Government approves North of Tyne Combined Authority

The Government today approved the formation of the North of the Tyne Combined Authority, under which Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle local authorities have joined forces. The authority will be led by a directly elected Mayor.

Schools North East is currently supporting the three authorities in shaping the devolution deal with respect to education.

The new Combined Authority will operate separately from the North East Combined Authority, which will continue to encompass the four local authorities south of the Tyne: Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Elsewhere in the region, the Tees Valley Combined Authority has been led by a directly elected mayor since 2017.


EEF study finds weekly maths tutoring boosts progress by three months

Providing small-group tuition to disadvantaged primary pupils can boost their maths results by three months over the course of a year, according to the results of a large randomised controlled trial published today by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). There was also emerging evidence that pupils with low prior attainment tended to benefit more from the tutoring.

The tutoring was provided by The Tutor Trust, an education charity based in Manchester which offers small group and one-to-one tuition by recruiting and training university students and recent graduates to work as paid tutors.

The findings are consistent with previous evidence from the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit that show small-group tuition is an effective way of improving attainment. However, it is difficult for disadvantaged pupils to access private tuition and the EEF looked to evaluate efforts to make one-to-one and small group tuition available at low cost. The reliability of the findings were emphasised by the EEF, which said this was a “well-designed randomised controlled trial and few pupils who started the trial were not included the final analysis”.

Another a large-scale effectiveness trial published today by the EEF showed less promising results.

The project entitled ‘IPEELL: using self-regulation to improve writing’, used memorable experiences, such as school trips, as a stimulus for improving pupils’ writing.

The first trial in 26 schools showed very positive results; pupils with low prior attainment who were targeted with the intervention made an additional 9 months’ progress in writing.

However, the evaluation of the new, larger, trial conducted across 167 schools) of a scalable version of the programme delivered to the whole class shows mixed results in writing outcomes. And there was a worrying ‘spillover’ effect, with pupils receiving IPEELL making significantly less progress in reading, maths and spelling than the comparison group of pupils, perhaps because class time was diverted away from these subjects and towards the teaching of writing.

Read the full report on tuition here and IPEEL here.

IFS study finds “remarkable” refocusing of education spending towards poorer pupils

New research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows a profound shift in the focus of education spending  away from affluent pupils toward the less well off since the 1980s.

In the 1980s, considerably more was spent on the education of those from well-off backgrounds than on those from poorer backgrounds but this is no longer the case.

The report finds “Changes to the distribution of school funding, increased staying-on rates and reforms to HE funding mean that there was no difference in the amount of public money spent in total on educating the poorest and richest pupils who were taking their GCSEs in 2010….since 2010, the funding system has become even more beneficial to lower-income students relative to the better off. This is in part because of further school funding reforms, in part because post-16 participation rates have risen and in part because funding for school sixth forms (where better-off children are more likely to study) has been cut relative to funding for colleges (which are more likely to serve poorer students)”.

It concludes by recognising, however, that this shift in spending has not been accompanied by a significant reduction in the attainment gap between disadvantaged and affluent pupils. The report cautions against assuming that the shift in funding has therefore been a failure:

“[T]he last 10 years have also seen a raft of changes to qualifications and assessments for pupils at ages 16 and 18. It is difficult to disentangle these from the underlying changes in the human capital and skills formed by pupils from different backgrounds. Indeed, the recent work on the effects of school resources has tended to downplay measures of educational attainment as useful indicators of human capital and instead focused on later -life earnings. It may therefore be a bit early to judge whether changes in education funding have been a success or not.”

Is funding actually reaching those that need it most?

Researchers have previously questioned whether school funding aimed at tackling disadvantage is targeted as well as it could be. For example, Professor Stephen Gorard uses the example of Middlesbrough and Kensington and Chelsea to point out that areas with similar levels of Pupil Premium eligible state educated pupils might well have very different levels of disadvantage in practice.

FSM group Middlesbrough Kensington and Chelsea
Never FSM 53 53
FSM previously 14 27
FSM now 33 19
Source: Stephen Gorard, Education Policy: Evidence of Equity and Effectiveness (2018)

Professor Becky Allen has suggested that Pupil Premium does not target the poorest students and that poverty is a poor proxy for educational disadvantage, arguing for the continuation of the policy in a modified form. Conversely, EEF Chief Executive Sir Kevan Collins recently wrote a column in the TES arguing that Pupil Premium is the best means of reaching disadvantaged pupils.

Read the full IFS report here.

Proportion of teachers moving schools doubles over five years

The proportion of teachers moving to new jobs in other schools has risen rapidly over five years, a “churn” that is often overlooked by ministers according to new research by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Both the rates of teachers leaving the profession and moving between schools have increased since 2010 – Whereas five per cent of primary school teachers moved school in 2010-11, the figure almost doubled to nine per cent in 2014-15. Similarly, the proportion of secondary school teachers who moved schools rose from four per cent to eight per cent. The combined impact of this has meant that school leaders have had more vacancies to fill each year, more staffing uncertainty to deal with and higher costs of recruiting replacements.
  • Lack of job satisfaction is a key reason why teachers leave the profession – The job satisfaction of teachers who leave the profession for a new job also improves considerably, suggesting that the prospect of higher job satisfaction was also an important factor.
  • More and better part-time and flexible working opportunities for secondary teachers is likely to improve retention – Many secondary school teachers switch from full-time to part-time work after they leave teaching, suggesting that there is unmet demand for part-time work for secondary school teachers that drives some to leave.
  • Teachers work long hours during term time and are dissatisfied with their amount of leisure time – Teachers work around 50 hours per week in term time, longer than police officers and nurses – even when school holidays are factored in.

Read the full report here.


Spielman outlines “major risks” to education

HMCI Amanda Spielman has set out six “major risks” to the quality of education in a letter to Parliament’s Education Select Committee.

Despite calling for more funding for the further education sector she said that inspectors had not noticed a decline in the quality of education in schools as funding had fallen.

  • “Intractable schools” – Spielman raised concerns about around 490 “intractable schools” that had performed poorly in inspection for some time and set out plans to look into the failure of interventions in these schools. She also said that the proportion of ‘stuck’ secondary schools “varies considerably among different regions” and they have high levels of FSM eligibility and white british pupils. In December 2017 Ofsted published data with details of 124 schools inspected in 2016/17 that had been inadequate or requires improvement at every inspection since 2005. Just four of those schools were in the North East.
  • Lack of scrutiny on ‘outstanding’ schools – Ofsted has in recent months increased pressure on the Government to remove the inspection exemption for ‘outstanding’ schools and Ms Spielman again reiterated these sentiments.
  • Lack of powers to inspect MATs – Calling for greater powers to inspect MATs, Spielman warned that “the current construction of the accountability system no longer reflects the education system we have today”.
  • Accountability Framework – Referring to changes in Ofsted’s September 2019 framework, she pointed to the Inspectorate’s own research which found that “an overly data-driven accountability system is narrowing what pupils are able to study and learn”.
  • Off-rolling and illegal schools a ‘huge concern’ – Calling for a register of home-schooled pupils, Spielman said a lack of information on children taken out of school for home education is “perhaps my greatest concern as chief inspector”. She went on to say Ofsted had “a lot of anecdotal evidence” that suggests parents are home-educating their children “under duress, to prevent exclusion”. She also said Ofsted continues to identify illegal schools but is severely limited by its lack of powers to seize evidence.
  • DfE and councils don’t support schools under pressure – According to Spielman, “too little support” is given by the DfE and local authorities to “schools that face pressure from groups in the local community or national pressure groups”.

Read the full letter here.

Fiscal Phil puts potholes before pupils in “little things” Budget

The Chancellor of the Exchequer outlined his spending plans in the Budget on Monday but had little to offer schools. The key points for educators are:

  • School equipment and maintenance uplift – Schools across England will receive £400m this year to spend on their equipment and facilities. The Chancellor sparked controversy with his use of language, stating that the money was “for the little things”. This will be a single capital payment to schools, with an average of £10k primary and £50k secondary. How the money will be apportioned is not yet known.
  • CYP mental health crisis service – The Chancellor has alloted up to £250m a year by 2023/24 for new mental health crisis services. Part of the crisis service will be focused on children. The Chancellor said further information would be in the 10-year NHS plan which will be published shortly.
  • Maths and physics teacher retention trial – The Budget provides funding for a £10m regional trial to test how to improve retention of early career maths and physics teachers. No further detail was provided on this announcement.
  • End of WWI centenary and Holocaust commemoration – To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, the Treasury will provide £1 million to pay for battlefield visits. A further £1.7 million will be provided to a charity to pay for projects in schools marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camps.
  • Full fibre broadband in rural schools – The Budget allocates £200m from the National Productivity Investment Fund to pilot innovative approaches to deploying full fibre internet in rural locations, starting with primary schools. The first wave will include Northumberland primaries.
  • End to PFI – The Chancellor said the Government would no longer use private finance initiatives (PFI) to fund new building projects, including schools. Existing projects will be unaffected.
  • Uncertainty around policy ‘intentions’– The OBR’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook listed 15 separate policy ‘intentions’ where firm Government policy is yet to be announced. These areas were left out of the Budget.

Responding to the Chancellor’s speech, Director of Schools North East Mike Parker said:

“The Chancellor started his Budget off in jovial fashion declaring he was ‘Phil the Fiscal’ but his crass comments on funding the ‘little things’ in education is more akin to Phil the Flippant. His comments deny the depth of under-funding in schools, forcing them to write to parents to beg for support and seeing teachers made redundant, curriculum narrowing and slashing the vital enrichment in schools that support the most deprived.

“It is also striking that the Chancellor is more committed to filling holes in the road than he is to filling the holes in education with the announcement of a £420 million ‘pothole’ fund.

“No Head will turn their nose up at this one-off handout but it’s time Philip Hammond went back to school to see at first hand the funding crisis and its impact on all children, especially those the Prime Minister’s social mobility drive is intended to benefit. A longer term, properly resourced plan is urgently needed to more adequately support schools in these austere times for education.”

On the announcement of improving access to Children and Young Peoples’ Mental Health services, Mike Parker said:

“Schools North East strongly backs the creation of a Children and Young Peoples’ Mental Health Crisis Service in every part of the country. This is huge area of concern for school leaders who are seeing children presenting with more difficult and complex problems than ever before.

“It is essential that a greater focus is placed on the causes of children’s’ mental health problems, some of which are inextricably linked to the higher stakes nature of current education policy. Prevention is vital as this will reduce the cost of funding the symptoms of mental ill health run the long term.”

“Schools North East launched the UK’s first and only schools-led mental health commission – Healthy MindED – in response to demand from schools in our region for support, and together we are committed to improving the mental health of children across our region.”

Sunderland school leader appointed to Social Mobility Commission

A North East school leader has been appointed to the Government’s Social Mobility Commission by Education Secretary Damian Hinds.

Sammy Wright, vice principal of Southmoor Academy in Sunderland, will join 11 other new appointees on the Commission, which is chaired by Dame Martina Milburn.

The Commission’s work has a real impact across Government policy. For example, the Social Mobility Index was used to determine eligibility for the first 12 areas in the DfE’s Opportunity Areas scheme.

Schools North East would like to congratulate Mr Wright on his appointment.

The other newly appointed commissioners are:

Alastair da Costa – chair of Capital City College Group

Liz Williams – group director of Digital Society at BT

Farrah Storr – editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan

Harvey Matthewson – volunteer, and part-time sales assistant at Marks & Spencer

Jessica Oghenegweke – project co-ordinator at the Diana Award

Jody Walker – senior vice president at TJX Europe (TK Maxx and Home Sense in the UK)

Pippa Dunn – founder of Broody, helping entrepreneurs and start ups

Saeed Atcha – founder and chief executive officer of Xplode magazine

Sam Friedman – associate professor in sociology at LSE

Sandra Wallace – managing partner UK and joint managing director Europe at DLA Piper

Steven Cooper – outgoing chief executive officer of Barclaycard Business

Parental donations to school funds rising

The average monthly voluntary donation parents are making to school funds rose by £2.45 over the past year from £8.90 to £11.35, according to a survey carried out by Parentkind.

The charity surveyed 1,500 parents – 1,200 from England, 100 from Northern Ireland and 200 from Wales – over the summer holidays.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • 43% of parents say they have been asked to give money to a school fund
  • over a quarter of the parents (26%) reported paying for school clubs that used to be free
  • 28% had been asked to pay to attend events such as sports days and concerts
  • a fifth (21%) had been asked to supply teaching equipment such as stationery, books and glue pens – up from 15% in 2017
  • more than one in 10 (12%) had supplied essentials such as toilet paper – up from 7% the previous year

Read the full story at BBC News online.

Financial pressures “a strong incentive” to exclude pupils with SEND, MPs hear

Schools under financial pressure have a strong incentive to exclude or off-roll pupils with SEND, the Education Select Committee heard this week.

Ambitious about Autism’s policy and public affairs manager Justin Cooke told MPs “There is sadly a financial incentive for schools to off-roll or exclude SEN children, particularly when they reach the point of needing extra help that they don’t get via [an education, health and care] plan or SEN support, because they know that those children will then be the local authority’s responsibility.

“If they are placed in a special school, it comes out of the high needs block, whereas if they aided inclusion and kept them in school it would come out of their school block.”

He went on to say: “There is sadly a financial incentive for schools to off-roll or exclude SEN children, particularly when they reach the point of needing extra help that they don’t get via [an education, health and care] plan or SEN support, because they know that those children will then be the local authority’s responsibility.

“If they are placed in a special school, it comes out of the high needs block, whereas if they aided inclusion and kept them in school it would come out of their school block.”

Mr Cooke highlighted the financial pressures faced by “desperate” heads, as well as “extreme behaviour policies” some schools have adopted. He said: “I think it’s a desperation measure by some schools, but it is also an ethos for other schools who have, I would say, extreme behaviour policies which do not help inclusion, and they often get off-rolling and exclusion via that as well.”

The evidence session was part of the Committee’s inquiry into how SEND is funded, the challenges faced by schools and local authorities and the impact of reforms to funding for pupils with SEND.

In February Cathy Kirby, Ofsted’s Regional Director, sent letters to Secondary heads in some parts of the North East raising concerns about rising levels of exclusions. She said the intention was to shine a light on the issue and promote a dialogue.

Speaking at an Ofsted update event in Durham organised by Schools North East last month the Regional Director warned she would use inspection to hold schools to account where Ofsted has serious concerns about exclusions.

SEND funding petition – North East reaction

This week parents and carers of children with SEN handed in a petition with 34,000 signatures to Education Secretary Damian Hinds.

Lynn Watson, a trustee of Schools North East said:

“Over 2,000 of the most vulnerable children in our society are being euphemistically ‘home educated’ due to significant gaps in school provision able to meet their needs. This is an indictment on a system obsessed with Ofsted grades, floor targets, progress 8 and league tables instead of focusing on ethical leadership in what is of real value within an inclusive society. As long as some schools continue to use exclusion as a means of manipulating attainment targets these vulnerable children are at risk. This potentially has an impact on us all in terms of substantial costs to our health, social care and judicial system.

Over 2,000 of the most vulnerable children and young people in our society are out of school due to the inadequacies and lack of moral leadership in maintaining and providing provision to meet their needs. The solutions are never simple but considering the extent of the problem should we not be focusing on: strategic planning in line with demographics and funding to support provision, building capacity within mainstream schools so exclusion is not used as a means of manipulating attainment, supporting leaders who value inclusion and understand the effect of children being out of school and believing inclusion is a measure of success, confidence in managing the obsession with Ofsted and league tables, challenging the lack of partnership working between our services and I could go on to describe a woeful long term lack of support for SEND. Society will be the loser in this as demand for increased support from health, judicial services and social care costs effect us all.”