The Education Secretary today announced details of five academy sponsors tasked with driving up standards in schools in areas where historically performance has been poor, including Northumberland.
Five sponsors have been awarded grants totalling nearly £5million to make an impact on improving performance for pupils in some of the most challenging and disadvantaged areas of the country. While the Government recognises the excellence found in many schools across the north, today’s announcement signals that there are areas in which the Government can do more to improve standards.
One of the five is Bright Tribe, a well-established sponsor with a proven track record of successfully managing geographically-dispersed academy hubs, making it well-matched to the challenge of working in the north. Bright Tribe will extend its offer to schools in Northumberland.
Kathy Kirkham, chief operating officer of Bright Tribe, said: "I am excited that the Bright Tribe Trust has been awarded funding to develop a hub in Northumberland. This will enable us to support schools in the area with their educational improvement journeys. By providing our expertise and by implementing our personal pathways approach, we will be aiming to deliver a first-class education for all pupils within the schools that we work with."
Today, the Education Secretary also announced the National Teaching Service – a new scheme to send excellent teachers to struggling schools. An initial pilot has been launched in the North West to enlist up to 100 teachers and leaders to start work in primary and secondary schools in September 2016 for a period of up to three years.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: "Over the past five years, we've extended opportunity to thousands of young people, through raised standards, heightened expectations and a rigour revolution. But for all we've achieved, too many young people aren't being given a fair shot to succeed because of where they live. That’s why today I'm announcing the creation of a National Teaching Service - sending some of our best teachers to schools in struggling areas.
"At the same time, we’re taking further steps to ensure that every pupil masters the three Rs in primary school and studies the core academic subjects in secondary school - ensuring that every young person gets the best start in life."
Plus, a shake-up of primary school testing was announced, with formal SAT exams for seven-year-olds set to make a comeback at Key Stage 1. The Department for Education said these plans were triggered by a need for more confidence in knowing that students are progressing well through primary school.
Mike Parker, director of SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: "Teaching professionals are divided over the benefits that a further set of national testing for primary pupils will bring. At one level, it enables schools to gauge how their pupils are progressing in comparison with other areas and it also will identify where children need additional support. On the flip side, pupils are benchmarked when they start school and are nationally assessed in their final year of primary school so teachers will understandably question if a further round of national testing is going to provide tangible benefits.
"The Government sells this initiative as benefitting the child's development, but in the high-stakes profession that is school leadership, this is yet another measure by which schools will be scrutinised. With fears growing that football manager syndrome is becoming entrenched in education, providing an additional layer of assessment data will only compound that concern."
Formal SATs for seven-year-olds were abolished more than a decade ago and the re-introduction initially sparked fears that the Government will scrap the newly-introduced baseline assessment, which is entirely based on teacher observations. The Government said it will be working with headteachers in the following months to ensure clarity, while holding schools to account and also giving them 'full credit for the progress they achieve'.