Education Secretary unveils plans to unleash North East potential

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A £24million investment will drive up school standards in the North East by giving extra training to teachers, improving key secondary schools in the region, developing young people’s access to employers and universities and bolstering links between primary and secondary schools.

Delivering on the Government’s pledge to tackle the issues holding young people back across the region, at the Schools North East Academies conference in Newcastle, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced today (30 January) that the Government would not stop in its drive to transform the lives and prospects of young people across the North East.

This comes as the Department publishes its Opportunity North East (ONE) delivery plan, setting out a series of ambitions to deliver on the programme’s long-term commitment to level up on educational outcomes and unleash the potential of young people in the region.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

No child should be held back because of where they come from so it’s of the utmost importance that we level up aspirations for all children in all parts of the country.

Since we launched Opportunity North East, we have connected with expert school and business leaders in the North East to create more opportunities and offer tailored support so that we can tap into the outstanding talent we know exists in education across the region.

Our task now is to build on the foundations the programme has set down over the last year. This delivery plan sets out how we will drive this forward by strengthening training for teachers, providing bespoke school improvement support and opening up more career pathways for young people.

ONE has already put in place bespoke improvement plans for a set of struggling schools identified as ONE Vision schools which have been paired with high performing school leaders as part of a wider support package. North East schools will also benefit from two years of structured training and support for teachers at the start of their careers through the Department’s Early Career Framework – a year ahead of schools in other parts of the country.

Building on this early progress the board – chaired by Schools Minister Lord Agnew – has now signed off the detailed delivery plans, including:

  • funding projects to ensure pupils are supported when they move from primary to secondary school, so that more pupils continue to achieve well into secondary school. These projects include the Legacy Learning Trust that will implement a consistent approach to teaching reading comprehension during key stage 2 and key stage 3, through using the evidence-based Reciprocal Reading approach. Other projects include a focus on joining up the curriculum across the phases and developing a more consistent teaching approach, and putting bespoke arrangements in place to meet the individual needs of pupils identified in primary schools as being likely to struggle in a secondary setting, so that they continue to thrive;
  • finalising bespoke improvement plans and support for ONE Vision schools, in collaboration with high-performing institutions;
  • approving proposals to offer professional development for maths teachers and support to maths departments in a target group of schools to improve the quality of maths teaching in the region;
  • funding the Local Enterprise Partnerships (North East LEP and Tees Valley LEP) to deliver an enhanced offer of careers and business engagement support for ONE Vision schools so that targeted pupils benefit from a sustained programme of support that really makes a difference to their lives;
  • expanding the work of the North East Collaborative Outreach Programme to more schools to deliver a targeted programme of sustained, progressive interventions for young people to help them explore their future options which will include; access to undergraduate mentoring, outreach activity such as university campus visits and dedicated support in the form of a higher education ambassador.

The board also set a series of targets to be delivered before 2022, including:

  • for pupils involved in funded transition projects to make greater progress during year 7 and 8;
  • making sure that all ONE Vision schools meet the national average Progress 8 score and are on the path to be judged at least ‘Good’ by Ofsted;
  • for all ONE Vision schools to meet all 8 Gatsby ‘Good Career Guidance Benchmarks’; and
  • securing an increase in the rate of North East applicants and entry to Higher Education Institutions beyond the national rate of increase.

Alan Hardie, Chief Executive Officer at Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust, said:

Opportunity North East’s One Vision schools programme allows Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust to accelerate school improvement at Duke’s School, with additional funding and high quality National Leader of Education, Teaching School and Education Endowment Foundation support.

Through One Vision, Opportunity North East has created a coherent structure for school improvement and this delivery plan sets out the wider work of the programme to improve outcomes in the North East. We are very grateful to DfE for the opportunities it brings and are fully supportive of the ambition and aims of the programme.

Maura Regan OBE DL, CEO Carmel Education Trust and member of the Opportunity North East schools sub-board, said:

Opportunity North East and specifically One Vision has provided a catalyst for change in how we tackle issues in the North East. The One Vision programme has collaboration, support and accountability at its centre. Impact can already be seen by schools involved in the programme, and the publication of the programme’s wider delivery plan will build on the progress already being made.

Jill Colbert, Director of Children’s Services Together for Children and member of the Opportunity North East Strategic Board said:

We are very proud of the educational offer in the region but recognise we need to do more. Opportunity North East and the ONE Strategic Board harnesses the best of all our expertise and central government resources, to ensure educational improvements for the most disadvantaged in the North East.

This delivery plan published today, sets out our ambition to help them make the most of their talents.

The North East has some of the best performing primary schools in the country, but outcomes for pupils at the end of key stage 4 is below other regions; it also has one of the highest proportions of young people not in education, employment or training after year 11. Opportunity North East will tackle issues such as these – and the fact that the region had the lowest percentage of young people going to top tier universities in 2017.

Launched in October 2018, the £24 million programme was designed to build on the successful approaches that are already in place and is part of the Government’s drive to boost productivity in the North of England, building on the Northern Powerhouse strategy.

The delivery plan launch comes after the Government confirmed every secondary school will receive at least £5,000 per pupil next year, and every primary school at least £3,750 per pupil, in legislation introduced today (30 January), delivering on a key pledge made by the Prime Minister during the General Election to level up funding across the country so that all pupils can receive an excellent education.

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