Discovery School in Newcastle to close

The Discovery School in Newcastle is set to close after four years of opening.

Newcastle Council confirmed the Discovery School in Newcastle would close after the government pulled the plug on its funding when it failed an Ofsted inspection.

Earlier this month the school was accepting pupils on to its register for September and parents were only told on Tuesday it would shut on 31 August.

A spokesman said the closure would “be for the best” in the long term.

The school, which opened in 2014 and teaches a specialist science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) curriculum, had been funded directly from the government.

It has the capacity for 700 students but only has 218 on its roll.

The statement from the Discovery School reads:

‘Pupils, parents and staff have been informed of the decision and the school is working with the Department for Education, Newcastle City Council and other local authorities to ensure pupils are offered alternative places at other schools before the start of the new term.

The decision has been taken based on well-documented issues at the school including safeguarding problems, poor teaching and leadership and the results of a recent Ofsted which is expected to deem the school inadequate.

As a result Discovery’s funding agreement will be terminated, leaving no alternative but to close the school.

A spokesperson for Discovery said: “We regret this is the outcome but it is clear the school is simply not working for students, parents and staff.

“Our first duty is to the pupils who are entitled to be safe, well and to get the best education they can.

“We realise this will be upsetting for pupils and parents – and for staff who will be made redundant – however we cannot allow the situation to continue and believe that in the long term this will be for the best.

“It is very early days and in the next few weeks there will be a lot of activity to ensure that the process of closure, and finding new schools for pupils is as straight-forward as possible. We will offer full support to those families affected.”

All GCSE students will be able to continue their studies uninterrupted and post-16 examinations will take place as usual this month and next.

Newcastle Connexions Service will be on site at Discovery School to offer support and advice.’

Read more on this story on the BBC.



NELEP bids for Careers Hub in the region

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership has this week put in a bid to the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) for a Careers Hub to be based in the North East.

NELEP were shortlisted and invited to interview for the Hub by CEC after receiving a huge wave of support from schools and colleges in the region.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Lead at NELEP, told SCHOOLS NorthEast: “We’ve had a fantastic response to this and had over 70 applications to be part of the Hub – fingers crossed it all goes well.”

NELEP will find out if their pitch has been successful at the beginning of July, but if not, Michelle says that this won’t stop them from continuing their plans.

She said: “If we are unsuccessful we still have ambitious plans to go ahead with the Hub based on the fact that the Gatsby pilot was held here in the North East.”

DfE ‘undermining relationship’ with Heads

The Government is ‘undermining’ its relationship with Head Teachers by repeating the mantra that more money than ever before is going into schools, a parliamentary inquiry has been told.

The Head Teachers’ Roundtable group, which meets to discuss education policy, strongly criticised ‘political spin’ surrounding the education budget and a failure to recognise the pressure that school budgets are under.

The warning comes in its submission to the Commons Education Select Committee inquiry into school funding.

Members of the group met with the MPs on the committee this week to discuss their concerns.

Its chairman, Stephen Tierney, said that by talking about increased funding, without acknowledging rising pupil numbers and the costs facing schools, “the government is undermining its relationship with the profession”.

Mr Tierney, Chief Executive Officer of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi-Academy Trust in Blackpool, added: “I don’t think it wants that and I don’t think the profession wants that.”

The group calls on the Government to scrap individual pots of money for particular projects, such as the Strategic School Improvement Fund and Teaching and Leadership and Innovation Fund, and use the savings for core schools funding.

Read the full article in the Tes.

Ofsted Chief warns of growth in lack of ‘readiness for school’

Amanda Spielman will today use her speech to nursery leaders to highlight the rising number of children who lack basic hygiene and language skills by the age of four.

The Head of Ofsted is urging staff to ‘play their part’ in helping children learn these skills before starting school.

“We now have a situation where, aged four, some children have less than a third of the English vocabulary of their peers,” she will tell members of the Pre-School Learning Alliance.

“These children arrive at school without the words they need to communicate properly. Just imagine the disadvantage they face, right from the start.

“Unable to follow what’s going on. Unable to keep up with their classmates. Unable to reach their potential.”

Reading and literacy skills will also be a focus of Ms Spielman’s speech as “at the most basic level, poor literacy holds a person back at every stage.

“As a child, you will do worse at school. As a young adult, you may struggle to find work. And as a parent, you won’t be able to help your own children learn. This is a vicious cycle.”

Readiness for school

The Ofsted Chief will also reference the recent study that found 70% of schools reported more children starting school without being toilet trained compared to five years ago.

Ms Spielman has described it as a ‘simple but necessary expectation’ but does not suggest that nurseries become ‘substitute parents’.

“We know that the best nurseries work closely with families, helping to establish simple routines, such as sleep time and potty training, as well as introducing children to foods that they may refuse at home.”

She will also say today that children starting their first year of school should also be able to sit still and listen, understand the words “no” and “stop”, and be able to put on their own shoes and coat.

Obesity crisis

It was also reported this week that Ms Spielman has dismissed expectations that schools should address complex societal concerns such as childhood obesity.

She said:  “There are a great many pressing public policy concerns affecting young people. Many undoubtedly require government intervention and multifaceted solutions. But they cannot all fall to schools, and they often are completely inappropriate for measuring at inspection.

“I use obesity to illustrate the point, but there are countless other examples of where schools are expected to address every one of society’s ills and inspection is supposed to be the tool to ensure they do it.”


Department for Education to review impact of Baker Clause careers duty

The impact of a new law which forces schools to allow training organisations the chance to speak to pupils about technical qualifications and apprenticeships will be reviewed by the Department for Education.

The government has commissioned the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, a sector body that represents training companies, to carry out the review, launched to help the DfE “understand more” about the effect of the duty, which came into effect in January.

Under the new law, dubbed “the Baker Clause” because it was orchestrated by former education secretary Lord Baker, every school must give training providers and colleges access to every pupil in years 8 to 13, so they can find out about non-academic routes.

Schools must also publish a policy statement on their websites, detailing how to arrange access, which premises or facilities can be used, and the grounds for granting or refusing requests.

Read the full article in Schools Week.

Education Links w/c 4th June 2018 – Chronicle Live, New first school in Morpeth finally gets the green light as site of former fire station. – Chronicle Live, ‘Save Bellingham Middle School’: School closure proposals still attracting parent protests. – Chronicle Live, More free schools are going to be created – and the North East has been identified as a prime spot. – Darlington & Stockton Times, School plan for former site of Nature’s World.  – Darlington & Stockton Times, More schools in County Durham facing budget deficits. – Hartlepool Mail, Teachers ‘spend a million hours a year’ teaching primary pupils toilet hygiene. – Hartlepool Mail, Hartlepool schoolgirl Grace engineers herself a top prize. – Gazette Live, Redcar and Cleveland College makes ‘significant’ strides in latest Ofsted inspection. – Gazette Live, Teeside teacher who helped pupils with coursework is spared from being struck off. – Gazette Live, Headteacher salary revealed as Northfield School searches for new leader. – Sunderland Echo, Readers react to revised plans for former Sunderland High School site. – Sunderland Echo, Plans for 4G pitch at Sunderland school given go ahead. – Hexham Courant, Concerns raised over the future of Haltwhistle Middle School. – Hexham Courant, Warning that middle school closure will harm Bellingham’s economy. – The Northern Echo, Darlington school ‘requires improvement’, say inspectors. – The Northern Echo, Awards for education at region’s institutions. – Shields Gazette, Free website for teaching jobs to be piloted in the North East to help schools save money. – Shields Gazette, Support offered to students and staff as school mourns death of 16-year-old pupil.

Grammar schools receiving more money than comprehensives  

Grammar schools are getting proportionally more money from the government than comprehensives to spend on buildings, including brand new sports halls and laboratories.

40% of the secondary schools which received money from the Condition Improvement Fund over the past three years were grammars, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

One school got six new classrooms at once and another won funding two years in a row – even though selective schools make up only five per cent of all secondaries in the country.

Heads of comprehensive schools have reacted with fury to the revelations, labelling the fund another example of grammar schools expanding by the back door.

Schools in challenging areas may lose out because only ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools, which almost all grammar schools are, can apply to the fund, they said.

Read the full article on Schools Week.

300 schools wait over a decade for Ofsted inspection

A National Audit Office report has shown that almost 300 schools in England, all of which are rated as “Outstanding” by Ofsted, have not been inspected for a decade or more.

There are 265 “Outstanding” schools in the North East, according to the latest inspection outcomes data. SCHOOLS NorthEast analysis shows that 61, or 23%, of these schools, have not been inspected since 2008. No school rated less than outstanding has waited as long. Just 3 of the 61 are secondary schools.

A policy introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government in 2011 exempts schools graded outstanding from routine inspection, provided data shows they are “maintaining performance”.

Instead, the Inspectorate’s “risk assessment” approach monitors outstanding schools for factors such as academic performance and pupil attendance. However, critics suggest this cannot give the full picture of the school as it ignores issues such as safeguarding.

Ofsted has said there are “no plans at the moment to change” the exemption. Because the Government wrote the exemption from inspection for outstanding schools into law it could only be overturned by Parliament, not by Ofsted.

Department for Education ditches Year 7 ‘catch-up training’ fund before it opens

A Government scheme, which promised schools up to £25,000 each to help improve the literacy and numeracy of Year 7 pupils, has been unceremoniously scrapped, months after bidders were supposed to hear back.

Last autumn, the Department for Education invited bids from teaching and research schools for ‘Year 7 catch-up training’. Successful bidders would use the cash to work with schools identified as needing “additional support” with struggling 11-year-olds.

Bidders were supposed to hear back from the Government about the status of their funding shortly after the assessment period, which ended on the 29th December.

But in an email to applicants, the DfE said it has now “decided not to proceed with funding for these 2017-2018 projects”, and instead encouraged schools to apply for cash from its Strategic School Improvement Fund.

Read the full article on Schools Week.

“Schools can’t deal with mental health issues on their own,” says Department for Education CYPMH lead

Matthew Hopkinson, the Head of Unit, Children and Young People’s Mental Health, Anti-Bullying, PE and School Sport at the Department for Education was speaking at the annual Healthy MindED Conference in Durham on Thursday.

The CYPMH lead, who was the keynote speaker at the event, made the comments when informing the 150 delegates of what the Government had planned to do in the future to help support schools after analysing the outcomes of the CYPMH Green Paper.

He said: “Schools can’t deal with mental health issues on their own. We want serious extra capacity in the system by employing 8,000 more staff, and that is more staff than currently work in CAMHs nationally.

“We want school mental health support to be sustainable and we don’t want it to fall by the wayside 3 or 4 years down the line.”

Mr Hopkinson did acknowledge, however, that it is difficult to link education and mental health services.

He said: “We recognise that we need to improve specialist support to those most in need. The job you might do (for mental health) in a primary school compared to a secondary school might be completely different.

“That said, we want to capitalise on the good work that people are doing and show examples of good practice on this area.”

The Department for Education’s CYPMH lead also told delegates of potential future collaborations with Ofsted to measure child wellbeing as part of the reformed framework.

He said: “We want to help schools measure their impact and get recognition for what they do. Child wellbeing is something that could fit into the Ofsted framework, but maybe this is not enough.

“We really want to know how we can help schools with their child mental health support. I’m very conscious, like you all are, that we need to keep the pressure on with this.”

The Healthy MindED event, held in Durham on Thursday 24th May, was attended by delegates from across the North East with active involvement in children’s mental health. The programme featured sessions from ‘Voice of the Pupil’ the child-led mental health commission established by SCHOOLS NorthEast, Dr Wendy Thorley, Dr Emily Henderson from NHS England and Dr Mina Fazel, as well as sessions on resilience, social media safety, school wellbeing and parental engagement.