Supreme Court rules against term-time holidays

A father who was fined after taking his daughter out of school for a trip has lost a landmark court case today, as judges unanimously decided to uphold the ban on term-time holidays.

The judges ruled that regular attendance had to be in keeping with rules of the school, as “no child should be taken out of school without good reason”.

The High Court and Isle of Wight magistrate’s court both initially ruled in favour of the parent who had argued that because his daughter still had a 90.3% attendance record, even when she returned from their 7-day holiday, she still fell within the boundaries of “regular attendance”.

However, delivering the judgement today, the Deputy President of the Supreme Court Lady Hale said:

Unauthorised absences have a disruptive effect, not only on the education of the individual child but also on the work of other pupils.

If one pupil can be taken out whenever it suits the parent, then so can others. … Any educational system expects people to keep the rules. Not to do so is unfair to those obedient parents who do keep the rules, whatever the costs or inconvenience to themselves.

Here is reaction from some of the councils  across the region:

Middlesbrough Council: “We are pleased that the judgement from the Supreme Court reinforces the importance we place on ensuring pupils’ education is not disrupted by taking holidays in term time.  

“Our legal team are now looking at the judgement and we will provide some further guidance to schools and parents in the next few days.” (Spokesperson)

Durham County Council: “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has today supported local authorities and schools in addressing low level irregular attendance offences.

“We issue Fixed Penalty Notices as an alternative to a prosecution for the offence of failing to ensure a child’s regular attendance at school during the relevant offence period.

“Our policy is firmly in line with government guidance and we consider it to be fair.”

“In reaching their judgement, the Supreme Court highlighted that it is not only the clear statistical link between school attendance and educational achievement that is important, they also recognised the disruptive effect of unauthorised absences on the education of the individual child, as well as the potential to effect other pupils.” (Caroline O’Neill, Head of Education, Children and Young People’s Services)

Northumberland County Council: “In Northumberland we issue guidance and a code of conduct to schools, which is in line with national pupil registration regulations. We have continued to issue penalty notices, where appropriate. Now that the Supreme Court judgment is known we will await the full judgment and subsequent recommendations from the Department for Education before we agree any future action.”  (Spokesperson)

Newcastle City Council: “During the past half term Newcastle City Council has been consulting with schools and other key partners on proposed changes to our Code of Conduct for Fixed Penalty Notices. Today’s announcement will enable us to take account of the case outcome in this”. (Spokesperson)



Frequent changes to education policy are school governors’ biggest challenge

Keeping up with the numerous education policy changes and effective time management are the main issues school governors are faced with,  according to delegates at the first SCHOOLS NorthEast Regional Governance Conference .DSC_0392.JPG

Over 300 school governors in the region attended the Regional Governance Conference today, coming together under one roof to hear from sector experts and bring their own input.

When asked what the biggest challenges are for one of the largest volunteering forces in the country, the attendees listed multiple factors but agreed that the many changes in education policy are hard to keep up with, and managing their time effectively can also be problematic.


Fears over school budgets and funding, as well as the recruitment and retention of senior staff in their schools, were amongst the challenges listed at the top.

But delegates were also keen to share what their greatest achievements were, with a significant majority quoting the improvement of their school and seeing pupils’ lives being transformed.

Continue reading “Frequent changes to education policy are school governors’ biggest challenge”

Competition or Collaboration – The Perfect Dichotomy

Jon Tait, Deputy Head at Acklam Grange School

Outside of education you’d think that schools would be open to sharing practice, helping each other and identifying what works best for the young people of our country. We are all working to a common goal of better equipping the young people in our care, giving them the very best life opportunities possible, irrespective of their postcode. So naturally, collaboration would be an obvious choice. Find what works and share it. Let other schools and young people benefit from your experience, together with seeking advice and inspiration from others who may have solved the very problems that you are dealing with.


But anyone inside of education knows only too well that it doesn’t always pan out like this. With the backdrop of a league table driven educational landscape, the question on many people’s lips when faced with the possibility of local collaboration is ‘Why should I help the very school that we are fighting to get ahead of in the local league tables’? If you put it in a sporting context where league tables and competition are a hallmark of its very existence, you wouldn’t expect Middlesbrough Football Club to be providing coaches and expert training methods to Sunderland in a bid to help them fight off relegation when they are both fighting to be above one another.

But this goes against the very reason that we all came into education – to help and support people to be the best version of themselves that they can be. We all want to help each other and share our great ideas that can really make a difference with young people, but to what cost if it gives your neighbouring competition an advantage? In a competitive market of fighting for the same bums on seats, falling budgets and a more business-like approach than we’ve ever witnessed before in education, every competitive advantage you may hold might be worth clinging onto.

Continue reading “Competition or Collaboration – The Perfect Dichotomy”

Schools face national behaviour problem, new report suggests

In a recently published independent review, teacher and behaviour expert Tom Bennett said evidence suggested challenging behaviour in schools is a national problem.

While there is no one solution to this widespread problem, the report recommends a number of approaches that can be used to deal with it, including a series of policy recommendations for both the Department for Education and Ofsted.

Mr Bennett suggests the use of a national standardised method for capturing data on school behaviour that goes beyond the current formal recording methods, as well as the development of an optional training scheme for school leaders covering a range of behavioural strategies and examples of best practice in the school system.

The report calls on the schools inspectorate to review its arrangements for obtaining staff and pupil views on behaviour and ensure those views are taken into account as part of school inspections.

Continue reading “Schools face national behaviour problem, new report suggests”

Mental health service for schools in Newcastle discontinued

Newcastle City Council will discontinue the Targeted Mental Health in Schools (TaMHS) programme starting next month, due to lack of funding.

67 schools who participated in the programme will cease to receive the hour a week of funded counselling and will no longer have access to a subsidised rate for any additional time purchased.

Newcastle City Council said it had sought to keep the programme running for as long as possible, after funding was slashed by central government years ago. But this will not be possible from April 1st onward.

The TaMHS programme is a mental health service which assists children, young people and families, predominantly between the ages of 5 to 13, who have or may be at risk of identified mental health difficulties.

kalmerA statement released by Kalmer Counselling Services, which has delivered counselling to schools in Newcastle through the TaMHS programme, argued that the programme was very successful and received glowing feedback from teachers. It adds:

“Schools will be left to meet the costs themselves, and many may not be able to continue with a counselling service. This is not due to lack of referrals or needs, but purely down to the Local Authority. Where does this leave all of the children currently in the service, and those who may need it after April 1st?”

A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said:

Ncc logo“Following the withdrawal of central government funding some years ago, Newcastle City Council sought to maintain the Targeted Mental Health in Schools (TaMHS) programme for as long as possible with financial support from the Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

“This has enabled participating schools to receive one hour per week of funded counselling, plus a subsidised rate for any additional time purchased by schools.

“Unfortunately there are no further funds available for the programme from April 2017 onwards, and therefore the council cannot offer funded hours or subsidy from this date.

“Newcastle City Council continues to support schools to purchase student counselling services directly from the providers.”

New literacy campaign launched in the North East

A new campaign to boost children’s literacy levels in the North East has been launched by the North East Literacy Forum, led by the National Literacy Trust and supported by publisher Penguin Random House UK, the Education Endowment Foundation and Greggs PLC.

The Read North East campaign will focus on early years literacy, encouraging parents to read with their children from birth to give them the best start in life. A series of events and activities will raise awareness of the importance of literacy skills and inspire local children and families to pick up a book.Untitled.png

The campaign will address a significant literacy challenge in the North East, where literacy levels are among the lowest in the country. 17% of the population aged 16 to 65 (about 283,500 people) have the literacy skills at or below those expected of a 9 to 11-year-old.

The intergenerational literacy challenge in the region has been reinforced by new data analysis from the National Literacy Trust and Experian, which looked at the social factors most closely associated with low literacy. The analysis of every electoral ward and parliamentary constituency in England found that 60% of wards in the North East are at risk of serious literacy problems, making it the second most vulnerable region for literacy related issues in the country.

Continue reading “New literacy campaign launched in the North East”

Northern Education Trust responds to latest Ofsted judgement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SCHOOLS NorthEast responds to stage 2 of the NFF consultation

In December 2016, the Department for Education announced it was seeking views on the detailed design of the schools national funding formula, as part of the second stage of its consultation.

SCHOOLS NorthEast has submitted a response on behalf of schools in our region. Changes to the funding structure will have an impact on all of our schools and we are concerned that the proposed formula does not give North East schools a fair deal. In particular, the Government has included an Area Cost Adjustment multiplier which takes money away from our region on the basis of low house prices.

Even schools that look like they will gain from the national funding formula are likely to experience cuts as a result of the under-funding of the schools system. We have urged the Government to increase the size of the budget.

You can read our response in full below. We also urged school leaders across the region to submit their own response, either individually or as part of a cluster or local authority.

Continue reading “SCHOOLS NorthEast responds to stage 2 of the NFF consultation”