Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We Can Resolve the Education Conundrum in the North East; ROBERT OLIVER on the Problems Facing the Region's Schools - and How They Can Be Tackled

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We Can Resolve the Education Conundrum in the North East; ROBERT OLIVER on the Problems Facing the Region's Schools - and How They Can Be Tackled

Article excerpt

THE "North East conundrum" has caught the headlines in recent weeks with all manner of suggestions aimed at addressing the underperformance of North East state schools compared to the national average.

It's true that there is a shortfall of good and outstanding secondary schools in the region and in some places, such as Middlesborough, a third of children are taught in schools that are not good enough.

The figures for the percentage of outstanding secondary schools highlight a 4% gap with the national average which, whilst not enormous, is neither acceptable nor explicable.

Blaming culture is hard to accept as some schools, such as Mossbourne Academy in London's "murder mile", send plenty of pupils to Oxbridge despite the cultural legacy of once being "Britain's worst school".

There is also little evidence that a lack of aspiration is significant as, for example, the proportion of young people in Sunderland planning to go to university is about the same as the national average.

Money, so often the fallback complaint from local politicians, is often mooted but rarely proven as anyone who read this newspaper's article about Ponteland Middle School will know.

This school is among the best performing in the whole of the country but also the worst funded which proves that money and performance are like two halves of a banknote: each useless without the other.

And the think tank Reform found that there was no link at all between spending and outcomes with some schools spending more than twice as much as other schools to achieve the same results.

Despite this, more money is being spent on the poorest pupils than ever before with an injection of cash via the pupil premium for the neediest pupils in the region which will work if it is spent wisely.

Likewise we cannot blame it on disadvantage, as we have some great schools achieving great results in deprived areas while others languish despite having advantages.

As a case in point, Pennywell Nursery School, located in an area of entrenched and severe deprivation on Wearside, has been rated as outstanding by Ofsted in three inspections on the trot. …

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