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.

Big increase in pupils achieving ‘expected standard’ in Key Stage 2 SATs

On Tuesday (4 July) the Department for Education released the interim 2017 Key Stage 2 attainment figures to provide “some context around the national curriculum assessment results returned to schools”.

61% of pupils reached the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics this year, compared to just 53% last year. Scaled scores – which indicate how many marks pupils need to achieve the expected standard were also released.

Performance in all areas of assessment has improved compared to last year as the graph below shows:


This data is just provisional and more information will be published at the end of August. This will include breakdowns by local authority and school type, which will give a better idea of how North East schools have done compared to last year.

School level data will be published in December.


Scaled scores

The marks required to achieve the expected standards (100) in the following tests were as follows:

  • Mathematics: 57 out of 110 (60 in 2016)
  • Reading: 26 out of 50 (21 in 2016)
  • Grammar, punctuation and spelling: 36 out of 70 (43 in 2016)

The average scaled scores for each of these has increased compared to last year:

  • Mathematics: 104 (103 in 2016)
  • Reading: 104 (103 in 2016)
  • Grammar, punctuation and spelling: 106 (104 in 2016)

You can view the full tables of scaled scores 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%.

Greening: No school to lose out under National Funding Formula

Education Secretary Justine Greening has told parliament that the government is committed to ensuring that no school loses money under the National Funding Formula.

Greening confirmed that the government intended to stick to her party’s manifesto pledge that “no school has its budget cut as a result of the new formula”. Promises of fairer funding for schools were also included in last week’s Queen’s Speech.

However, it is unclear yet what form this “fairer funding” will take or how the government will find the additional funding needed to ensure that no school has its budget cut, particularly now that the plans to scrap universal infant free school meals have been dropped.

The formula that the government proposed earlier this year proved controversial, attracting criticism from many different groups. SCHOOLS NorthEast, whilst supporting the principal of a national fair funding formula, found that the government’s proposals would not fund North East schools fairly.

The second stage of that consultation closed on 22 March (you can read the SCHOOLS NorthEast response here) and the government has yet to publish their response. Greening told the Commons on Tuesday, “Now that the consultation is finished we’re going to explain our plans for the fair funding of schools shortly”.


Schools given additional grounds for appeal at GCSE and A-level

Ofqual has announced that schools in England will “have a second chance to challenge GCSE, AS, A level and project results if they have concerns about marking errors”.

The announcement on Wednesday (28 June) adds to schools’ existing right to appeal results on the grounds that an exam board hasn’t followed its own procedures.

The changes will be brought in for AS and A level and project qualifications this summer. This will then be extended to GCSE English language, English literature and Maths in 2018, and to all remaining GCSEs from 2019.

Schools will be able to appeal if they have concerns about marking or moderation errors.  This builds on a pilot exercise last summer involving geography, religious studies and physics A levels.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said:

“Should mistakes occur then those affected rightly expect them to be put right swiftly and with the minimum of fuss.

“We welcome Ofqual revisiting this issue and their announcement to strengthen appeal arrangements. It is critical that these changes are widely publicised so that no mistake goes unchallenged, irrespective of background or circumstance of the pupils impacted – the importance of making the grade on future life choices is too great to leave to chance.”

Mental Health First Aid training for every secondary school by 2020

The government has pledged that every secondary school in the country will receive the training by 2020 and that this will be extended to primary schools by 2022.

The programme is delivered by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, a social enterprise organisation, and is backed by £200,000 in government funding.

Initially the Government had said that the funding would train 3,000 staff members over 3 years. However, they were forced to correct this announcement when it was pointed out that this would amount to just £67 per head. The training costs £117.25 to deliver.

In a later announcement, the government said that the funding would cover 1,000 staff members in the first year of the programme.

It has also been pointed out that there are over 3,400 secondary schools in England and that therefore the target of 3,000 trained staff would not cover every secondary school in England as promised.

Responding to the announcement, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

“Teachers already provide outstanding pastoral care and support for their pupils, but many have said that they would appreciate more training on how to understand and respond to mental health issues.

“We know that identifying symptoms of mental illness early can help young people on the road to recovery. This training will mean more children receive the timely and sensitive support they need to stay well.”

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”.