Northern schools greatly underfunded despite high levels of disadvantage, says leading think tank

A new study is urging the Government to allocate greater funding to secondary schools in the North through a new national funding formula.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North has echoed previous calls by SCHOOLS NorthEast for policy makers to take the opportunity given by the reforming of the funding formula to boost budgets, as northern secondary schools are on average funded £1,300 less per pupil compared to those in London, despite the high levels of disadvantage.

The IPPR report, commissioned by Teach First, also shows that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in the North are lagging behind compared to their peers in the rest of the country. It suggests that weak GCSE results in northern schools will have a negative impact on the Government’s Northern Powerhouse project, echoing Sir Michael Wilshaw’s comments earlier this year that the Northern Powerhouse will “sputter and die” if the issue of underperforming schools is not tackled effectively.

Speaking to Schools Week, Director of SCHOOLS NorthEast Mike Parker explained the issue of geographical disparity in funding:  “The current average funding nationally equates to £4,732 per pupil – but in the City of London it is as high as £8,595. The average for the North East is £4,616.

“The current schools funding formula is broken. If North East schools were funded at the same level as London schools we would have an additional £360m per year to spend on education.”

He added that national parity would be equivalent to an extra £45.6m for the region.

“The government is adding in an area cost adjustment where they work out on a per pupil basis where the money should go and then multiply in areas of high cost,” he said.

“We recognise that it can be expensive for schools in expensive areas to recruit teacher, but to us that it a blunt approach, because it is quite difficult to recruit teachers into geographically remote area too, but we don’t get any extra funding for that.

“Money alone doesn’t equate to achievement – but it certainly helps.”

Mr Parker quoted figures from analysis of school funding in the region conducted by SCHOOLS NorthEast, available to read here. SCHOOLS NorthEast also submitted a response to the Government consultation on the new funding formula, which you can access here.

Jonathan Clifton, Associate Director at IPPR, added: “Two decades ago London was the worst place to attend school if you were from a low income background, now London’s disadvantaged pupils achieve better outcomes than those in other parts of the country.

“The successful turnaround of London’s schools shows that educational disadvantage can be tackled though investment, strong leadership and collaboration.

“We need a similar level ambition for schools in the North. Smart policy and fair funding from government could transform children’s prospects and help build the northern powerhouse.”

Further reading:

Northern secondary schools receive £1,300 less per pupil than London (The Guardian)

Call for more school funding to help northern schools (Schools Week)

Tackle pupil attainment gap in northern England, IPPR urges (BBC)

Future of education – white paper and academisation

Nearly 300 school leaders from across the North East gathered together this week to understand the current direction of education policy.

The White Paper and academisation: implications and options conference organised by SCHOOLS NorthEast saw a range of education experts give top quality independent and impartial advice in order to help delegates make the right decisions for their schools.

SCHOOLS NorthEast Chair and Head Teacher of St John Vianney Catholic Primary School in Hartlepool John Hardy chaired the event and started the day by making it clear that SCHOOLS NorthEast is a network for all schools in the region, regardless of type.


Jonathan Clifton, a former DfE adviser and current education lead at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), gave the keynote speech providing an overview of the white paper and the direction of Government policy.

edit IMG_2650.jpgMr Clifton pointed out that the latest Government announcement that schools will not be forced to convert is “not a U-turn, just shades of grey. The Government retains its ambition to see every school become an academy and for most of them to join a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), but it won’t force conversion. But if local authorities are underperforming or financially unviable, schools will be converted.”

He added: “Don’t rush, but also don’t bury your head in the sand. The Government has a clear vision.”

The IPPR Associate Director for Public Services also looked at options for collaborative working and shared  useful case studies as examples of different types of school partnerships.

Conversion experts went through the nuts and bolts of the process for our delegates, offering valuable advice and top tips. Our speakers explained conversion matters to do with HR, finance, governance and the legal side. Many thanks to Jill Donabie (Muckle LLP), Bill Dennison (National Leader of Governance), Chris Beaumont (Clive Owen LLP) and Julie Sowerby (Avec Partnership) for taking part in our panel of experts and delivering this session.

Chair of the Education Funding Agency advisory group Les Walton CBE gave an entertaining and enlightening talk on the role of the agency.

Delegates also received valuable first hand knowledge and advice shared by school leaders who have already gone through the conversion process and examples of collaboration in the region. The workshops included topics such as Academy conversion: what I wish I’d known first, Collaboration without academisation and Exploring partnership models looking at same-phase and cross-phase options, as well as joining established trusts.

All presentations used during the conference throughout all sessions can be viewed here.

Due to overwhelming demand, SCHOOLS NorthEast will be holding a second White Paper and academisation conference on Tuesday 14 June at the Durham Centre. Click here for more information or email to book your place. 


Government uncompromising on school attendance rules after father’s term-time holiday win

The Government will seek “whatever measures necessary” to maintain strict no term-time holiday rules , after a father who took his daughter on a term-time holiday won a case against the school, and the subsequent appeal made by the local authority.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb told the House of Commons that the ruling in favour of the parent represented a “significant threat” to improving school attendence and that the Government will do “everything in its power” to ensure children are kept in school: “The house should be assured that we will seek whatever measures necessary to give schools and local authorities the power and clarity to ensure that children attend schools when they should.”

The court ruled that the family would not have to pay the fine due to their child’s otherwise ‘regular attendance record’.

Head Teachers have the authority to grant leave for up to 10 days under “special circumstances”, but Chair of the Education Select Committee Neil Carmichael said more clarity is needed in defining what counts as a special circumstance.

Continue reading “Government uncompromising on school attendance rules after father’s term-time holiday win”

‘Rogue marker’ leaked Sats test paper the day before exams

And in this week’s episode of The Thick Of It…

The Department for Education is blaming a “rogue marker” for leaking the spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG) tests to The Guardian, after the paper was mistakenly uploaded onto a password-protected website.

The test answers, which was taken on Tuesday by children aged 10 to 11 in England, were published by the test supplier, Pearson, on a secure platform for test markers.

Pearson apologised for the problem and said it was investigating it. According to Chief Executive John Fallon, 102 markers had seen the paper in the four hours it was available:  “A small number of markers accessed the paper, although as contracted markers they are bound by confidentiality and have a duty not to share any papers.We do not have any evidence that the content of the paper has been compromised.”

21481962596_53121e5577_mOn Tuesday, Schools Minister Nick Gibb addressed parliament about the leaked tests and announced that the SPAG exam would go ahead because it was not shared online or in the press: “The Key Stage 2 test remains valid and is going ahead as planned.

“The journalist in question took the decision not to publish the test papers and I am grateful to him for that.”

Opposition MPs also raised concerns regarding the Key Stage 1 tests that were accidentally published as a practice paper, stating that the Government has “taken its eye off the ball, obsessing over flawed forced academisation plan” and that the exam chaos in the past month has caused a “damaging fall in confidence among parents and teachers about the reliability and validity of testing in schools”.

A DfE spokeman said: “We are aware that Pearson, the external marking supplier responsible for Key Stage 2 tests, published the Key Stage 2 grammar, punctuation and spelling test on its secure marker site for a short period of time.”

“The site can only be accessed by Pearson’s approved markers, all of whom are under secure contract. Any distribution of materials constitutes a clear breach of that contract.”

Academisation angst over the break

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference that took place last week made many national headlines, most of them regarding academies. Below is a round-up of the key news from the conference and more.

  1. ATL members unanimously voted to consider “industrial action” in response to recently announced academisation plans. The motion rejects the government’s proposals and calls for the union to consider action. A DfE spokesperson said: “It is disappointing for any union to consider industrial action rather than working constructively with us. Strikes hold back children’s education, disrupt parents’ lives and ultimately damage the reputation of the profession.” Read more about it here.
  2. ATL members backed plans to create a new “super union” between their union and the National Union of Teachers (NUT). Discussions were already underway, but needed approval by members of both groups. If formed, the new union would have around 500,000 members altogether. More on that here.
  3. Mary Bousted, General Secretary of ATL, also condemned the government for an “insane” national curriculum and “test mania”, suggesting these are among the reasons why teachers leave the profession, and that it also takes a toll on children’s health. Words such as “nonsense”, “farce”, “alienating”, “disempowering” and “ministers living in a parallel universe” were also heard, and you can read excerpts of her speech here.
  4. Schools Minister Nick Gibb spoke at the ATL conference too, broaching big topics such as teacher recruitment (maintains it is not a crisis, but a “challenge”), workload, academisation and more. Mr Gibb defended government plans of universal conversion, leading to him being heckled by a disapproving audience. More on that and Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell’s speech here.

And in other academy news…

Continue reading “Academisation angst over the break”

White Paper amendment kills Opposition motion

Labour’s anti-forced academisation motion was made redundant yesterday as the Conservative amendment passed 302 to 204.

Ministers debated the Education Secretary’s White Paper in a House of Commons session which saw damning statements not only from the Opposition, but also from Tory backbenchers.

Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell kicked off the session, branding forced academisation as the most controversial proposal in the White Paper. Ms Powell said “The main thrust of forced, wholesale academisation, we cannot support,”  adding that Head Teachers shouldn’t be spending time, money and energy on it.

Continue reading “White Paper amendment kills Opposition motion”

#OperationFriday in full force to boost attendance at Kenton School

Earaches, soar throats and even reactions to grass being cut in their garden are just some of the excuses Kenton School staff hear most Fridays, when attendance generally drops by approximately 2% compared to other days of the school week.

Kenton school has now launched #OperationFriday in a bid to overcome this trend, teaming up with Newcastle City Council and the Newcastle Falcons.

Continue reading “#OperationFriday in full force to boost attendance at Kenton School”

Newcastle primary accredited as a ‘Mantle of the Expert’ training school

St John’s Primary School has just been Quality Marked as a Mantle of the Expert training school, one of only four in the country and the only one north of Birmingham.

Mantle of the Expert (MoE) was developed by Dr. Dorothy Heathcote in Newcastle, where she was an academic at Newcastle University until her retirement in 1986.

Continue reading “Newcastle primary accredited as a ‘Mantle of the Expert’ training school”

Sharp rise in parent prosecutions for term-time holidays

THE number of parents prosecuted in 2014 for taking their children on family holidays during term-time rose by 25% on the previous year, Ministry of Justice figures revealed.

A total of 16,430 parents were taken to court, 3,000 more than were prosecuted in 2013.

The information comes after concerns were raised over Continue reading “Sharp rise in parent prosecutions for term-time holidays”

Pupils’ mental health, top concern for Head Teachers

85% of Head Teachers in the North East are most worried about their pupils’ mental health, a new new survey conducted by The Key has revealed.

The schools information service polled its members for its annual Summer Report and found that out of a possible 14 health and safeguarding issues, mental health problems were the biggest concern nationally, followed by

Continue reading “Pupils’ mental health, top concern for Head Teachers”