Education Links W/C 9/12/19 – Chronicle Live, These 46 North East schools are being forced to close on general election polling day. – Northumberland Gazette, Northumberland school holidays 2019-2020: when the schools break up for Christmas and term dates for 2020. – Sunderland Echo, The Lake Poets helps schoolchildren write their own song about living in Sunderland. – Sunderland Echo, Athletics ace Aly Dixon helps open Sunderland school after £1.4million revamp. – Sunderland Echo, Sunderland school holidays 2019-2020: when the schools break up for Christmas and term dates for 2020. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Barnard Castle teacher’s appeal to save Kenyan school. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Busy Bees acquires Darlington nursery. – Hartlepool Mail, Decision due on plans for new all weather playing pitch with floodlights at High Tunstall College of Science. – Hartlepool Mail, Hartlepool school pupils support shoebox appeal to make Christmas special in Moldova. – Hartlepool Mail, Hartlepool school holidays 2019-2020: when the schools break up for Christmas and term dates for 2020. – The Northern Echo, County Durham teacher puts on show of latest work. –The Northern Echo, New head at Career College North East. – The Northern Echo, Toddlers ‘stretched’ nursery places pressure concern. – Shields Gazette, South Shields school holidays 2019-2020: when the schools break up for Christmas and term dates for 2020.

EPI analysis of main parties education policies supports SNE Manifesto 'asks'

An EPI analysis of the main political parties’ manifestos has highlighted that no political party is likely to deliver on their promises to reduce disparity of opportunity. It warned that Conservative policies risk widening the disadvantage gap, and while Labour and Lib Dem early years and wider support policies may have a positive effect, their approaches to the accountability system could offset those gains.

The report, published this morning, claims ‘Although all parties have made bold pledges about reducing opportunity gaps and raising educational attainment, the policies in their manifestos are unlikely to deliver on these aspirations.’

The EPI’s findings support those in Schools North East’s own Manifesto for North East Education which highlights that the political parties have failed to look at contextual problems in education or put forward any cohesive approach to tackling this.

Alongside the analysis, the EPI has made recommendations as to what a successful party should do. Much of this, including targeted funding to tackle the disadvantage gap, and a greater focus on quality early years teaching and learning, not just childcare, are recommendations seen in our own Manifesto.

We will be continuing the work of our Manifesto throughout this academic year in a series of roundtable events. If you would like to have your say at these events you can register your interest online.

Further Reading

EPI – General election 2019: An analysis of manifesto plans for education

Schools North East – Manifesto for North East Education.

Analysing GCSE reforms and the disadvantage gap

GCSE Reforms have widened the disadvantage gap according to a report published by The Sutton Trust. The move from modules to final exams alongside a new grading system, has resulted in scores for disadvantaged pupils falling by over a quarter of a grade across nine subjects.

The finding show an impact on those achieving top marks, with fewer disadvantage pupils likely to achieve the top grade 9 compared to those who previously achieved an A*, while the drop is smaller for non-disadvantaged pupils. The report highlights that more affluent families can provide resources and support for students struggling with the new, more demanding content. It also warns that wider differentiation for those with higher levels of ability could affect social mobility, with employers and universities focusing solely on top grades.

Further reading

The Sutton Trust – Making the grade

Education DataLab – The effect of GCSE reforms: Have they widened the disadvantage gap?

Education DataLab – The effect of GCSE reforms: How have they affected long-term disadvantaged pupils?

UK improves in Pisa rankings but wellbeing falls

The UK rankings in reading, maths and science have risen according to the results of the Pisa tests released earlier this week.

For reading, the UK has risen to 14th, up from 22nd in the tests three years ago, whilst in science we progressed one ranking to 14th. Maths made the biggest gains moving from 27th to 18th, putting the UK in the top 20 for all three measurements.

The Pisa tests are run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development every three years to test the ability of 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science. The tests are seen by some as an important measure of how the UK compares internationally.

However, despite the fluctuations in rankings, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) said there has not been significant change in the actual scores for reading or science, which have remained similar since 2006. Education DataLab has also warned against over interpreting the data, the reliability of which it calls into question.

Moreover, despite the positive outcomes for students’ achievements, the tests found that UK teenagers had some of the lowest levels of life satisfaction, dropping 13 percentage points from the last tests. Students were more likely to say that they felt ‘worried or miserable’ regularly and were less likely to see ‘meaning’ in their lives. The OECD report identifies a correlation between ‘life satisfaction’ and a ‘fear of failing’.

Further Reading

BBC News – Pisa tests: UK rises in international school rankings

Manifesto for North East Education Launched

Earlier this week, we launched our Manifesto for North East Education – a series of 10 key recommendations for politicians and policy makers from North East schools. This has been developed in the run up to the general election to ensure that education in the North East is not forgotten while politicians focus on national issues from Brexit to the NHS.

We have developed these recommendations over the last few months, in conjunction with our Partner Schools and hundreds of other North East Head Teachers, alongside expert educationalists and academics with a deep knowledge of the issues of the North East. The recommendations call for national politicians to recognise the regional context of the North East, and to ensure that our specific circumstances and challenges are reflected in policy development, rather than using a ‘one size fits all’ approach that often just doesn’t ‘fit’ at all.

The Manifesto was well received by a host of figures in education and national organisations. We received press attention from TES (New heads in tough schools ‘should get Ofsted break’), and BBC Look North, helping us to amplify the voice of North East schools.

The Manifesto is only a starting point, and whatever the outcome of the General Election, we intend to develop this work going forwards. To extend the conversation we will be holding a series of round-table events starting in the Spring term. These will be open to any CEO, Executive Head Teacher, Head Teacher or senior leader in the region, where you will be joined by experts in relevant fields to help us develop detailed publications around each recommendation, which we will use to influence Ministers, local politicians, civil servants, academics and other policymakers.

If you would like to attend one of these events you can register your interest online.

Chris Zarraga, Director of Schools North East, said ‘It is vital, going into the election and beyond, that national politics recognises the specific context of the North East region and does not allow this to continue to fall off the radar. For too long the specific circumstances of our region have not been adequately understood or reflected in policy.’

‘This Manifesto is the start of an ongoing piece of work to ensure that education policy and its impact on the North East is based on solid foundations, and moreover that specific policies work to resolve the challenges our region actually faces rather than the ones policymakers sometimes assume it does.’

Read our Manifesto for North East Education

Education links 2/12/19 – Chronicle Live, 15 hymns from school assembly that were absolute anthems – how many do you remember? – Chronicle Live, What can I do if my child’s school bans nativity play photographs? – Northumberland Gazette, Rural school in Northumberland facing closure after bid falls through. – Northumberland Gazette, Recommendations to tackle ‘unacceptably high’ number of exclusions in Northumberland’s schools. – Sunderland Echo, Ofsted has ‘raised the bar’ says Whitburn Academy head as school is downgraded following latest inspection. – Hartlepool Mail, Best of Hartlepool: School proud to be sponsoring our search for fundraiser of the year. – Hartlepool Mail, Take a last look around Hartlepool’s old High Tunstall College of Science before demolition in these 16 pictures. – The Northern Echo, Hartlepool college rebuilt to be fit for young people has ‘Heart’. –The Northern Echo, Sherburn 12-year-old comes up with idea for a ‘medi-drone’. – Shields Gazette, South Tyneside teacher takes over as head of Career College North East.

How I lobbied parliament for £18.4m to build new school

When the roof of his school collapsed just days after a condition survey carried out by the Department for Education concluded the building was in A1 condition, High Tunstall College of Science Headteacher Mark Tilling headed to Parliament to lobby for a new school. Mark shares the process of how he managed to secure £18m of funding to make his vision a reality and expresses the importance of great facilities for teaching and learning.

In 2014, when the College received the A1 rating from the Department for Education we were devastated. The facilities were definitely not up to standard and we didn’t believe anyone would listen to a school just complaining about an old building. When the roof blew off just a few days later, we were firstly grateful no one was hurt but secondly determined to do something to get the College the new building it so deserved.

We had tried to secure funding through the conditioning funding the local authority provides but it was never going to be enough. In 2010 when Building Schools for the Future was cancelled, we lost the new school building and facilities planned at that time. That was devastating. High Tunstall has been an important part of Hartlepool for 47 years, but the building was old and tired. The facilities and the resources for our young people were nowhere near up to the standard they should have been. 

We approached the then Member of Parliament for Hartlepool, Iain Wright and Dean Jackson, the former assistant Director of Education for Hartlepool Borough Council for assistance. Iain was successful in helping us to secure a meeting with Minister of State for Schools at the time, David Laws, and his assistants. Iain also talked us through the processes of Parliament and helped us to understand the timescales we had. Overall, he made us feel comfortable in a very unfamiliar situation.

In December of that year the meeting was unfortunately cancelled due to some parliamentary business that Mr Laws had but we were lucky enough to have it rescheduled for the January. We had a 30-minute meeting with David Laws and his special advisers where we were allowed to present our case and evidence, which consisted of a number of photographs and surveys proving the building was not fit for purpose. The surveys we had, and the photographs were quite compelling and were a key factor in helping us to move our case forward.

Mr Laws was very thoughtful and asked us many pertinent questions about the College and its buildings. He checked information with his special advisers and understood our concerns. He was very appreciative and helpful but didn’t promise us anything. He explained the Priority School Building Programme to us and explained the condition surveys that were being carried out. 

It wasn’t until six months later we were successful in being placed on the Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP). In that time, we just had to wait and get on with the business of trying to maintain the building the best we could. We looked at the short, medium and long-term issues we had and ensured we had plans in place for what we needed to do to make the environment the best we could, ensuring safety was at the heart of what we did.

We were initially allocated £17.1m from the programme but when the local authorities increased the number of pupils at the College from 240 to a 270 intake, we were allocated an additional £1.3m from the Local Authorities Basic Need Funding. Contracts were then put together and the design for the school began in 2016 with key contractor BAM and the Department for Education (DfE) working together.

The DfE PSBP North East project team was absolutely superb throughout the whole project. They worked hard with BAM and the College to ensure best value was achieved and the PSBP schedule was adhered to and were very clear they wanted to build the best school building they could. They really helped us to understand the process and at all times resolved issues that arose and made sure we kept to our deadlines.

This hard work has now resulted in High Tunstall having facilities to be proud of.

On Thursday November 7th of this year we opened our doors to the students. It was one of the proudest moments of my career. I am so incredibly in awe of the building we have now. It has given us a new lease of life. We extended the October half term by three days and in that time, staff worked tirelessly to get everything transferred from the old school to the new. The buzz was unbelievable. No one could wait for the students to walk through the door.

When we opened the doors for business for the very first time it was incredible. We did stagger start times so we could allow for the children to have a look around and get to grips with their new classrooms. There was a red carpet for the students and the local media turned up to cover the grand opening. Every teacher had their own ribbon cutting ceremony to welcome in their form classes to their new home. The new three-storey building includes new science rooms and a demonstration laboratory, creative design rooms, design technology, food technology classrooms and a food demonstration room.

The College has also benefited from a brand-new learning resource centre where students can learn independently. The four-court sports hall features solid wood sprung flooring and the ground floor features a theatre and dance studio as well as a large open plan cafeteria, which is the heart of the College. Classrooms in the new school contain interactive technology to ensure we’re at the forefront of learning. A long way away from where we were back in 2014.

My advice to any other Heads would be that schools have to continue to press for what they want and need. By presenting our case we were very well positioned, but you must use the democratic processes. In terms of getting a quality building they have to dedicate the time and expertise in the school to get best value. Relationships are key in processes like this and the team built from BAM, the Department for Education and the College worked very well together.

We’ve always been proud of the High Tunstall name and now we have a facility that is befitting the name, befitting the College and makes students feel proud. Also, teachers come into work to a nice environment.

With their well-being being looked after, they’re going to teach better and everyone is going to achieve better in the long run.”

If you would like to submit a Talking Head, please get in touch on

Press Release: Manifesto for North East Education

Manifesto for North East Education

In light of the upcoming General Election, Schools North East wants to ensure that the critical issue facing the North East region and our schools are not forgotten. As such we are launching our Manifesto for North East Education – key recommendations for all political parties and policymakers, from North East Schools. 

The North East is often seen to be behind other regions in national measures and outcomes, and there is a pervasive narrative of a ‘North – South’ divide. These measures and this narrative do not take into account the long term high impact disadvantage our schools and students face. Our Manifesto for North East Education will tackle the myth that our schools and students perform worse than elsewhere, and asks politicians and policy makers to take our specific regional context properly into account. 

The recommendations in the Manifesto have been drawn up in line with direct feedback from Schools North East’s 1,150 member schools and key stakeholders from across the education sector. The recommendations cover a range of vital issues, to ensure that the education sector in the North East does not continue to be left behind. 

Chris Zarraga, Director of Schools North East said ‘It is vital, going into the Election and beyond, that national politics recognises the specific context of the North East region and does not allow this to continue to fall off the radar. For too long the specific circumstances of our region have not been adequately understood or reflected in policy. This Manifesto is the start of an ongoing piece of work to ensure that education policy and its impact on the North East is based on solid foundations, and moreover that specific policies work to resolve the challenges our region actually faces rather than the ones policymakers sometimes assume it does.’

Manifesto for North East Education Website

Schools North East launches new Ofsted online forum to over 400 Head Teachers at annual Ofsted Update

Our annual Ofsted Update on Thursday 28th November saw over 400 Head Teachers and senior leaders join us during the day to learn more about the practical application of the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework.

The day featured experts from The Key, alongside Head Teachers from local schools sharing their experiences of recent Ofsted inspections. Schools North East Director Chris Zarraga welcomed 200 delegates each to both the morning and afternoon sessions, introducing ConnectEd and its new online Ofsted Chat group, designed to help NE school leaders access advice, resources, and assistance from their colleagues, on the practical implications of the new inspection framework.

The Schools North East online community, ConnectEd, is a place to connect with peers; contribute to discussion; add ideas; support and be supported in your role; share case studies, best practice and information; collaborate; engage in and debate research; and unite schools through networks.

Chris was followed by Kaley Foran from The Key, who spoke to delegates about what the changes are and the focus of the new framework as it is being applied in schools.

Delegates had plenty of opportunity to ask questions, exploring a range of contexts including Early Years and special education, as well as workload and responsibilities for staff. With too many questions to get through on the day, delegates were invited to continue the conversation on Schools North East’s new online forum ‘Ofsted Chat’; a private group on the newly launched online community Schools North East ConnectEd. This group now has nearly 300 NE school leaders on it.

As well as running through all of the changes in content, Kaley outlined what delegates could expect on a practical level, discussing in detail the format of the initial phone conversations, as well as the new “deep dive” format and what it means for teachers, as well as middle and senior leaders. For many delegates this helped to dispel the uncertainty around what takes place, how conversations are conducted and what they need to prepare for.

Kaley’s informative session explored how the focus of the new framework has shifted, with far less emphasis on data and lesson planning, with Ofsted looking at the ‘quality of curriculum’ through conversations and observations instead.

Following The Key, Ian Noble from Boldon School shared his experience of a recent inspection. The school, which had been Requires Improvement since 2007, were recently graded Good. Ian spoke about the huge amount of work his school had done in line with the old framework, much of which was no longer relevant since the changes to the new framework came into force. For Ian, the key was the importance of middle leaders during inspections, ensuring that their understanding was consistent with SLT. He highlighted how inspectors focused on the quality of education, specifically looking at the intent of the curriculum and the inclusion of cultural capital in this.

Sharing her experience at a primary level, Wendy Leeming from Waverley Primary talked about preparing using a pin board, with key information and documentation up on the wall in advance of the call for an inspection. Another useful practical tip was to use an ‘Ofsted Checklist’, which allowed her to identify what needed to be done and who would be responsible for it when the call for an inspection came; this meant SLT, SBM and office staff were more prepared and less frantic about the practical steps that needed to be taken. She explained that inspectors wanted to understand staff’s decision making, follow a model of ‘why this, why now, show me how and tell me what next.’

Both Ian and Wendy reiterated the earlier point from The Key that far less documentation and data needs to be provided in advance. For both, this was a huge benefit, reducing workload and stress for staff. They also both emphasised that quality of education was the key area that inspectors were looking at, focusing on why children are learning what they are and the reasoning behind decisions in the curriculum.

Overall the day was incredibly informative, it was great to hear experiences and practical advice from schools, as well as all of the questions delegates have which we hope to dig deeper into on our online community, ConnectEd.

Almost 300 of the delegates from the day joined the online community, and are contributing to conversations within the group, and resources from the day are being posted there.

If you want to join our online community, Schools North East ConnectEd please sign up here.

Regional Links W/C 25/11/2019 – Chronicle Live, North-south divide study finds gap between poorest and richest regions of England is the worst in the world. – Chronicle Live, ‘So many great memories’, – Ringway Primary School in Northumberland celebrates 50th anniversary. – Chronicle Live, Mum’s rant over how much to give in Christmas whip-round for teachers goes viral. – Chronicle Live, Parents left heartbroken as ‘amazing’ Lobley Hill pre-school is set to close by Christmas. – Chronicle Live, Officials urge people to get flu vaccine after norovirus outbreak across North East schools.—not-linked-school-funds-crisis/ – Darlington & Stockton Times, North Yorkshire home education rise –‘not linked to school funds crisis’. – Darlington & Stockton Times, Plea over £400k forfeit for special needs school. – Northumberland Gazette, 13 pictures of new starters from schools in Northumberland. – Gazette Live, Once-struggling secondary school on the up after glowing Ofsted report. – Gazette Live, ‘Absolutely alarming’ rise in number of recorded assaults on teaching staff in borough. – Gazette Live, ‘Kids run into school with huge smiles’: Pupils are at heart of Stockton school say inspectors. – Hartlepool Mail, Look who is putting their weight behind the Best of Hartlepool Awards. – The Northern Echo, CEO Paul’s emotional return to North-East college. – Shields Gazette, South Shields school’s Christmas panto postponed after pupils fall ill.