Subject: SCHOOLS NorthEast Weekly Update - Week 36

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The SCHOOLS NorthEast Weekly Update goes out to every Head Teacher in the North East every Tuesday, but if anybody else in your school or LA would like to receive the Update, please send their name and email address to

In this Issue

  • A roundup of the latest in local and national education news
  • Details of the new SCHOOLS NorthEast Venue Finder for schools and businesses
  • School to School with Peter Mackie from St Gregory’s RC Primary School in Stockton
  • North East Teaching School CPD event on 21 June
  • Discounted Learning Outside the Classroom - Workshops’ from Contour Education
  • Information on SCHOOLS NorthEast’s Special Governor Events later this month

Focus on…A-level changes

Ofqual today launches a consultation on proposals to reform the design, structure and implementation of A levels. The move is in response to concern from Education Secretary Michael Gove that the qualifications “fall short of commanding the level of confidence we would want to see”. In a letter to Ofqual in March, Gove expressed his desire to see the greater involvement of universities and learned societies in their future development.

Ofqual’s consultation focusses on the structure and assessment arrangements for A ’levels and asks for views on changes including:

  • The involvement of higher education in the design and sign-off of A levels;
  • The abolition of January exams; and
  • A reduction in A level resits.
  • The consultation also addresses whether or not AS levels should continue and outlines three potential options for consideration:
  • Removing the AS qualification and returning to a linear two year course of study.
  • Making the AS a stand-alone qualification where the results do not contribute to the A level.
  • Retaining the AS qualification and its relationship to A Levels as present (with changes to January assessments and resist opportunities).

To inform their proposals, Ofqual conducted a survey of UK universities, learned societies, employers and schools gathering their views of current A levels. The findings suggest that A levels are seen as fit for purpose but that there was demand for:

  • greater clarity over the core knowledge required in some subjects;
  • improved skills in researching, problem solving, analysis and critical reflection;
  • a reduction in modularisation;
  • a reduction in the number of resits; and
  • better discrimination between the most able candidates applying for oversubscribed undergraduate degree courses.

Ofqual also conducted international research which found that A levels perform well against their international equivalents. The research did, however, highlight several areas for consideration in future A level design based on the features of successful in systems in other countries including:

  • Breadth versus depth – Many systems have a baccalaureate- or diploma-style assessment system, including the study of a number of subject areas that are not required as part of A levels.
  • Independent study – The inclusion of independent research, projects, and extended essays, to bring additional depth to subject expertise.
  • Multiple choice – Multiple choice questions, when used appropriately, can test large amounts of content and assess skills that can be difficult to test by other means.

Speaking at the launch of the consultation, Ofqual’s Chief Regulator, Glenys Stacey, said:

"A qualification as important as the A level needs to be kept under regular review to make sure that it continues to meet the needs of its users.

We want to hear what schools, colleges and employers, as well as universities, think of our proposals. Teachers’ views are particularly important, both in response to this consultation and in the development process, because we want to make sure that A levels provide a good, cohesive curriculum”.

With a greater role for Universities proposed in the consultation, the Russell Group Director General, Wendy Piatt, outlined their concerns about the quality of the qualifications:

"Maths A-level poses particular problems: some modules are just not challenging enough to equip students not only to do a maths degree but also to go on to degrees in engineering or physics….There has been too much focus on an emotional response to texts rather than on robust critical analysis in some subjects like English."

She welcomed the ending of the modular system as "students too often quickly forget the 'bite-sized chunks' of knowledge they have learnt," and she also supported the reduction in resits. "We think it's fair that people are given a second chance if they have good reasons for underperforming in an exam, but more recently students have been allowed to do resits too frequently."

The full consultation document is available online and you have until 11th September 2012 to respond. Following the consultation, any changes will take place from September 2013 to 2018, although Michael Gove has stated his hope that the ‘new’ A level’s will be introduced in 2014.

What’s your view? Do you think that A’levels are fit for purpose? How would you like to see them reformed? Is it right for Universities to have a greater role in designing the qualification? Let us know by emailing .

Local news

Queens Honours List

SCHOOLS NorthEast would like to Congratulate Lesley Steele, Head Teacher of St Aidan's CofE Primary in Gateshead, for being made an OBE for services to education.

Sunday Times Education Festival

The SCHOOLS NorthEast Team are heading down to the Sunday Times Education Festival this weekend at Welllington College. We are looking forward to listening to a wide range of high profile speakers from Gove to Geldolf! Look out for our live Tweets and feedback in next week’s Weekly Update. Are you also going to the Education Festival? If so let us know by emailing .

Local news by area





North Tyneside


South Tyneside




Top national education news

Teachers' unions urge rethink of phonics checks

Leaders of the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, and the National Association of Head Teachers have written to MPs calling for a rethink of the phonics checks for six-year olds, which will be starting in schools. The unions say that the checks are "flawed" and will do nothing to improve children's reading. Schools Minister Nick Gibb is disappointed by the unions' position.

Truants miss 3.7m school days, official figures show

Statistics from the Department for Education published last Thursday show how on a typical day some 55,600 youngsters skipped lessons without permission. This equates to around 3.7 million school days being missed last autumn. However, the figures also reveal how overall absence figures were lower than the year before, due to less sickness and fewer term-time holidays.

Ofsted: schools failing to stamp out offensive name-calling

In discussions with around 2,000 pupils and teachers, Ofsted Inspectors found pupils admitted to using language they knew was inappropriate. However, although common, name-calling is often dismissed as "banter" by children and staff. The Ofsted report, based on visits to 56 schools, said teachers were not always aware of how often such "banter" was used.

Inspectors recommended the introduction of new rules to ensure all teachers “consistently and firmly” clamp down on “aggressive language”, including lessons that teach children about the importance of diversity.

Ofsted to review educational achievement in deprived communities

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Michael Wilshaw, used his speech at the National College conference last week to announce that Ofsted will set up an inquiry to report on the progress made in raising achievement in deprived communities.

In his speech, Wilshaw said: “Twenty years ago, Ofsted produced a landmark report, which described the lack of educational success and the paucity of good-quality provision in deprived communities…Ten years later, David Bell, the then Chief Inspector, produced another report under the same headline. What was so depressing was that his report painted a similarly bleak picture of underperformance in these same communities. I am asking the educational leaders of this country to take ownership of the situation and show the leadership needed to change the learning landscape”.

Resources and opportunities

SCHOOLS NorthEast Venue Finder for schools and businesses

SCHOOLS NorthEast is launching a new Venue Finder to help schools and educational organisations access high quality venues easily and to offer venues a way of promoting their offer to the education market. The Venue Finder will be incorporated onto our current website and will be accessed through both the homepage and our Marketplace.

The service will go live in July but already venues are joining up thick and fast with over 40 venues across the North East signed up in the first week of the offer!

Venue Finder is free for schools to both access and advertise on, and is open to commercial venues for a small fee. Simply email for further details.

Special thanks to The Greenhouse in Durham, the first commercial organisation to join Venue Finder. The Greenhouse, the first commercial eco building in Durham, is based in Stanley and offers meeting and conferencing facilities; find out more at

10% discount on I Am Learning gaming software

With the summer holidays rapidly approaching, now is a perfect time to look at resources to support your students next year. I am Learning is a resource that uses the games concept to motivate and reward learners as well as facilitating effective homework, revision and exam practice whilst promoting independent learning.

This term I am Learning is offering to set you up with free access, a start date in September, and a 10% early purchase discount. Follow this link for a demo: and to sign up today.

Assist in trialling a chemistry test

A research associate from Durham University require assistance in trialling a chemistry test and need students from local schools to trial the test. The test is on paper and contains 70 questions for which the answer is ‘true’ or ‘false.’ Preliminary trials indicate the time for completion is between 20 and 40 minutes.

Any schools that are interested should contact for more information or to get involved. 


SCHOOLS NorthEast Events

Free Governor Events 26 and 28 June: ‘Collaboration, conversion, coercion and confusion’

SCHOOLS NorthEast and leading law firm Dickinson Dees are hosting the first in a series of free twilight sessions for school governors exploring the questions and issues facing governing bodies in understanding and responding to the changing education landscape.  

The event is specifically aimed at Governors, but Heads and other school staff are more than welcome to attend.

Choose to attend on either Tuesday 26 June 6-8pm at Gateshead International Stadium or Thursday 28 June 6-8pm at East Durham College, Peterlee.

The event is free and we welcome multiple delegates from schools. For more information you can read the flier on and to book please email or call 0191 204 8866.

SCHOOLS NorthEast Summit – 19 October at St James Park

Now in its fourth year, the SCHOOLS NorthEast Summit is the annual event bringing together the North East's school leaders and leading educationalists and decision makers to discuss the issues, practice, challenges and opportunities that will shape education now and in the coming years. Last year’s event sold out with over 300 school leaders attending.

Delegate places cost just £80 for Primaries and £100 for Secondaries with discounts for SCHOOLS NorthEast Enhanced Members and group bookings.  

For more information and to book now please click here or email

Other Events

Teaching School Careers Conference – 21 June

If you are looking for an opportunity to reflect on your current role in school and think about the next steps in your career then attend the Shiremoor Teaching School Alliance’s ‘Careers Conference’. There will be a chance to hear from practising leaders about the challenges and rewards at various levels of leadership along with workshops and access to individual support, advice and guidance.

The free conference will take place this Thursday (21 June) at the Vermont Hotel between 9.30am and 2.30pm. To book a place email

Managing staff in a time of change: the law and practical tips – 29 June

Managing change amongst the SLT, teachers and staff is often a mixture of law, process and psychology.  This session will look, through the use of interactive practical examples, at the issues that schools face in managing day to day staffing changes including changes in role, ill health and performance.

The aim of the session is to give those who attend an overview of the background employment legislation (including potential equality and diversity considerations) and how best to manage the interaction with the employee and their trade union to get the desired results. The event will take place on Friday 29 June between 8.30 am and 10.30 am at Muckle LLPs offices in Newcastle and is free of charge.

To register your place please RSVP to Ruth Craig by emailing or by calling 0191 211 7930.

Learning Outside the Classroom: area workshops with 10 per cent saving on future bookings – 27 June, 4 July, and 11 July

Contour Education Services works on behalf of schools to develop a programme of Learning Outside the Classroom to meet the needs of individual schools. All of their activities are sourced through the Challenger Trust, a charity that has supported 42,000 students in acquiring new skills over the last 12 years.

To discuss your requirements, Contour Education Services invite you to attend a one hour workshop from 4.30 to 5.30 pm on either Wednesday 27 June (Newcastle), Wednesday 4 July (Durham) or Wednesday 11 July (Darlington). 

This workshop seeks to understand what you currently do, your wishlist for the future, and how, by working with other schools in the region, you can make significant savings on both the price and administrative burden. Contour Education Services can also help you develop your plans for forthcoming Summer Schools. All workshop attendees receive an automatic 10 per cent saving on any future bookings.

If you would like to register for one of the workshops, contact or call 01788 517 632.

Becoming World Class- Leading Learning in the 21st Century - 6 July

This conference offers you the opportunity not only to immerse yourself in the insights of those living with the power of learning every day, but to hear from Professor David Leat, Director of the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching at Newcastle University, and Professor Guy Claxton, the pioneer of building Learning Power. Both will bring a wealth of experience backed by decades of research, to deepen the exploration of learning and its transformative potential.

To find out more and to download the conference handbook click here or reserve your place by emailing

Widening Horizons Programme: Breakfast Seminar - 6 July

Northern Education would like to invite you to a breakfast seminar exploring the Widening Horizons Programme. The programme is based on the critical importance of ‘cross sector’ professional development as education leaders increasingly become involved in new forms of governance and leadership. The seminar will provide an introduction to the principles of the programme which has been designed in partnership with Deputy Head Teachers within the North East.

The seminar will be at 8am on Friday 6 July 2012 at the Cobalt Business Exchange, North Tyneside.

There are a limited number of places for the first programme and more information is available at .

If you are interested in joining the programme and or attending the seminar please e-mail .

School to School

This week we spoke to Peter Mackie from St Gregory’s RC Primary School in Stockton. We would like to welcome Peter as the newest member of the SCHOOLS NorthEast Board, representing Stockton Primaries.

Our school is… Exhausted...we had an Ofsted section 5 inspection this week.

Our school motto/mission/vision is…"Forward Together" (we were formed by amalgamation ten years ago this September).

Our school is good at…I'm sorry I can't say until the (Ofsted) report is published!!!

Our school is working on…Our key issues, of course!

The biggest challenges for our school are…boys' writing and boys' writing.

We think other schools would be interested in our…Chocolate Wednesdays.

Question from last week’s school is: ‘What have you done with your King James Bible from Michael Gove?’ Please don't tell Michael but it's at home with me right now. It is such a beautiful book and such a pleasure to read.

Our question to next week’s school is When the King James version of the Bible was published, the then pope declared it a sin for Catholics to read it. St Gregory's is a Catholic school, so what should I do with our King James Bible from Michael Gove?

Over the last 7 days we learnt…

Have a great week!

If you have any issues you would like to see covered in the Update, or any other comments, I would love to hear from you at the above address.