Subject: SCHOOLS NorthEast Weekly Update - Week 37

Muckle event

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
  • School to School with Angela Puddick from The Links Primary School in Cleveland.
  • Discounted Learning Outside the Classroom - Workshops from Contour Education
  • Information on an event with Muckle LLP regarding staffing issues.

Focus on…‘Who inspects the inspectors?’

The quality of Ofsted inspectors has been called in to question in a report by BBC File on 4, on the qualifications of inspectors and the rise in complaints against Ofsted.

The investigation by BBC journalists found that former Head Teachers who have had to leave their own schools after they were judged to be failing, are currently working as Ofsted inspectors and that some current Ofsted inspectors have no teaching experience at all.

Baroness Perry of Southwark, Chair of the House of Lords Backbench Education Committee and a former Chief Inspector said that she is reliably informed that some inspectors, including ex-school secretaries and governors, “have never taught a class in their lives”.

"They haven't actually been teachers and can't share that classroom experience with the teachers or with the schools they're inspecting," she said.

"I'd be very interested to know how Ofsted assures itself that all of the people involved in inspections do in fact meet the best of those criteria."

The Baroness argues that changes to the inspection framework, which is now focussed on a few key issues including leadership, teaching and academic progress, mean that lay inspectors are now being employed to judge areas in which they have no experience.

Current chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has admitted that Ofsted does use some inspectors who look at issues other than teaching, but promised to root out inspectors who had never taught or who had failed as school leaders.

"If that's happening, we need to address it," said Sir Michael. "When an inspector is in a classroom judging teaching I would expect them to know what good teaching looks like."

He added that Ofsted was recruiting to a 'national service' pilot scheme which would see more serving 'outstanding' Head Teachers conducting Ofsted inspections.

The programme also investigated the rise in complaints to Ofsted after the introduction of a new regime at the beginning of the year.

Since Sir Michael Wilshaw took up his position in January, the number of schools being judged as failing has risen by 50% with the number of schools judged inadequate rising from 6% during the last full academic year to 9% in the spring term of 2012.

Complaints about inspections have also risen significantly. 262 schools, around one in 12 of those inspected, have submitted complaints about their inspection and Association of School and College Leaders states that its monitoring suggests the number of complaints has doubled.

The BBC investigation team interviewed Head Teachers who claimed that the Ofsted reports on their schools were “riddled with factual errors and inspections conducted by staff who did not appear to understand the curriculum they were supposed to be inspecting”.

A spokesman for Ofsted has confirmed that there has been a modest increase in the number of complaints, but Sir Michael Wilshaw said the majority of responses were very positive.

"This is a tougher framework, the bar has been raised," he said "but every school has a right to complain and there's nothing to stop them complaining, remember there are 22,000 schools and the number of complaints we get are very, very few indeed."

In addition to the increase in complaints some schools have chosen to take more radical action to challenge Ofsted, with reports suggesting that some Heads are threatening to “throw out inspectors who seem incompetent or overly harsh.”

Following a critical report, The Furness Academy in Cumbria has applied to take Ofsted to judicial review.  Inspectors judged the entire school inadequate in January because its pupils had made insufficient progress in maths over five years. The school claims that this is misleading as it only opened in 2009, and last year's GCSE candidates spent their first three years of secondary education in three other local schools, two of which were in special measures.

The Academy’s Principal, Douglas Blackledge, said "I embrace entirely the need for a robust inspection and monitoring framework. But we were worried a report which said that the academy was inadequate would be used to drain the confidence of our students and parents. We felt that was not legitimate at all, so we felt that we had to fight it".

OFSTED has stated that they will be “robustly defending” the report.

Responding to the findings of the File on 4 inquiry, Brian Lightman, General Secretary of ASCL, said "we have been raising concerns with Ofsted since January about the inconsistent quality and approach of inspection teams, which in some cases is leading to inaccurate judgements. Schools accept that the bar has been raised with inspection, but what they cannot tolerate is careless and inconsistent procedure especially when the stakes are so high. According to our records, at least 8 per cent of secondary schools inspected since January have registered complaints with Ofsted, which is double the figure from last year. These aren't just schools that have gone into special measures, they include schools with a whole range of inspection outcomes”. 

What’s your view?  Do you think that the quality of Ofsted Inspectors is high enough? Have you complained to Ofsted and what was their response? Should more outstanding Head Teachers become part time inspectors?  What changes would you like to see to the process of Ofsted inspections and the recruitment and training of inspectors?

‘Who inspects the inspectors?’ is broadcast on File on 4 on BBC Radio 4 tonight (Tuesday, 26 June) at 8pm and repeated on Sunday 1 July at 5pm.

Local news

Sad news: John Morgan

SCHOOLS NorthEast was shocked and saddened to hear that our colleague John Morgan, Executive Head Teacher at Conyers School Stockton on Tees, former President of ASCL, and SCHOOLS NorthEast Board Member, died suddenly last Wednesday evening.

John was a hugely influential figure in education both regionally and nationally. We greatly valued his knowledge, insight, enthusiasm, support and commitment. He is a great loss to the world of education and the North East and our thoughts are with his family and the Conyers School community.

In response to the news David Pearmain, Chair of SCHOOLS NorthEast, commented, “this news is tragic. John was always willing to speak truth to power whether that was fashionable or not. He was also a great advocate for our region. We will miss him hugely, both personally and professionally.”

A tribute and condolence page has been set up on the Conyers School website

You say you trust us Mr Gove. Now prove it

Commenting in last week’s Times Education Supplement, local Head Teacher, Bernard Trafford from Royal Grammar School in Newcastle, gave his views on trust between the Government and schools:

“Stop ramping up your threatening "or else" language; tone down the damning descriptors and implied penalties from Ofsted; stop interfering and attempting to micromanage; and make the department get its sums right. That would be a start. Then schools might trust you to trust them.”

To read the full article please click here.

Local news by area






North Tyneside


South Tyneside





Top national education news

Gove’s Speech on ‘schools revolution’

In a speech today at The Spectator’s Schools Revolution Conference, Education Secretary Michael Gove highlighted new research released by the Department for Education, showing the impact of academy status on some of the poorest schools in the country.

The research suggests that results from pupils in sponsored academies have improved by 26.2 percentage points since 2010. This a faster rate than in other state funded schools (14.2 per cent) and a faster rate then a group of similar schools (21.3 per cent) the research also suggested that the longer sponsored academies have been open the greater the improvement in pupil results and that pupils eligible for Free School Meals or with Special Educational Needs perform better and are improving faster then similar pupils in state funded schools.

In the same conference Gove’s academy and free school policy came under attack, Lord Adonis.  The architect of the Academies Programme under Labour, who argued that going back to “the core of the sponsored academies programme will do more than the entirety of the free schools mission.”

To read the full speech click here to visit the DFE website.

O-level proposals expose ‘deep divisions within the coalition’

As we are sure you are now aware (after extensive media coverage and the SCHOOS NorthEast Special Update), details were leaked last week of proposals for pupils to take O-levels in traditional subjects such as English, Maths, Science and the Humanities by 2016, while less able pupils would take old-style CSE qualifications.

The controversial move has exposed deep divisions within the coalition. Liberal Democrat sources suggested that they were “very, very hostile” to something that would create a two-tier system, while Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he and Prime Minister David Cameron knew nothing about the proposals.

Pupil behaviour improving but ‘back-to-basics’ discipline on the decline

Pupil behaviour is better than four years ago, suggests a Government survey of teachers - but a quarter still say it is not good. The survey of 1,600 teachers found three in four teachers (76%) rated behaviour as good or very good, a six per cent rise on a 2008 study.

There were also results suggesting that thousands of teachers are refusing to use back-to-basics methods of classroom discipline such as detentions and sending badly-behaved pupils to the Head's office. Most schools said they preferred to use systems of rewards and praise to promote good behaviour instead of punishing pupils that repeatedly step out of line, it emerged.

Resources and Opportunities

Vote for The King Edward VI School, Morpeth, in national film competition

Support The King Edward VI School in Morpeth by voting for them in national media competition - The People's Choice Award.  

Their video is called 'Bridging the Gap' and features both the town of Morpeth and King Edward VI School holding an event to remember war heroes and also to bring the younger and older generations closer. They have been successful in reaching the final 36 in the UK with voting ending this week.

To see their video and to register your vote please click here.

Primary Experience Programme – school registration to host a high-quality male graduate on a 10-day placement

The Primary Experience Programme (PEP) is a new scheme launching in autumn 2012. It offers high-quality graduates, who intend to start a primary initial teacher training (ITT) course in September/October 2013, the opportunity to gain ten days of valuable experience within a school.

PEP has been designed to meet the changing recruitment needs of primary ITT courses. During the 2012/ 13 academic year, PEP will focus solely on supporting male participants, who are currently underrepresented within the primary teaching workforce. There will be 1,000 PEP placements for male participants who want to start a teaching career in a primary school.

Schools will be paid for hosting PEP placements and will be reimbursed for the cost of any CRB checks (as applicable). To find out more and to register your school’s interest in PEP please click here.

Body confidence pack for parents

A Government backed pack to help parents educate children on how the media alters images and to inspire them to be confident has been launched. Developed for six to 11-year-olds by not-for-profit organisation Media Smart, the pack contains before and after touched-up images of celebrities such as Britney Spears.

The body image parent pack gives tips to parents on how to talk to children about the subject and stresses the notion that the so-called perfect body, and the emphasis on being thin, is a "socially and culturally constructed ideal".

To download a pack to distribute in your school please click here.

Leadership Programme for aspirant and existing senior leaders of Special Schools and PRUs

Special Schools and PRUs face the same succession challenges currently facing schools nationally, but typically in a more extreme form.  The highly successful Leadership Programme for aspirant and existing senior leaders of Special Schools and PRUs, which has operated for the past two years, has successfully “graduated” over 50 participant Special School and PRU leaders. 

This National College programme is sharply focused on the objective of securing excellent Special School and PRU leadership, including headship, for the future. It is designed and delivered by four Special School and PRU Head Teachers, all leaders of outstanding schools and services, including one Federation and one Academy.

To apply or for further information please contact Maureen Bates at  or click here. Application Forms are available from the National College website and should be e-mailed to by 11 July.

Northern Stars Young Filmmakers’ Academy (15-18 years)

Tyneside Cinema is looking for young people aged 15-18 to take part in the cinema’s award-winning training programme.

The Academy runs from August until December 2012 and will give your students the chance to work with industry professionals to develop their skills in all areas of filmmaking. Many graduates have gone on to secure places at university, gain work experience on film sets and make their own films – and the Academy has been commended by Prometheus Director Ridley Scott!

The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 6 July 2012. For more information and to apply, please click here.


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

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

Join law firm Muckle LLP in a seminar looking at the issues that schools face in managing day to day staffing issues, including changes in role, ill health and performance.

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.  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).

The workshops seek 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 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.

Academy status, joint working and support structures – the options open to primary schools – Tuesday 3 July

If you are a primary school and have concerns about what will happen to the support provided by your local authority if you become an academy this free seminar held by SCHOOLS NorthEast Commercial Supporter, Ward Hadaway, in conjunction with RSM Tenon and Place Group, is essential.

You will hear from educational, legal and financial experts with a proven track record of advising in this area and from practitioners with first-hand experience of these arrangements. In addition, Lesley Powell, Head Teacher of The Academy at Shotton Hall, will share her first-hand experience of working with primary schools.

The seminar will be held on Tuesday 3 July at Ward Hadaway's Quayside offices, starting at 8.30am. For more information please click here or contact Michelle McBride on 0191 204 4029 or email to book a place.

Carrying the Torch for e-Learning: A showcase of best practice – 3 July

20 Free places for SCHOOLS NorthEast members

Hear first-hand from practitioners who are making a huge difference with e-learning, including Leading Lights Award winners. Explore the use of a wide range of easy-to-use digital tools to create and present stories as part of learning together with a series of innovative presentations showing the variety of ways e-learning can be used to enhance teaching and learning. 

Hear how you can incorporate the use of Social Networks, such as Skype, to encourage self-study and independent learning, as well as highlighting the benefits of Facebook, e-readers and gaming devices. Delegates will be shown the power behind iTunes U which allows the teacher to distribute digital information i.e. podcasts, or vidcasts to learners.  Lastly, there’s a Kindle to be won in the Prize Draw.

It's all happening at Hartlepool College of FE on Tuesday 3 July 2012 from 10:00am until 3:45pm. For more information and to book please click here .

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 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 .

School to School

This week we spoke to Angela Puddick from The Links Primary School in Cleveland.

Our school is… A happy school where we strive to ensure that all our children flourish academically whilst giving a stimulating, safe and developing environment.

Our school motto/mission/vision is… we strive to achieve.

Our school is good at… getting our children to a high standard.

Our school is working on… consistency and independent learning.

The biggest challenges for our school are… maintaining high standards year on year.

We think other schools would be interested in our… international curriculum.

Our question for this week is:   What are your thoughts on the recent ‘leaks’ on plans for O-level-style exams to replace GCSEs?

We must be mindful as to what is meant by intelligence, as well as the diversity of different types of intelligence –one size does not fit all.

Our question to next week’s school is? What would you like a new curriculum to have within it, bearing in mind the different ranges of intelligence, which are often overlooked?

In 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.