Half of students progressing to university for the first time

For the first time, 50% of students in England are progressing to higher education, according to DfE figures published this week.

This means that the symbolic target set by Tony Blair has been reached, 20 years after it was pledged by the former Prime Minister.

The figures have shown a steady increase in participation rates over the last five years, with a 0.3% increase from 2016/17, pushing the figures over the 50% mark for the first time. However, there are still stark regional differences.

Whilst the most recent regional data is yet to be published, the previous year’s figures show that the North East had the lowest participation rate at 40%, meaning students are 20% less likely to progress to higher education than students from London. This is despite positive outcomes for the region at A Level, as local schemes widen access for students from low income backgrounds.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said that there is not sufficient evidence to show that universities are doing enough to widen participation and has urged them to take students backgrounds into account when making offers.

Professor Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University London, called on the government “to prioritise policies to quicken the progress by reintroducing maintenance grants for students most in need, helping reduce drop-out rates and financial barriers to university.”

Further Reading

The Independent – Over half of young people now going to university for first time


Debunking the myth that NE students perform worse than elsewhere, at SNE AGM.

Schools North East held their Annual General Meeting at Durham Leadership Centre on Thursday 26th September 2019, with over 60 Partner School Head Teachers attending. Chis Zarraga, Director of Operations, introduced the meeting and gave an update on the activities of the charity in 2018/19 and going forward into the next year.

We were delighted to be joined by guest speaker Professor Stephen Gorard, from Durham University, who spoke about the data behind North East attainment and deprivation, debunking the myth that students in our region perform worse than elsewhere in the country. He demonstrated that when contextual factors around deprivation are controlled for, the North East does no worse than other regions, and illustrated the significant issues for the region’s schools due to the use of measures such as Progress 8.

Delegates also debated a range of policy ‘asks’ for the region, with calls for more funding targeted to specifically address the severe impact of long term deprivation, less flux and change in the system, and divorcing educational policy from party politics.

The Partner School Head Teachers were posed the question ‘what would be in your General Election Manifesto for Education’. Alongside calls for more funding, and specifically funding targeted to deprived areas and the schools which need it most, there was a strong consensus that the education system is in too much flux and uncertainty.

School leaders were unanimous that the newly announced three year funding plan was not enough for schools to be able to forward plan, as well as feeling that it disguised the fact that many schools would not see any additional funding. In discussions it became apparent that any meaningful funding plan must be for a minimum of 10 years, in order to allow school leaders to adequately plan for the future.

Equally, many attendees felt that schools had faced too much change in recent years, as policies have changed with the coming and going of each education secretary. Many called for sufficient time to allow polices to be properly implemented and reviewed, while there were also calls for education policy to become independent of party politics in government.

It was a successful start to discussions around North East education policy which will be ongoing over the coming weeks.

Education links w/c 23/09/19

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/special-features/newcastle-preparatory-school-secret-worth-16955347 – Chronicle Live, Why Newcastle Preparatory School is a secret worth sharing.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/every-schoolchild-should-visit-countryside-16960762 – Chronicle Live, Why every schoolchild should visit the countryside and spend a night under the stars.  

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/blaydon-headteacher-funding-chronicle-champions-16856377 – Chronicle Live, The inspiring Blaydon Head Teacher who is leading the fight for fairer school funding.

https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/17921814.pupils-honoured-following-schools-best-exam-results-years/?ref=mac – The Northern Echo, Pupils honoured following school’s best exam results in years.

https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/17919809.darlington-school-open-doors-prospective-parents/?ref=mac – The Northern Echo, Darlington school to open doors to prospective parents.

https://www.sunderlandecho.com/education/sunderland-school-remembers-staff-and-pupils-who-lost-their-lives-cancer-636485 – Sunderland Echo, Sunderland school remembers staff and pupils who lost their lives to cancer.

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/teesside-high-heads-anger-labours-16966274 – Gazette Live, Teesside High Head’s anger at Labour’s plan to scrap private schools.

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/51-point-plan-turn-around-16967301 – Gazette Live, 51-point plan to turn around help for children with special needs.  

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/education/these-are-ratings-every-hartlepool-primary-and-secondary-school-inspected-ofsted-637083 – Hartlepool Mail, These are the ratings of every Hartlepool primary and secondary school inspected by Ofsted.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/education/schools-get-help-spotting-potential-new-teachers-among-their-own-pupils-637156 – Hartlepool Mail, Schools to get help spotting potential new teachers among their own pupils.

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/education/imagination-station-book-hunt-teacher-creates-story-vending-machine-new-venture-get-children-reading-636660  – Shields Gazette, Imagination Station: Book hunt teacher creates story vending machine in new venture to get children reading.

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/education/these-are-ratings-every-south-shields-secondary-school-inspected-ofsted-636834 – Shields Gazette, These are the ratings of every South Shields secondary school inspected by Ofsted.

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/education/scores-students-take-part-climate-change-protest-alnwick-636308 – Northumberland Gazette, Scores of students take part in climate change protest in Alnwick.

Teacher working hours not linked to retention crisis

Despite finding that 1 in 4 teachers work a 60 hour week and total working hours average 47 hours per week during term time, a report this week has found that working hours have remained relatively stable for the last 20 years.

The report released this week from UCL Institute of Education has shown that teacher hours between 1992 and 2018 have been high relative to other countries but have not significantly fluctuated, remaining between averages of 46 and 48 hours per week.

The report also shows that since 2013 the amount of time split between teaching time and non teaching tasks such as administration, marking and lesson planning had remained unchanged.

This suggests that working hours have little bearing on the current crisis in retention. Earlier this year an NEU members’ survey showed that 40% predicted they will no longer be in education by 2024.

Instead, the report suggests that there needs to be more work done to improve other aspects of the profession, such as pay, leadership and working conditions. However, the report also acknowledged that its focus was only on hours worked, as opposed to overall workload, so did not take into account the stress of unfinished work.

In the most recent data available, the National Audit Office September 2017 report showed that the North East was the region reporting the lowest proportion of schools with vacancies. Whilst this seems to show that retention is less of an issue for the region the report did note that, like the rest of the country, the North East had seen a rise in vacancies since 2010.

A pilot scheme aimed at retaining Maths and Physics teachers began in the North East this year, providing eligible teachers a £2,000 retention payment in the 2019/20 and 2020/21 academic years.

For more on this topic:


Schools Week

The Independent

Education links w/c 16/09/19

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/69m-investment-set-transform-three-16936737 – Chronicle Live, £6.9m investment set to transform three Sunderland primary schools.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/kenton-school-martin-scott-newcastle-16937125 – Chronicle Live, Former Kenton School teacher who helped GCSE pupils to cheat appeals dismissal.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/1million-budget-increase-sought-creation-16932726 – Chronicle Live, £1million budget increase sought for creation of new primary school in Haltwhistle.

https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/17908562.detailed-proposals-tackle-rising-exclusions-revealed/?ref=mac – The Northern Echo, Detailed proposals to tackle rising exclusions are revealed.

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/headteachers-dismiss-idea-school-challenging-16934139 – Gazette Live, Head Teachers dismiss idea of school for challenging children coming to Stockton.

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/better-behaviour-committed-leaders-thornaby-16926883 – Gazette Live, Better behaviour and committed leaders – but Thornaby school is still ‘a work in progress’.

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/education/take-tour-inside-english-martyrs-school-and-sixth-form-colleges-new-building-633921 – Hartlepool Mail, Take a tour inside English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College’s new building.  

https://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/education/inside-english-martyrs-and-sixth-form-college-hartlepool-school-welcomes-start-new-era-multi-million-pound-building-618872 – Hartlepool Mail, Inside English Martyrs and Sixth Form College as Hartlepool school welcomes start of new era in multi-million pound building.  

https://www.shieldsgazette.com/education/12-reminders-life-mortimer-primary-school-south-shields-634011 – Shields Gazette, 12 reminders of life at Mortimer Primary School in South Shields.  

https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/education/zebra-crossing-improves-road-safety-near-alnwick-high-school-606113 – Northumberland Gazette, Zebra crossing improves road safety near Alnwick High School.

Only 23% of North East Schools will see funding increased

Data released from the House of Commons has shown that the North East is the region which will see the least additional funding outside of London.

Planned changes to minimum school funding: Schools affected by constituency, House of Commons Library

Under the proposed three year funding plan, 137 schools will see some funding increases in 2020-21, however, proportionally, this is lower than elsewhere in the country.

The data highlights how using the Minimum Funding Level as a means to distribute the promised increases means that schools in areas like the North East, with the greatest numbers of ‘high impact’ long term deprived children who require the greatest support, will effectively lose out.  

The recent EPI report highlighted how disadvantaged students in the North East can be on average 20 months behind their peers at secondary level, with every North East Local Authority exceeding the national average of 18 months. This ‘deprivation gap’ illustrates the need for additional support in areas of long term, high impact economic disadvantage.

Funding levels are key to closing this gap, which becomes apparent from the significant amounts invested in deprived areas of London. In Tower Hamlets over a third of pupils are classed as persistently deprived and the deprivation gap is just 5.3 months. In Middlesbrough, where 18.9% pupils are persistently deprived, the deprivation gap has widened to 18.8 months.

However, the proposed funding distribution will not invest further in the areas that need it most. In Hartlepool for example, disadvantaged students at secondary level are up to 23 months behind their peers, yet the figures released show that no secondary schools in the area will receive any additional funding. Furthermore, only two out of 30 Hartlepool primary schools will see their funding increased.

Schools North East Director of Operations, Chris Zarraga, said, ‘The additional funding on offer does nothing to support our hard working school leaders or our students as they try to narrow the attainment gap with more advantaged areas. Far greater support from the Government is needed, specifically targeted at those areas dealing with the greatest problems.’

Education links w/c 09/09/19

Number of pupils being excluded in Northumberland falls, ChronicleLive, https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/number-pupils-being-excluded-northumberland-16895912

Northumberland school shake-up on the cards after cabinet approves conversion plans, ChronicleLive, https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/northumberland-school-shake-up-cards-16894926

Durham Sixth Form Centre to be transformed into car park, Chronicle Live, https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/durham-sixth-form-centre-council-16902387

Winning Northumberland schools presented with their Tour of Britain design jersey, Northumberland Gazette, https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/winning-northumberland-schools-presented-with-their-tour-of-britain-design-jersey-541367

Spotlight on school exclusions as unruly kids ‘have door shut in their faces 9,000 times’, Teeside Live, https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/spotlight-school-exclusions-unruly-kids-16898053

Bamburgh School leads the way with South Shields’ first climate change teacher, The Shields Gazette, https://www.shieldsgazette.com/education/bamburgh-school-leads-the-way-with-south-shields-first-climate-change-teacher-541330

Government announces drive to boost standards in schools

Measures including changes to Ofsted inspections, support for struggling schools and a dedicated new academy trust in the North ‘to take on the most challenging schools’ have been announced by the Department for Education.

These new plans follow Friday’s announcement for a funding boost for education over three years.

The announcement was focused around ‘driving standards’ and included plans to:

  • Reintroduce regular inspections for ‘Outstanding’ schools
  • Provide support to the most challenging ‘Requires Improvement’ schools by offering help from experienced school leaders and evidence-based support programmes
  • Pilot a new academy trust in the north, to take on the most challenging schools where there is no another academy trust available
  • Building on the existing fund to support successful academy trusts to expand where improvement is most needed
  • Expand the School Resource Management programme
  • Introduce a rating for financial management with Ofsted

The announcement to reintroduce regular inspections for schools that were previously exempt due to an ‘outstanding’ grade, has been welcomed by many, to ensure high standards are maintained. However, as the exemption was written into legislation, it will require a bill to be put forward in Parliament to overturn this, meaning it could be some time before the exemption is lifted.

Any support targeted at schools in challenging circumstances is positive, however it must be recognised that when allocating this support, the experts and academy trusts must be aligned to the social, economic and geographical challenge of areas such as the North East which has high populations of white working class students affected by long term economic deprivation. We hope that the evidence based programmes mentioned are central to this support. This year we have launched an evidence based programme for the North East, Ednorth, in order to change the culture of education to focus on what we know works in the classroom in order to raise standards.

The expansion of the School Resource Management Programme and new plans for a financial rating are more controversial aspects of the proposals, though the DfE is yet to release details of how these plans will be implemented.

Schools North East is committed to supporting schools in the region affected by the impact of these different proposals. We will be putting more plans into place as more information becomes available, so please keep an eye on Schools North East channels.

What will the three-year funding plan mean for North East schools?

Last week’s funding announcement may have come as a surprise to many, signalling a three year investment in education ahead of the spending review.

The funding package for 5-16 schools includes an extra:

  • £2.6 billion for 2020/21
  • £4.8 billion for 21/22
  • £7.1 billion for 22/23

This will bring the schools budget to £52.2bn in 22/23. And means that it will bring all secondary schools up to a minimum funding level of £5,000 per pupil next year, with every primary school at a minimum funding level of £4,000 from 2021/22.

The deal includes £700 million extra for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in 2020/21.

Initial concerns were that schools currently making cuts will not see any increases until April next year, and for the first year, the amount promised comes well below the amount required to reverse the 8% real terms decrease in funding from 2009.

Moreover, there have been questions around how the government can commit to a three year plan in the midst of Brexit negotiations and calls for a General Election.

Since the announcements, more work has been done to explore what the amounts mean, with the EPI illustrating how the distribution of funding will mean that already disadvantaged schools are likely to lose out, as they are less likely to receive a share of the funding in the first instance and more likely to feel the impact of the salary increases for new teachers.

The EPI’s analysis of this funding method shows that ‘the north east would receive the lowest additional funding’.

There are further questions from schools around how the funding will be rolled out, especially to academies and alternative provision which are yet to be answered. Schools North East will continue to monitor the impact of this announcement on the region’s schools.

If you would like to let us know how the funding announcement will affect your school, you can submit your thoughts to policy@schoolsnortheast.com.

Major SEN review announced

A major review into Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision has been announced by the Department for Education, which aims to equip staff in schools and colleges to respond effectively to their students’ needs, improve the services available to families who need support, as well as ending the ‘postcode lottery’ they often face.

The review will explore how the system can be made to work best for all families and how to standardise quality of provision across the country, as well as how to implement more joined-up approaches with the Department of Health and Social Care.

The announcement promises that the review will be followed by actions on these issues. Tony McArdle, Lead Commissioner in Northamptonshire County Council, will be the new chair of the SEND System Leadership Board, and will act as an independent advisor to the review, alongside Education Endowment Foundation Chair, Sir Kevan Collins, and Anne Heavey, National Director of Whole School SEN.

As the North East has one of the highest percentages of SEN pupils in the country, with 15.8% of total pupils, higher than the national average, it is incredibly important that the review follows through on the DfE’s promise to standardise quality of provision. Moreover, the North East has received less funding for SEN than other regions, and so any action from this review needs to be paired with sufficient funding to put this into place.