference saw over 200 delegates attend the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough to hear from local schools and curriculum gurus sharing best practice.

Now a focus of Ofsted’s new Education Inspection Framework, curriculum is once again at the forefront for school leaders, as seen from this sold out event. However, it was clear from many of the speakers that emphasising the importance of curriculum design should not just be about Ofsted but about providing a quality education for students.

Keynote speaker Christine Counsell, Curriculum Expert and former Director of Education at Inspiration Trust, emphasised how significant the impact of curriculum is on student outcomes through looking at reading comprehension. She argued that a ‘rich vocabulary comes from rich knowledge’ and that covering relevant topics in history, geography and science for example, can help build up a child’s ‘schema’ and level of understanding around vocabulary which supports them when faced with a difficult text. Due to this, Christine emphasised the importance of sequencing to ensure children have the relevant knowledge at the right times.

Furthering this sense of curriculum encompassing something wider than simply a scheme of topics, Colin Lofthouse, CEO, SMART Multi Academy Trust, made the case that curriculum is ‘everything we do’ from the way we say hello in the morning and should be driven by the values and ethos of your school. He went on to explain that your curriculum should reflect your pupils lives, as well as the deficit in their lives, echoing Christine’s earlier point that schools are there to help children build the knowledge and ‘schema’ they wouldn’t develop from their home lives.

Building a curriculum relevant to your students was also reflected by David Leat, Professor of Curriculum Innovation at Newcastle University, in his session on localized curriculums. He described how using community resources, whether places, issues, data etc, can provide students with the chance to both learn about their local areas as well as provide a service or contribute to them.

From the conference it was clear that there are many different approaches to curriculum and curriculum design but the key takeaway from the day, was that any changes to curriculum in your school should not be about Ofsted, but your students.

Does new Ofsted EIF affect outcomes for disadvantaged pupils?

The debate about the effect of the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework and it’s impact on disadvantaged students is well under way. Last week leading CEOs Sir Dan Moynihan, Harris Federation, and Martyn Oliver, Outwood Grange Academies Trust, labelled the framework ‘middle class’, and claimed it would ‘damage outcomes for disadvantaged children’.

These comments were centred around shortening Key Stage 3 to allow disadvantaged students three years to sit their GCSEs. Ofsted has argued no preference over length of Key Stage 3, but some indications have shown schools with longer GCSE programmes may be penalised under the new framework.

New investigation by Schools Week has suggested that a standard length of Key Stage 3 has little impact on outcomes. Looking at Harris Federation’s St John’s Wood and comparing 49 similar schools through FFT Datalab’s Schools Like Yours Tool, it found that it had comparable Progress 8 scores, with small differences for those with a shorter Key Stage 3.

This debate focuses on a very specific aspect of the new framework, and small sample sizes from the first inspections mean it is not yet possible to accurately judge the effects of the new framework. Furthermore, many schools will now be taking a fresh look at their curriculum, so current outcomes are a legacy of past measures, and it may be some years before the impact of new curricula are seen.

Early indications in the North East show that last term (September-November), under the new inspection framework, the region has seen proportionally more schools upgraded than anywhere else in the country. Around 23% of North East schools saw their grade improve, compared to a national average of 16%. Equally, the region had fewer schools downgraded, proportionally almost half as many as the national average.

This is very promising and given high levels of deprivation in the region, this suggests that the new Education Inspection Framework does not adversely affect schools in disadvantaged areas, and may even be seen to go towards levelling the playing field for these schools which performed poorly under the previous framework, which failed to take context into account. However, these indications are based on a small number of inspections completed, so no accurate conclusions can yet be drawn. Schools North East will continue to monitor outcomes to look at the effect of the new framework in the North East.

Regional links w/c 13/01/20

South Tyneside

Sacked headteacher set to take South Tyneside Council to industrial tribunal (Shields Gazette)

School children enjoy delayed Children in Need fundraiser after Jarrow primary reopens following norovirus closure (Shields Gazette)

South Tyneside parents welcome return of longstanding lollipop man amid road safety fears (Shields Gazette)

Hartlepool

Hartlepool teacher in line for top award after YouTube videos viewed more than 4 million times worldwide (Hartlepool Mail)

Hartlepool schoolchildren given tour of Teesport (Northern Echo)

North Tyneside

These North Tyneside schools are leading the way in literacy support (News Guardian)

Newcastle

Mumps outbreak hits the North East with 169 reported cases in the last two weeks (Chronicle Live)

Check out The Royal Grammar School Newcastle’s incredible new art studios (Chronicle Live)

Jesmond Park Academy school cook could be named UK’s School Chef of the Year (Chronicle Live)

Newcastle United’s DeAndre Yedlin and Jetro Willems make surprise visit to Byker Primary School (Chronicle Live)

Durham

County Durham’s best primary reveals its secret to success – and see how Durham’s other schools rank (Chronicle Live)

County Durham college nominated for prestigious accolade – for the third time (Chronicle Live)

Gateshead

Union demands answers after Gateshead College announce redundancies due to £6m deficit (Chronicle Live)

Darlington

Darlington school secures £228,000 from fund to improve North-East schools  (Northern Echo)

Sunderland

Lessons in caring for wildlife after two boys kicked hedgehog to death in Sunderland (Sunderland Echo)

George Washington Primary School closed for two days due to ‘severe’ illness outbreak (Sunderland Echo)

Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough Council ‘reasonably confident’ of enough school places in September (Teeside Live)

Headteacher to retire after 15 years at the helm as school receives ‘good’ Ofsted report (Teeside Live)

Northumberland

MP welcomes cash boost for Northumberland schools that could see funding rise up to 40% (Northumberland Gazette)

Ofsted plans to reinspect all 'Outstanding' schools by 2025

Plans announced by the Department for Education will see Ofsted inspecting all ‘Outstanding’ schools in the next five years. This would end the exemption introduced in 2012 which has meant that Outstanding schools would not be inspected unless there was specific cause. The exemption has resulted in some schools not being inspected for over a decade. The North East has the highest proportion of these schools with around 72 not being inspected in over 10 years.

The North East also has one of the highest proportions of ‘Outstanding’ schools overall, with approximately 234 schools which will potentially be affected by the proposals.

Schools North East supports all schools pre and post inspection through Ofsted Chat on our online community ConnectEd. If you are in a school and would like to join, register your interest.

The plans are subject to Parliamentary approval but are likely to be in place from this September. While the plans have generally been welcomed as a way to maintain standards and drive improvement, the NAHT has expressed concern that ‘Outstanding’ schools will face full section 5 inspections.

The proposals are under consultation which closes at 5pm on 24 February 2020.

Contribute to the consultation

Schools North East challenges 'false narrative' around Darlington schools

Ofsted’s ‘Flight or Fight’ report on stuck schools, released earlier this week, highlighted certain schools as being ‘stuck’, after repeatedly being graded less than ‘Good’. Unfortunately, the report also ‘named and shamed’ Darlington as one of three areas in the country with the highest proportions of ‘stuck’ schools.

Whilst the report acknowledged the importance of taking school context into account, it failed to consider the high levels of long term, high impact disadvantage in Darlington, compared to other areas of the country. Schools North East responded with evidence from Durham University Evidence Centre for Education, and other sources, which shows that when levels of high impact disadvantage are taken into account, Darlington actually performs no worse than anywhere else in the country.

As outlined in our Manifesto for North East Education, Schools North East is committed to challenging the ‘false narrative’ of poor performance that is all too often used to label our region. This narrative is profoundly damaging to our schools, students and hard working teaching professionals.

The Manifesto is a statement of intent and the foundation of our ever stronger focus on influencing the development of education policy, as it impacts on our region. 

Our response was picked up by local and national press. Schools North East Director Chris Zarraga was quoted in the Northern Echo – Schools North East says Ofsted report gives Darlington a ‘false narrative’.

Schools North East Trustee Maura Regan from Carmel College was also interviewed on the issue by 5 News. You can see the full news coverage below.

Schools North East will continue to demand that policymakers properly take the context of North East schools into account. These are issues which we will be exploring further at our Policy Rountable Event, which will focus on the North East’s context and how we can promote a positive narrative around North East education.  We are delighted to announce that we will be joined at the event by Professor Stephen Gorard, from Durham University Evidence Centre for Education.

The workshop is designed to enable school leaders to help Schools North East create detailed recommendations for government and policymakers to act upon. 

The event is free of charge to attend and gives you the chance to contribute to the education policy debate.

Education links w/c 6/1/20

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/best-schools-for-sat-results-17423140 – Chronicle Live, The North East’s best schools for SAT results revealed – is your child’s on the list?

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/newcastle-schools-newbiggin-hall-simonside-17428641 – Chronicle Live, Multi-million pound plans for two new schools in Newcastle could be approved this week.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/school-roads-closed-air-pollution-17441952 – Chronicle Live, Roads outside Tyneside schools could shut at pick-up and drop-off times to cut air pollution danger.

https://www.darlingtonandstocktontimes.co.uk/news/18110542.billingham-pupil-wins-award-success-despite-battle-cancer/ – Darlington & Stockton Times, Billingham pupil wins award for success despite battle with cancer.

https://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/people/goodbye-mr-duds-school-says-farewell-caretaker-who-was-there-its-first-day-1343183 – Sunderland Echo, Goodbye Mr Duds – School says farewell to caretaker who was there on its first day.

https://www.sunderlandecho.com/education/kevin-ball-unveils-new-mural-created-sunderland-youngsters-celebrate-wearsides-rich-history-1345766 – Sunderland Echo, Kevin Ball unveils new mural created by Sunderland youngsters to celebrate Wearside’s rich history.

https://www.sunderlandecho.com/education/work-begins-new-academy-school-autistic-children-sunderland-1345798 – Sunderland Echo, Work begins on a new academy school for autistic children in Sunderland.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/education/pupils-prepare-grand-lantern-parade-alnwick-1344128 – Northumberland Gazette, Pupils prepare for Grand Lantern Parade in Alnwick.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/education/falling-pupil-number-concerns-raised-during-discussions-how-northumberland-village-should-develop-1342569 – Northumberland Gazette, Falling pupil number concerns raised during discussions on how Northumberland village should develop.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/education/primary-school-pupils-hit-right-note-christmas-play-day-1342322 – Northumberland Gazette, Primary school pupils hit the right note with Christmas play in a day.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/education/elite-youngsters-looking-forward-sporting-success-dyke-house-academy-hartlepool-1345094 – Hartlepool Mail, Elite youngsters looking forward to sporting success at Dyke House Academy in Hartlepool.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/education/hartlepool-school-branded-inadequate-ofsted-inspectors-1342752 – Hartlepool Mail, Hartlepool school branded ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors.

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/teaching-ban-assistant-head-who-17445661 – Gazette Live, Teaching ban for assistant head who fiddled attendance records at school.

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/troubleshooting-trust-brought-turn-round-17442511 – Gazette Live, Troubleshooting trust brought in to turn round a failing Teesside academy.

https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/local/northdurham/18105066.looking-behind-scenes-durham-universitys-first-new-college-14-years/?ref=mac – The Northern Echo, Looking behind the scenes at Durham University’s first new college in 14 years.

Schools North East Response to Ofsted 'Flight or Fight' Report

Ofsted’s ‘Fight or Flight’ report on school performance categorises schools that have had consistently weak inspection outcomes over the last 13 years as ‘stuck’ schools, compared to ‘unstuck’ schools which have previously had poor inspections but have since improved. 

The report highlights Darlington as an area with one of the highest proportions of ‘stuck’ schools in the country. However, Chris Zarraga, Director of Schools North East, commented that “when looking more closely at the context, Darlington has very high levels of long term, high impact disadvantaged students, which is proven to have a severe impact on school performance, especially when using current performance measures. Research from Durham University Evidence Centre for Education shows that when levels of disadvantage are taken into account, Darlington performs no worse than elsewhere in the country.”

Although the report goes some way to properly acknowledging the importance of the context schools operate in, Schools North East would argue that this is nowhere near enough. The importance of a context specific approach is one that Schools North East has called on all political parties and education policymakers to adopt in its recently released Manifesto for North East Education, along with targeted schools support appropriate to a school’s needs and context.  

Highlighting Darlington in this way is part of a wider ‘false narrative’ about the performance of the region’s schools compared to other parts of the country, using current performance measures which do not take this context into account. This leads to the inaccurate and detrimental labelling of dedicated and highly professional school leaders within some of the most difficult contexts in the country.

Encouragingly, the report argued that the most effective initiatives to help struggling schools are those that are context-specific, and that there is a need for flexibility in the implementation of improvement strategies. Schools North East welcomes and supports this approach as currently the government does not ask, or adequately fund, Ofsted to support schools following inspection.

Schools North East is committed to ensuring that the North East region’s context is taken into account, to ensuring that our schools get the targeted support that they need, and also to dispelling false narratives of poor performance in the region. 

Ofsted admits schools in disadvantaged areas still less likely to achieve 'Good'

Under the new Ofsted Inspection Framework, schools with more pupils who are ‘deprived’ are still less likely to be judged ‘Good’ than schools in more affluent areas.

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director of Education, admitted that the new framework had not made judgements for schools more equitable, despite Amanda Spielman claiming last year that the changes would “reward schools in challenging circumstances that are raising standards through strong curricula”.

Harford claimed that Inspectors do take context of schools into account in their judgements and said “it’s unrealistic to think that a new inspection framework is suddenly going to result in a huge leap upwards in inspection grades for schools in disadvantaged areas…. Some of these children are unfortunately not getting the education they deserve. Ofsted has to draw attention to that.”

So far, of inspected schools, 64% of those in the most deprived quintile have been judged ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, compared to 77% of schools overall.

Speaking at the Schools North East Summit 2019, Lord Agnew highlighted that ‘of all the regions, the North East has consistently had the lowest proportion of young people in good and outstanding secondary schools.’

As one of the regions with the highest levels of long-term high-impact disadvantage, this means that the North East could potentially still be at a disadvantage when it comes to the new framework. Schools North East will be looking at data from the first term of inspections in January to analyse what trends are emerging.

While it is still too soon to fully judge the effectiveness of the new framework, these indications show that specific contexts weren’t sufficiently taken into account. Schools North East’s Manifesto for North East Education is calling for politicians and policymakers to fully consider how policies will affect the region before implementing them. You can find out more on our Manifesto website.

Education Links W/C 16.12.19

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/best-schools-for-sat-results-17423140 – Chronicle Live, The North East’s best schools for SAT results revealed – is your child’s on the list?

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/newcastle-schools-newbiggin-hall-simonside-17428641 – Chronicle Live, Multi-million pound plans for two new schools in Newcastle could be approved this week.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/school-roads-closed-air-pollution-17441952 – Chronicle Live, Roads outside Tyneside schools could shut at pick-up and drop-off times to cut air pollution danger.

https://www.darlingtonandstocktontimes.co.uk/news/18110542.billingham-pupil-wins-award-success-despite-battle-cancer/ – Darlington & Stockton Times, Billingham pupil wins award for success despite battle with cancer.

https://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/people/goodbye-mr-duds-school-says-farewell-caretaker-who-was-there-its-first-day-1343183 – Sunderland Echo, Goodbye Mr Duds – School says farewell to caretaker who was there on its first day.

https://www.sunderlandecho.com/education/kevin-ball-unveils-new-mural-created-sunderland-youngsters-celebrate-wearsides-rich-history-1345766 – Sunderland Echo, Kevin Ball unveils new mural created by Sunderland youngsters to celebrate Wearside’s rich history.

https://www.sunderlandecho.com/education/work-begins-new-academy-school-autistic-children-sunderland-1345798 – Sunderland Echo, Work begins on a new academy school for autistic children in Sunderland.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/education/pupils-prepare-grand-lantern-parade-alnwick-1344128 – Northumberland Gazette, Pupils prepare for Grand Lantern Parade in Alnwick.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/education/falling-pupil-number-concerns-raised-during-discussions-how-northumberland-village-should-develop-1342569 – Northumberland Gazette, Falling pupil number concerns raised during discussions on how Northumberland village should develop.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/education/primary-school-pupils-hit-right-note-christmas-play-day-1342322 – Northumberland Gazette, Primary school pupils hit the right note with Christmas play in a day.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/education/elite-youngsters-looking-forward-sporting-success-dyke-house-academy-hartlepool-1345094 – Hartlepool Mail, Elite youngsters looking forward to sporting success at Dyke House Academy in Hartlepool.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/education/hartlepool-school-branded-inadequate-ofsted-inspectors-1342752 – Hartlepool Mail, Hartlepool school branded ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors.

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/teaching-ban-assistant-head-who-17445661 – Gazette Live, Teaching ban for assistant head who fiddled attendance records at school.

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/troubleshooting-trust-brought-turn-round-17442511 – Gazette Live, Troubleshooting trust brought in to turn round a failing Teesside academy.

https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/local/northdurham/18105066.looking-behind-scenes-durham-universitys-first-new-college-14-years/?ref=mac – The Northern Echo, Looking behind the scenes at Durham University’s first new college in 14 years.

Schools North East calls on new Government to adopt Manifesto for North East Education

The General Election results are out and have shown an overwhelming Conservative majority. Schools North East are calling on this new Government to adopt our Manifesto for North East Education.

In the run up to the General Election Schools North East produced a Manifesto for North East Education, with a series of recommendations for policymakers to ensure the North East does not continue to be left behind when it comes to education and the long-term issues facing it in the region.

The Conservative party manifesto included promises on funding that were announced as part of the spending review, with a levelling up through minimum guaranteed funding levels. It has been identified that there are significant regional differences in how the funding will be distributed, with the North East losing out in comparison to other regions. Our first recommendation is for politicians to ‘Recognise the regional context’ – and to target funding and policy to those areas which have significant numbers of students facing long-term high-impact deprivation.

The spending increases on offer only cover the next few years, and there is a lack of a long term guarantee on spending. In recommendation 5 of our Manifesto, we are ask politicians to take a long term view on education. While the Conservative manifesto promises do not indicate major structural changes, we suggest a 10 year view of education policy and funding so that schools can plan and prepare, and so that it is possible to adequately evaluate whether policies are working or not.

Other promises on education included raising teachers’ starting salaries to £30,000. While this may help to recruit new teachers, it does not go far enough towards solving the recruitment and retention crisis the sector is facing, and it is not a coordinated effort to ensure that challenging schools attract quality teaching staff or leaders. Our Manifesto calls on policymakers to ensure that more targeted work is done to attract teachers and leaders to schools in disadvantaged areas, and that financial incentives are not used as a stop-gap.

The focus on early years continues to be on childcare as opposed to quality teaching and learning, which we identify in recommendation 6 ‘Greater support for Early Years’. This is integral to reducing the widening attainment gap, as identified by the Education Policy Institute (EPI), which disproportionately affects disadvantaged students in the North East.

The election may be over but our work on the Manifesto for North East Education has literally only just begun. We will be calling on our region’s newly elected politicians to adopt this Manifesto and in the remainder of the academic year we will be developing the detail and nuance that underlie our recommendations. We will do this by hosting a roadshow of ‘Manifesto for North East Education’ Policy Roundtable events, with schools, relevant stakeholders, and partners who can help us create detailed positions behind each recommendation, from which we will continue to press government and policymakers to act upon.  

Our first event will be held on 27th February and will focus on the North East’s Context and why this should have a major impact on policy. You can reserve a place at this free event here.