Northern schools blast RSCs in Children’s Commissioner report

A new report by the Children’s Commissioner says that Northern schools feel unsupported by their Regional Schools Commissioners, who fail to communicate “any plan” for the area.

Anne Longfield, who oversees children’s rights in England, found “very little evidence” of thorough work by RSCs, academy trusts or councils to tackle low pupil attainment at northern schools after a year-long investigation.

Secondary schools in the north are especially disappointing, compared to “impressive” primary schools, which currently get better progress than the national average.

But more than half of secondary schools serving the north’s poorest areas are rated less than ‘good’ by Ofsted, and many pupils drop out before sixth form or college.

The region’s RSCs were criticised by schools who spoke to the Children’s Commissioner. These are Janet Renou, the RSC for the North, Vicky Beer, the RSC for Lancashire and West Yorkshire, and John Edwards, the RSC for East Midlands and the Humber.

Read the full article in Schools Week.


Children’s Commissioner: ‘Northern children face double whammy of economic disadvantage and ineffective schools’

Children growing up in Northern England face a double whammy of embedded economic disadvantage and ineffective schools, according to a new report from England’s Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield.

The key findings in Growing Up North, launched in Leeds on Monday, are:

  • Nursery attendance is higher in the North, but children are still less likely to achieve the expected level of development before starting school;
  • More than half of the schools serving the North’s most deprived communities are graded below “Good” by Ofsted;
  • Compared with the national average, many more children in the North are starting school with high levels of development issues, with fewer children in the North having special educational needs diagnosed before they start school;
  • Significant numbers of children across the North are leaving school too early;
  • In many Northern areas girls are particularly disadvantaged.
  • Northern schools who contributed to the report held a negative view of the effectiveness of the Regional Schools Commissioner for the North.

The Children’s Commissioner recommended:

  • Increased investment to support children in the most disadvantaged Northern areas;
  • A co-ordinated programme to boost teacher recruitment and retention;
  • Partnerships between schools and business to raise pupils’ aspirations; and
  • “Family hubs” to help families who are struggling.

The Children’s Commissioner’s contribution is the latest in a series of recent reports criticising the standard of education in Northern schools. However, more in-depth research by Education DataLab has suggested that the gap between North and South has more to do with demographics than school effectiveness. it is well known that the progress of White British children, which make up the majority of the school-age population in the North, is broadly similar to London.

As reported in last week’s SCHOOLS NorthEast newsletter, Education Secretary Damian Hinds was pressed by the House of Commons Education Select Committee as to whether the Department’s ‘Opportunity Areas’ scheme, which provides funds for tackling entrenched disadvantage, would be implemented in the North East, but was non-committal in his response.

Careers and Enterprise Company: ‘North East schools ‘instrumental’ in the creation of the Careers Strategy’

Careers and Enterprise Company’s Chief Operating Officer Natalie Cramp told delegates at SCHOOLS NorthEast’s FutureReady18 conference that North East schools were instrumental in the creation of the Government’s new Careers Strategy.

Speaking to the packed crowd, Ms Cramp said: “North East schools were instrumental in the development of the Government’s new statutory Careers Strategy.

“The pilot of the Gatsby Benchmarks took place in North East schools and they were fundamental in this strategy. Thank you to those schools in the room who were part of this.”

FutureReady18 welcomed over 120 delegates from across the country, as well as school delegates from the North East.

The annual conference, held at Newcastle Racecourse, was focused on the implications that new Careers Strategy would have for schools, both at primary level and secondary level.

Keynote speaker Adrian Lyons, HMI and National Lead for Economics, Business and Enterprise at Ofsted, focused his speech on the changes to Ofsted inspections in line with the Careers Strategy.

He said: “Careers are now part of the inspection guidance for primaries as well as secondaries. Work experience, particularly at sixth form level, needs to be meaningful and well planned out.”

On Ofsted’s inspections of careers provision in secondaries, Mr Lyons said: “Our inspectors are going to raise their game.”

The day was split between primary and secondary focused sessions, meaning that delegates could access presentations that would best support the needs of their particular school.

Popular sessions included the ‘Journey to 8 Benchmarks’ with David Baldwin, Executive Head of Churchill College, ‘Careers: What does good look like in Primary Schools’ with Lindsey Joy and Ryan Gibson from NELEP, and ‘Primary Careers Fairs organised by secondary school students’ with Sue Taylor of Heaton Manor and Lucy Oades of West Jesmond Primary.

Chris Zarraga, Director of Operations at SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: “The FutureReady18 conference was a huge success and delegates took a myriad of information with them from the day.

“Our aim was to equip schools with as much knowledge as possible as to how the Government’s new statutory Careers Strategy will affect them – we had excellent feedback from the day and hope that schools are now more confident going forward, be it from an Ofsted perspective or from seeing how other schools have managed to make it work.”




North East Education Links w/c 25th March – Chronicle Live, Northumberland MP urges parents at troubled Berwick Academy to talk to her in confidence. – Chronicle Live, These are the North East schools with the worst and best attendance records. – Chronicle Live, The North’s children are being let down by poverty and poor schools. – Chronicle Live, Parent slams Northumberland school for losing mock exam papers. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Teachers reject ‘best and final’ pay offer from employers. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Comment: £100,000 pay cap needed on academy trust bosses. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Hang your heads in shame Northallerton school leaders told. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Pupils in north of England ‘being left behind’ by southern counterparts – study. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Grammar schools ‘damage social mobility’ and should be phased out. – Hartlepool Mail, Hartlepool collage to launch new academy. – Hartlepool Mail, Pupils and parents have egg-cellent fun for Easter. – Hartlepool Mail, Kids from Hackney more likely to succeed than those from Hartlepool, says new report. – Gazette Live, Middlesbrough school among the best performing secondary schools in the country. – Sunderland Echo, New playground delights youngsters at Sunderland school. – Sunderland Echo, Revealed 12 Sunderland schools rated outstanding by Ofsted. Schools’ Forum casts doubt over Hexham secondary bid. – Hexham Courant, School leaders unite in open letter to Northumberland council. – The Northern Echo, Toby Young quits as head of charity backing flagship free schools. – The Northern Echo, North-East schools sign up for World Autism Awareness Week.

Damian Hinds non-committal on North East Opportunity Area at first Education Select Committee

The Secretary of State remained non-committal on the question of expanding Opportunity Areas to the North East in his first appearance before the Education Select Committee this week.

Asked by Gateshead MP Ian Mearns “How many times will we have to raise the fact” that there are no Opportunity Areas in the region before Ministers would “do something about it”, Mr Hinds suggested the North East could learn from what is happening in the current Opportunity Areas.

He said: “Directly funding programmes is only one part of the intended purpose of Opportunity Areas, the other is learning from evidence-based practice so it can be applied elsewhere.”

When pressed to say whether there are any plans to expand the programme to the North East, Mr Hinds did not directly respond.

The Secretary of State went on to say the North East is very strong in early years and primary phase but needed to see more improvement at secondary level. He admitted Opportunity Areas were one way of driving improvement but suggested there are many other programmes available to the North East.

SCHOOLS NorthEast has repeatedly highlighted how the North East has missed out on the £72 million scheme to boost opportunities for young people in areas with social mobility problems, despite our challenging social and economic circumstances.

Unauthorised absences in North East schools at an all-time high

New DfE statistics show unauthorised absence in England and the North East at an all-time high.

In England, the rate of unauthorised pupil absence rose from 1.1% in 2015-16 to 1.3% in 2016-17, the highest since records began. In the North East, the figure rose from 1.3 in 2015-16 to 1.5 in 2016-17, the highest ever for the region.

Rates of persistent absenteeism vary across the region, with Teesside faring the worst.  The rate in Middlesbrough’s secondary schools stood at 20% in 2016/17, the highest in the region, though this constitutes a fall from 21.3% in 2015/16. The full figures are shown below.

The DfE has said the increase in unauthorised absence can be blamed on family holidays that have not been agreed by the school.

The rate of unauthorised absence is defined as a percentage of the total number of possible sessions.

The definition of persistent absence changed from the 2015/16 academic year and is currently defined as pupil enrolments missing 10% or more of their own possible sessions.

Fig 1 absence

Fig 2 absence

Fig 3 absence

Academy sponsors taking on indebted schools will no longer face financial ‘millstone’

The Department for Education is removing a ‘millstone’ of debt that has made academy trusts wary of sponsoring some schools in financial difficulties.

It comes despite the opposition of local councils, which have warned that the change could saddle them with millions of pounds of debt.

Currently, when a maintained school that has a deficit is forced to become an academy, the deficit remains with the local council, and the incoming academy trust does not have to pay it off.

However, if the council gives a school a loan instead of licensing a deficit, the responsibility for repaying the money goes to the academy trust.

These new rules will aim to encourage more academy sponsors to take on challenging schools.

Read the full article on Tes.

SCHOOLS NorthEast is hosting its inaugural Academies Conference on the 10th May at St James’ Park on the 10th May, and will be joined by Sir David Carter, National Schools Commissioner, as key note. To find out more about the conference and to book your place, click here.

Teaching union calls for 5% pay rise with possible strike backing 

Following the the announcement of a 6.5% settlement for nurses and NHS staff, Britain’s largest teaching union is calling for a 5% pay rise for those in schools too.

The annual conference of the National Union of Teachers, shortly to merge and become the National Education Union, will consider a motion for a pay claim of 5% alongside other school unions, and ask that the increase be funded by the government rather than from existing school budgets.

Kevin Courtney, the union’s General secretary, backed the government’s ending of some austerity-era pay policies, but he warned that teaching in England was moving from crisis to catastrophe, as school staff looked at their long hours and compared working conditions with those of other professions with more generous pay.

He said: “There is some optimism in that the Government is starting to move. But we think when teachers around the country, and students considering coming into teaching, look at the salaries, they see it is not competitive with other graduate salaries.”

Read the full article in The Guardian.

‘moral case’ for baseline assessment and SATs boycott, union leader Kevin Courtney

There is a “moral case” for teachers to boycott the planned baseline assessment of four-year-olds, the leader of the National Education Union (NEU) has said has said.

The Government’s overhaul of primary assessment includes plans to introduce an assessment of children in reception, which will be used as a starting point to measure their progress during their time in primary school.

It is due to be piloted in 2019, before being rolled out nationally the following year.

The plans have proved controversial, with the More than a Score coalition claiming young children “will be pushed into a world of high-stakes assessment”, but the NAHT Head Teachers’ union has “cautiously welcomed” the plans.

The NUT section of the NEU teaching union will debate boycotting the baseline assessment, as well as Key Stage 2 tests, at its annual conference over Easter.

Read the full article in the Tes.

North East Education Links w/c 19th March 2018 – Hartlepool Mail, This studio was created by Hartlepool students and it’s out of this world. – Hartlepool Mail, Best-selling children’s author makes an inspiring talk to Hartlepool pupils. – Hartlepool Mail, Hartlepool schoolchildren inspect work of ambulance service. – Chronicle Live, Thomas Hepburn bosses WILL ask Government to close school – despite opposition from parents. – Chronicle Live, Gateshead schools:  How do they perform in league tables and which are rated the best. – Chronicle Live, How parents and teachers are fighting controversial plans to close Northumberland schools. – Chronicle Live, Newcastle schools admits ‘serious error’ after leaving child behind on school trip to London. – Chronicle Live, Education Secretary denies cutting funding for North East schools. – Chronicle Live, Meet the autistic 11-year-old boy who the council can’t find a school for. – Chronicle Live, Lack of funding to blame for increase in class sizes and loss of teachers in North East schools. – Northumberland Gazette, Wooler students visit Hindu temple. – Northumberland Gazette, Mayor demands urgent review of JCSC overhaul. – Sunderland Echo, Students help save the life of a man in street as they put first aid class to use. – Sunderland Echo, ‘Inadequate’ Sunderland school ordered to improve. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Teachers step up pay campaign following health workers’ deal. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Tony Blair: I would be more revolutionary on education if still prime minister. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Review launched into school exclusions amid ‘inconsistencies’ in education. – Gazette Live, Schools to take part in ‘stay safe online’ event after Instagram incidents. – Gazette Live, How this school, where children speak 38 languages, was rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted. – Gazette Live, Stockton must find 2,500 new school places in the next three years – here’s how they plan to do it. – The Shields Gazette, Emma Lewell-Buck MP: The failure of academies is a ticking time bomb. – The Shields Gazette, Revealed: Seven South Tyneside schools told by Ofsted that they must do better. – Hexham Courant, Governors reveal plans to close Greenhead primary. – Hexham Courant, ‘Hey council leave our school alone.’ – Hexham Courant, Rise in pupils taking term-time holidays.