Teacher trainers ordered to rethink entry standards to ‘maximise recruitment’

Teacher trainer providers have been told they will be checked to see if they are rejecting suitable candidates – after a drastic drop in applications.

Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards, has written to initial teacher training providers today saying that the initial teacher training (ITT) criteria will be changed to: “encourage universities and schools to assess candidates on their potential to meet the teachers’ standard by the end of their training.”

He adds that providers will be required to show what steps they are taking to maximise recruitment.

The letter from Mr Gibb states: “We are amending our ITT criteria and Ofsted is making a number of minor changes to the ITE (initial teacher education) inspection handbook. It is right to reject candidates who are not suitable.

“However, it is also crucial to support and develop those who have the desire and talent to teach. The emphasis must be on assessing applicants based on their suitability to train to teach, rather than whether they are ready to teach at the point of entry.”

Read the full article on the Tes.


Education and Health Select Committees hold join session on mental health Green Paper

Education and Health Select Committees hold join session on mental health Green Paper

On Tuesday Parliament’s Health and Education Committees heard from expert witnesses on the proposals contained in the Government’s “Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision” green paper as part of a joint inquiry on mental health provision for children and young people.

The expert witnesses, who were questioned by MPs across two sessions, were:

  • Anne Longfield OBE, Children’s Commissioner for England
  • Dr Pooky Knightsmith, Vice Chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition and Director of the Children and Young People programme at the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust
  • Rowan Munson, former member 2015 Youth Select Committee
  • Paul Whiteman, General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers
  • Stuart Rimmer, Principal and CEO, East Coast College
  • Dr Tamsin Ford, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Exeter
  • Dr Bernadka Dubicka, Chair of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Faculty, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Honorary Reader at the University of Manchester, and Inpatient Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

Some of the comments given by the witnesses on Tuesday are set out thematically below.

Overall views on the Green Paper

Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield welcomed the Green Paper, especially the focus on early intervention and the ambition on CAMHS waiting lists.

However, she argued that in broad terms it would not transform things as it lacks any framework of expectations and accountability. In her view we should be looking at the scale of change in the adult mental health world and trying to emulate that in the way we deal with children’s mental health. She called for the introduction of benchmarking for children’s mental health.

She said she was unclear about how the new funding that is going to be introduced and called for the National Audit Office to do a survey of funding. She pointed out that spending on children’s mental health is only 6% of what is spent on adults, calling the scale of the change needed “incredible”.

Dr Pooky Knightsmith, Vice Chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition and Director of the Children and Young People programme at the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, welcomed the Green Paper as a positive step forward. However, she worried that there is not enough money available and that it wouldn’t find its way to the right places.

Dr Knightsmith went on to say prevention should become more of a key part of the approach. One of the things that isn’t in the Green Paper is 0-5 prevention. We should also be thinking of the role of school staff and parents, in terms of their mental health and their ability to act as positive role models.

She was concerned that the huge amount of good work that has already happened was sitting apart from the Green Paper proposals. She said the Green Paper is not ambitious enough.

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, Chair of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Faculty, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Honorary Reader at the University of Manchester, and Inpatient Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, welcomed the breadth of the paper and ambition on waiting times. She had concerns around workforce recruitment and retention but welcomed the idea of mental health lead in schools.

She said there was no additional capacity in child psychology to meet the anticipated need within the Green Paper and that they were trying to do what they can to increase recruitment.

She also said parenting is a big gap in this document- it is one of the big areas we have where we know it actually works. With parenting groups for parents of children with behavioural difficulties as early as possible we can do an awful lot of good. The evidence shows it works, it’s missing from this document and needs to be addressed.

Rowan Munson, a former member 2015 Youth Select Committee, said cuts to local authorities were hitting young people’s preventative mental health services. He welcomed the emphasis on improving CAMHS waiting times but felt that high thresholds often meant there was no point in referring someone to the local CAMHS service unless they are literally on the verge of suicide.

Stuart Rimmer, Principal and CEO of East Coast College, said that colleges could be dealt with separately as their small numbers mean they could mobilise much faster.

He said the transition period from 16-25 is important and the Green Paper doesn’t go far enough in understanding what might be behind the bottleneck.

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers said that the situation is characterised by a lack of resources- e.g.  when the Green Paper talks about waiting times for referrals we know we are talking about months rather than weeks.

He said we have a high stakes system at the moment due to exam pressure and this is going to be there no matter what teachers and parents do. There are limits to what schools can do. Their job is to educate children and then to rely on services outside of the school gate. They can’t do everything and aren’t resourced to do everything.

He said head teachers sometimes use their own budgets to fill the gaps but this is becoming harder and harder. He argued that bringing agencies together is the right thing to do but wondered whether there are really sufficient resources.

Mr Whiteman also raised a point about basic funding, suggesting that the number of Teaching Assistants schools could have at the moment is a real stretch. Losing a lot of one to one support is going to have an impact on mental health.

The Mental Health leads

Anne Longfield said the role should not be put onto an existing member of staff and had to be someone who is able to link up with health teams.

She said the issue of resources is important as we can’t just keep stitching together what’s already there because we know that access levels are poor. There needs to be additional funding there to boost the numbers that are available to work with children, given that only 6% of the mental health budget currently goes to children. Only if it was three or four times higher could it start to address the probem.

Paul Whiteman said there needed to be more clarity around the parameters of the role. It should be clear about what point they will be expected to refer to more specialist services. He aired concerns about the training of the mental health leads, saying that there needs to be national guidance to ensure standards are consistent.

He went on to talk about the lack of recognition of increased workload as the mental health leads pick up new work. A lot of that work won’t be accepted by CAMHS due to the high threshold and there’s a danger that the mental health leads will be expected to deal with them themselves, affecting morale, recruitment and retention. He worried that it may become “another stick” to beat school leaders with.

Dr Tamsin Ford, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Exeter argued that the mental health leads need to be trained consistently, need to be comfortable with the role and need to have the time to do it. We need to make sure they are delivering interventions to children that are evidence based and then monitoring their outcomes and reflecting and improving on the basis of that. She said the role needed to be better defined as it blurs the lines between clinician and educator.

The trailblazer areas

Dr Pooky Knightsmith questioned whether some areas would have the capability to be trailblazers and expressed concerns that it may fall to areas that are already more advanced to go ahead with the pilots.

Anne Longfield said she wanted consistency across the country as early as possible. She said IAPT has been rolled out and got to 1.5 million people in 10 years and there is consistency and clear accountability framework.

Dr Bernadka Dubicka said there should be a variation of sites between areas that are doing well and areas that struggle. However, we can’t select sites that are going to fail and there needs to be some kind of commitment to making this happen.

Tamsin Ford said that having tried to get research about parenting and teaching groups going in disadvantaged areas and not having much success she recognised that you do need a mix of areas. When some areas are successful tougher areas see that success and get on board. Some areas that face real challenges can end up being amazing.

Stuart Rimmer suggested looking at sectoral approaches rather than geographical ones.

Opportunity Areas / Disadvantage

Committee Chair Robert Halfon MP asked if there was evidence of joined up thinking between the Green Paper and the Social Mobility Action Plan and opportunity areas.

Anne Longfield said she’d like to see a lot more of it and we shouldn’t look at education or health in isolation. The opportunity areas should be embracing all of these things. She called for targeting in broader terms around areas of high disadvantage.

She said there are pockets of disadvantage hidden in rural areas where deprivation can be awful.

She agreed with Ian Mearns MP that the number of opportunity areas was too small and said it was “very strange” that there isn’t one in the north east.

Pooky Knightsmith said that trailblazer areas are really important but would welcome a very wide range of different sizes, types and geography.

Rowan Munson said that the more diverse data we have the better the intervention would be.

Dr Bernadka Dubicka mentioned that the introduction of the Green Paper talks about helping vulnerable groups but there isn’t much substance on this in the document. She went on to ask how the new GDPR data protection regulations would impact on the ability of youth offending teams, housing officers and broader social support to share information on young people.


Dr Tamsin Ford said we need to be better able to support high-functioning autistic children who may cope well in the classroom because it is structured but struggle with the social aspects of school such as break time. This has implications in SEN training and resources. She said they shouldn’t have to choose between academic achievement in mainstream schools or mental health and wellbeing in more specialised settings. She said the answer to this is adequate support for them to cope with the social structures. That might mean a child having a Teaching Assistant with them during the break and teachers having training around autism.

Data on mental health

Dr Bernadka Dubicka said the Green Paper’s Impact Assessments do not use accurate data and are based on a lot of assumptions. We need to have good figures and data on what the unmet need is.

She said there is a prevalence survey coming up so we’ll find out what this is soon, however, the survey won’t be repeated for 7 years so in the intervening period we will not know what is happening. There is a unique opportunity to get that data. If the Government funds this on ongoing basis year to year we would have that data and know what impact the green paper is happening.

Dr Tamsin Ford said the data used in the Impact Assessment for the Green Paper was over a decade old.

Rowan Munson said the real issue is that we are not talking to children and young people enough. We need more data but we also need to be asking young people where their first point of contact is and what works for them.

Social media

Rowan Munson argued there was a link between social media and poor mental health. He mentioned the NHS Go app which was popular among young people as it was promoted innovatively. He said the impact of social media can be positive and negative.

Dr Pooky Knightsmith said children on the ASD spectrum can make meaningful relationships on social media that they may struggle to do face to face. She said social media should form part of any PSHE curriculum and more needs to be done with teachers and parents to understand it.

School environment

Anne Longfield said she would like to see a starting point that looks at children at birth and recognises that problems develop early and the nearer to home they’re treated, the better. Schools are a great place to get intervention but there should be intervention before that.

Dr Pooky Knightsmith said she was concerned about the focus on schools and said it needed to be more on those who are not accessing services at school. To this end she argued that virtual mental health leads were a good idea.

She went on to say more needs to be done around transitions. There needs to be more joined up thinking and colleges need to be involved more, the mention in the Green Paper was somewhat tokenistic. The transition is just a small part of the picture however, as some of the most vulnerable young people are not in services at all.

Rowan Munson talked about teacher stress, saying they have their own mental health pressures, such as the focus on exam grades and league tables, and related a story of one teacher at a local school had a panic attack in the middle of the class.

Osborne report calls for North East Opportunity Area

Educating the North: driving ambition across the Powerhouse

A new report, “Educating the North”, published on Thursday by Northern Powerhouse Partnerships, has called for major government investment for worse-off families.

The five main proposals are:

  • An initial £300m increase in government funding for disadvantaged areas across the North.
  • Reforming Pupil Premium to better target funding for disadvantage by allocating more to pupils who spend longer in the free school meals eligibility category.
  • A longer-term government commitment to Opportunity Area, urgently addressing the lack of Opportunity Areas in the North East.
  • Simplifying the Northern Regional Schools Commissioners areas to establish three: North West, Yorkshire and North East & Cumbria, working within frameworks and plans set by the Northern Powerhouse Schools Improvement Board.
  • Every Northern business to mentor or otherwise meaningfully reach out on careers and enterprise skills to at least the same number of young people as they have employees, from the age of 11.

Commenting on the report, SCHOOLS NorthEast Director Mike Parker said:

“We welcome the prominence the document gives to issues that we have long discussed in the North East, however the success of the report will be in the action the Government takes to address the main recommendations that the report outlines.

“In particular, we back the report’s conclusion that the Government has to act urgently to bring its flagship Opportunity Areas support to the North East. SCHOOLS NorthEast has repeatedly challenged the decision not to include this region in a £72m initiative that is also attracting the lion’s share of other school improvement funding and projects to drive up attainment in disadvantaged areas.

“We also need a particular focus on the group of children that are struggling the most – white working class, particularly boys. While we are good at identifying the problem, we aren’t good at identifying the solutions. This is the majority of pupils in our region so the proposal of a Northern Centre of Excellence, focused on deprivation and driving teacher CPD, would make the North a leader in innovative ways to drive up educational standards for this group.”

Research chief calls on education Twitterati to show ‘more respect’

Sir Kevan Collins calls for end of ‘awful, polarised, adversarial’ Twitter debate

People need to show each other more respect when discussing education on Twitter, the boss of the government-sponsored research fund has said.

Sir Kevan Collins, the chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said the education community needed to stop debating in an “awful, polarised, adversarial way”.

Speaking at a debate last week on the use of evidence-informed practice in the classroom, he was asked a question about debate on Twitter by adherents of “progressive” and “traditional” educational philosophies.

Sir Kevan Collins said: “I would say one thing about… the Twitterati and all that lot.

“I think it’s great that people are having this [debate], but I think we need compassion, we need more respect amongst each other and we need to honour collaboration.

“What we must reject is not ideas, but we must reject this idea that we have to only have debates in education in this awful, polarised, adversarial way.”

Read the full article on the Tes.

North East Education News Quick Links w/c 28th January

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/education/education_news/15912620.Children_with_special_needs_facing_unacceptable_waiting_times_because_of_weaknesses_in_system/?ref=mac – The Northern Echo, Children with special needs in Durham facing unacceptable waiting times because of weaknesses in system.

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/education/education_news/15912614._We_are_the_poor_relations____report_describes_significant_North_South_educational_divide/?ref=mac – The Northern Echo, ‘We are the poor relations’ – report describes significant North-South educational divide.

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/education/education_news/15905311.Universities_to_take_strike_action/?ref=mac – The Northern Echo, Universities to take strike action.

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/education/education_news/15898378.Education_chiefs_accused_of_neglect_as_more_than_a_fifth_of_region_s_secondary_schools_fall_below_benchmark/?ref=mac – The Northern Echo, Education chiefs ‘neglecting’ the North-East as 20 per cent of secondary schools fall below benchmark.

http://www.darlingtonandstocktontimes.co.uk/news/15912575.Schools_urged_to_be_aware_of_their_young_carers/ – Darlington & Stockton Times, Schools in Hambleton and Richmond urged to be aware of young carers.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/deep-injustice-heart-education-system-14230084 – Chronicle Live, ‘Deep injustice at the heart of education system” revealed – with North East children missing out.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/teacher-crisis-more-more-staff-14224095 – Chronicle Live, Teacher crisis: Why are more and more staff leaving the profession?

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/newcastle-durham-university-strike-dates-14217962 – Chronicle Live, Newcastle and Durham university strike dates announced with 14 days of disruption planned.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/calls-more-school-cash-poor-14216942 – Chronicle Live, Calls for more school cash as poor North pupils fall a whole GCSE grade behind London counterparts.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/best-nurseries-newcastle-durham-northumberland-12291486 -Chronicle Live, Top of the class: The North East nurseries rated ‘outstanding’ in the last 12 months.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/cheating-newcastle-teacher-who-completed-14207653 – Chronicle Live, Cheating Newcastle teacher who completed student’s assignments banned from the classroom.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/news/education/too-many-children-in-the-north-not-getting-the-education-they-need-1-8993527 – Hartlepool Mail, Too many children in the North ‘not getting the education they need’.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/news/crime/headteachers-and-unions-oppose-idea-of-turning-schools-into-fort-knoxes-1-8989630 – Hartlepool Mail, Headteachers and unions oppose idea of turning schools into ‘Fort Knoxes’.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/news/state-of-the-art-new-building-planned-for-hartlepool-school-1-8987581 – Hartlepool Mail, State-of-the-art new building planned for Hartlepool school.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/news/education/art-college-in-hartlepool-sees-applications-at-all-time-high-1-8987012 – Hartlepool Mail, Art College in Hartlepool sees applications at an ‘all-time high.’

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/news/education/college-principal-hits-out-at-grossly-unfair-inclusion-on-new-league-table-1-8983253 – Hartlepool Mail, College principal hits out at ‘grossly unfair’ inclusion on new league table.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/school-apologises-after-two-young-children-got-out-last-week-1-8992735 – Northumberland Gazette, School apologies after two young children got out last week.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/free-transport-for-post-16-pupils-but-with-an-admin-fee-1-8994070 – Northumberland Gazette, Free transport for post-16 pupils, but with an admin fee.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/final-bell-set-to-ring-in-july-1-8994058 – Northumberland Gazette, Final bell set to ring in July.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/improving-education-key-to-tackling-skills-shortage-in-north-1-8987792 – Northumberland Gazette, Improving education key to tackling skills shortage in north.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/rural-first-school-at-risk-of-being-axed-1-8993835 – Northumberland Gazette, Rural first school at risk of being axed.

https://www.newspostleader.co.uk/news/college-calls-for-alumni-to-celebrate-diamond-jubilee-1-8991811 – Northumberland Gazette, College calls for alumni to celebrate diamond jubilee.

https://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/audi-donation-helps-sunderland-college-students-1-8986404 – Sunderland Echo, Audi donation helps Sunderland College students.

https://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/education/sunderland-secondary-school-celebrates-topping-new-city-results-table-1-8980921 – Sunderland Echo, Sunderland secondary school celebrates topping new city results table.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/school-which-fought-back-from-brink-twice-retains-good-rating-1-8979373 – Northumberland Gazette, School which fought back from brink twice retains good rating.

I hate working alone

I hate working alone. So much so that I’ve recently moved in with my new  deputy head. Professionally speaking of course! We have co-located in the same office. It made sense since we both work best through discussion, collaboration and simply ‘chewing the fat’ as the old saying goes.

For me it’s a chance to have another brain to test out a response to a parent, or a spelling, or share in celebrating a pupil who comes up with some fantastic work. I was actually feeling a little left out, as our staff all have PPA together in planning partnerships, it serves the same supportive purpose and as a result the shared workload and top quality lesson planning through collaborative innovation benefits everyone.

Jan is in the midst of an intense induction phase. She moved up from London to join our school and so feels somewhat disconnected to the North Eastern Education scene. I’m sure many of you will have experienced the same feeling when you land in a new area or local authority and suddenly you don’t know who to contact, you feel lost without your set of phone numbers and have to build new networks. And its vital to do this quickly as leadership can be a lonely place without the ability to ‘phone a friend’.

I’m on my fourth local authority and have become pretty adept at quickly creating contacts and networks of support. But having said that, I’ve always been based in the North East and so my networks have always been fairly close by and reachable. It’s very different if you move a long way.

I’m really enjoying connecting Jan with some of the fantastic networks that are available in our region. Chief amongst which is SCHOOLS NorthEast of course! We are uniquely lucky to have an organisation like SNE serving us. Its events and newsletters provide links and networking opportunities, that are the envy of the rest of England. Then there are the Universities, teaching schools, cluster groups, unions, community groups, Twitter even – the list is ever growing.

It really worries me when I come across colleagues who don’t look outward and aren’t connected to others. Schools who deliberately, or through accountability pressure or circumstance, cut themselves off from the networks around them, rarely thrive. In fact I see it a lot through my inspection work – it’s a really obvious characteristic of failing schools that they are cut off from others. They lack the drive to innovate; they don’t see the need, as they don’t have the yardstick of comparison. Not seeking alternative viewpoints or opportunities for comparison prevents questions from forming. They only see their school through their own lens, which inevitably leads to an atrophy of innovation – ‘We are as good as we can be’, ‘this is the best way’. Without a stimulus to ask ‘Isn’t it?’ or ‘Aren’t we?’  a school will never improve.

I listened to a fascinating radio documentary 1 the other day, which investigated how government could get better at experimenting and learning from getting things wrong. It had huge resonance for the important ideas behind good networking and school improvement. The central theme was that networking is synonymous with growth mindset characteristics – which makes perfect sense to me.

It is safe to stay the same. Trying something different takes courage, energy and confidence because it invites failure. It is human nature to avoid situations in which we might fail.

Take a situation where you have 6 ideas for change in your school. You try the first 2, they fail, then a third which also fails. Who would keep going on the fourth, fifth, sixth? Only the brave. But what if the sixth unlocked massive improvement in outcomes?

Research into the success of innovative Silicone Valley companies identified a common thread of an empowered attitude to failure. Coined the Silcone Valley Mindset (read growth mindset) the courage to test out and embrace failure until they struck gold.

Through visiting and talking to other schools who are doing things differently to us with success energises me and gives me confidence to drive change and experimentation in my own school. You don’t know what you don’t know, unless you go looking for it. The same goes for your staff – get them out. Think for a moment about your staff  – how many of them in the last 2 years may have never visited another school to look at something new?

My wife is a Professor of Education (yes… the brains behind the operation – I am proud to say) she has just started a new job at Leeds Beckett University; check out Collective Ed below her first piece of work. Suddenly we are both becoming connected to a whole new set of fantastic, committed, thinking teachers, researchers and educationalists. Working in contexts very different from mine and I am embracing it with open arms. Especially as it involves beer.

Ever heard of BrewEd? Well if you are nervous of networking but like a drink this may be the answer to your prayers and it’s coming to a pub near you.

The brain child of Daryn Simon and Ed Finch from Sheffield who could see the power of educational networks and debate on Twitter, but were frustrated by the limitations of 140 characters, decided to use the platform to invite interested teachers and leaders to a pub, creating an informal space for a day of structured debate, chat, eating and socialising – perfect! The idea has gathered momentum and the second event in Wakefield a few weeks ago put me in touch with colleagues with new and unfamiliar ideas. Events are now planned for Oxford and Newcastle.

See you there!

#brewedwake   @ed_debate  @MrEFinch  @darynsimon

CollectivED Dec 2017 Issue – Prof R Lofthouse, Leeds Beckett University

  1. ‘Learning from Life and Death’ Matthew Syed, BBC radio 4

 Colin Lofthouse is the Head Teacher of Rickleton Primary School in Washington. 

Want to be our next Talking Head? Contact Nicola Chapman, Marketing and Communications Officer, for more information: n.chapman@schoolsnortheast.com/0191 2048866

Fears of delay to teacher pay deal after DfE misses deadline

Fears have been raised of a delay to the 2018 teacher pay award because the government has not been able to submit its evidence to the pay review body on time, it has been revealed.

The original deadline for submissions to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) was moved back because the Department for Education was unable to meet it.

The STRB makes recommendations to the government on the annual pay award for teachers. To help shape its recommendations, the body receives evidence from various parties, including teacher unions, organisations representing school governing bodies and local authorities. It also receives evidence from the DfE itself.

The deadline for the submission of evidence to the STRB was originally 5pm on Thursday 26th January.

However, a spokesman for the body confirmed that the DfE informed the secretary of the STRB on Monday that “the department was going to be unable to meet that deadline”.

Read the full article in the Tes.

More North East schools below floor standard in Key Stage 4 results

More North East schools are below floor standard in Key Stage 4 results, however commentators have urged caution over this year’s data in light of significant curriculum and assessment changes that have impacted Progress 8.

The DfE’s publication of revised KS4 results yesterday showed that:

  • The North East has the most schools of any English region below the Government’s Progress 8 floor standard of -0.5. 20.9% of state-funded secondaries in the region fell into this category, up from 17.2% last year.
  • This comes against the background of a worsening situation nationally: the number of schools falling below the standard in England as a whole went up by 2.7% from 2016 to 2017 and now stands at 12%.
  • There are more “coasting” schools in the region than elsewhere in the country, with the number of schools meeting the DfE’s definition rising from 14.8% in 2016 to 16.9% in 2017.
  • The impact of the new Maths and English GCSEs appears to have been worse in the North East than in other regions. This is particularly evident in the English component of Progress 8, which saw a fall of -0.12. Most other regions saw small increases or decreases in their scores, aside from the South West which saw a larger fall of -0.15.

Commenting on yesterday’s data Mike Parker, Director of SCHOOLS NorthEast said:

“These results have to be seen in the context of a significant overhaul in GCSEs this year. Experts predicted this would be the case and it has seen more schools across the country go below the floor standard.

“That said, we have to be more ambitious for educational outcomes here in the North East.

“The results highlight the disparity of our region compared to others in the country and there are three main areas that have to be urgently addressed.

“Firstly, secondary schools in the region have to be given a level playing field. The Department for Education has neglected the North East. Too many of its initiatives and major funding allocations which are too often focused in and around Opportunity Areas. The North East remains the sole region outside of London not to be included in this flagship policy area.

“North East schools are operating with a fraction of the money that London schools enjoy; they face a recruitment crisis; and, they face some of the most challenging conditions in a sparsely-populated region with widespread poverty which is proven to be the major drag on education attainment.

“That said, leaders in the region cannot, and must not, accept this as a fait accompli. They have to ruthlessly pursue measures to bring about a step change in education in this region. A relentless focus on evidence-based practice has to be at the core of all that schools do now and in future.

“Finally, the communities around schools have to become more actively engaged and supportive of education in the region. Employers – private, public and third sector – have to understand and embrace their role in improving the basic skills of their workforces. They also need to positively promote the importance of education and back schools so that the parents and grandparents they employ fully understand the role they play in supporting their children through secondary education.”

Funding, training and finding a good Clerk are main concern for Chairs at SCHOOLS NorthEast Chairs of School Governance conference

Funding, training and governor recruitment were among the main concerns for over 100 school Chairs attending a major governance conference in the region.

On the 16th January 2018, SCHOOLS NorthEast held its inaugural Chairs of School Governance conference at Hardwick Hall, Durham.

Following on from the success of the Regional Governance conference in March 2016, the organisation recognised that a bespoke event was needed for Chairs in the North East to help and support them in their challenging roles.

A total of  150 delegates attended the event which included an evening of discussion, deliberation and debate as heads were put together on how Chairs could find the support they needed to best fulfil their roles.

The packed-out event was opened by John Hardy, SCHOOLS NorthEast Chair. John spoke of the importance of Governors to a school, as well as the vital role they play in supporting and challenging Head Teachers, and described the room as a “truly remarkable bunch”.

Following on from the welcome, main speaker Geoff Barton, the Association of School and College Leaders’ General Secretary, gave a rousing speech of the importance of Chairs and Governors in the modern age and that Chairs of Governors play a “critical role in a child’s life”. His focus was on giving advice to delegates on leading and governing schools in turbulent times, particularly in a social media age, and the role Chairs should play in this.

After Geoff Barton’s speech, Paul Aber, Head of Training Development at the National Governance Association, spoke to attendees about governance in the North East and that, as a region, it is “one of the most confident in the country”. He told delegates that, for Chairs, “the stakes are getting higher” and that Governance has strong networks in the region.

Following on from the key notes, delegates in their groups took part in a ‘Chairs Congress’, which was an opportunity for Chairs to discuss and debate key issues impacting them in schools in the current environment. They were asked:

  • What is the number one issue affecting you in your role as Chair?
  • What topics would you like covered in this year’s Regional Governance Conference?
  • How can SCHOOLS NorthEast support you and your Governors going forward?

This activity created an incredible response from Chairs, with more than 70 issues listed as being a main concern for delegates in their role.

After the Chairs Congress, Iain Veitch, Vice-Chair of SCHOOLS NorthEast and Head Teacher of Park View School spoke to delegates about preparing for their next Ofsted Inspection. Iain told Chairs that they played a vital role in inspections, and how they would factor in to the inspection.

After a refreshment break and networking, delegates spilt up into three smaller groups for sessions.

There was a session titled the ‘IDSR in 28 minutes or less’ with Phillip Burton, Senior Principal Analyst of Nottingham City Council, where, in under 30 minutes, he took delegates through the ins and outs of deciphering the results on their school’s inspection data summary report.

Jackie Gray of Womble Bond Dickinson, the conference’s main sponsor, held back to back sessions on General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which will affect schools from May 2018. Her session included the 5 things Chairs needed to know in how this would need to be implemented in schools.

The third session was held by Michelle Ellams, Leadership Specialist at GCSEPod, on ‘demystifying Progress 8’. Her session was to help Chairs understand the new grading system and how they could work out their school’s progress scores.

The final sessions of the day included a session from Amy Cook, Commissioning Editor of The Key, who spoke on the role of the Chair in a supportive and challenging capacity, and how to strike the right balance.

Julia Millard, the National Leaders of Governance Advocate for the North East, spoke on ‘how to be an effective Chair: top tips for getting the most out of your governing body’ and how and when to ask for support and how to Chair an effective team.

The conference was a huge success with delegates, with feedback now being used to shape the Regional Governance conference on the 20th April 2018.

North East teachers inform DfE project to recruit talent to challenging areas

SCHOOLS NorthEast has facilitated a series of focus groups for the Department for Education (DfE) looking at the issues around recruiting teachers into challenging areas and schools.

The focus groups brought together 22 teachers from 11 schools across the North East who had taught in a range of schools in both disadvantaged and more affluent areas. The groups were split by length of teaching experience and gave everyone involved a chance to discuss their own personal reasons for working, or choosing not to work in, a challenging school, as well as the broader issues around recruiting teachers into challenging areas.

Some of the key themes to come out of the groups were:

  • The experience that teachers had had while on placements had impacted their decision about the type of school they wanted to teach at – the opportunity to have a placement at a challenging school had led a lot of teachers to want to go back to that type of school
  • The quality of leadership plays a crucial role in teachers making a decision to move to or stay in a school – attendees saw this as particularly important in a challenging school
  • Many teachers chose to work in a challenging school because they felt that they could have a greater impact on the children in those schools
  • Schools in challenging areas can offer a greater range of opportunities to develop teachers’ experience and skills sets
  • Opportunities for spousal relocation would impact a teacher’s decision to move to a new area for a job
  • Opportunities for work/life balance and flexibility are very important
  • Schools need to offer prospective staff the chance to meet the children as part of the recruitment process
  • Schools in challenging areas need teachers that care about the children – this is something that schools in challenging areas could be more upfront about – children’s behaviour has to come before learning
  • Staff emotional wellbeing has to be key in schools in challenging areas
  • Recruiting the right teachers is as important as recruiting enough teachers
  • To recruit into schools in challenging areas you have to showcase the positives, as well as being honest about the challenges
  • If teachers don’t buy into a schools ethos, they don’t stay – most often it is the culture of a school that attracts staff
  • Challenging schools need staff that see teaching as a vocation, rather than a job
  • Recruitment processes need to be personal

The DfE will be looking at all of the key themes that came out of the focus groups and will keep SCHOOLS NorthEast updated on how this could start to impact on future policy.