Project to collect data on the northern education gap launched – Friday 9 December 2016

This week I report on the launch of the “growing up north’ project, the publication of the PISA rankings with additional Government funding for Science and the announcement that the National Teaching Service will not be continuing.

Children’s Commissioner launches a project to collect data on the northern education gap
Over the next year, the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield will be leading a project aimed at addressing educational inequality in the north of England. She will be joined by an advisory panel (although it should be noted that there isn’t currently a North East representative) to gather data on children in the region to examine factors that influence their progression.

The project will bring together data on pupil outcomes to “increase understanding” of regional differences, look at the ways in which children’s ambitions are shaped by their experiences and assess the opportunities available to young people between and within different regions.

It’s not known if there’s a specific budget for the project or if it will be funded through the Commissioner’s office’s existing funding. This follows numerous other projects/reports that have looked at educational inequality in the north including the Ofsted chief inspector’s last annual report, Sir Nick Weller’s review of schools and the northern powerhouse and a Social Market Foundation commission on educational inequality, chaired by the former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

PISA tests: UK lags behind in global school rankings
This week the influential PISA rankings were published showing the UK is still lagging behind leading countries at education and has made little progress in international rankings since results were last published.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), led by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), provides evidence on how the achievement and abilities of 15-year-olds varies across countries. PISA is conducted every three years and pupils are tested in four subjects (science, mathematics, reading and collaborative problem solving), with one subject the focus each time.

As the data enables countries to benchmark themselves against the rest of the world and to spot strengths and weaknesses in their education system, they have become increasingly influential on politicians.

In maths the UK is ranked 27th, slipping down a place from three years ago, in reading the UK is ranked 22nd, up from 23rd and the UK’s most successful subject is science, up from 21st to 15th place.

To support the teaching of science in schools the Government has announced a £12.1 million investment until 2019. The funding will provide CPD for science teachers, support schools to share best practice and offer tailored in-school support. The programme will be delivered through a network of national science learning partnerships (North Tyneside Learning Trust forms part of the collaboration for the North East Hub) and support schools to encourage more teenagers to take GCSE triple science – physics, chemistry and biology.

Government scraps National Teaching Service
The Government has announced that it will not be pressing ahead with plans for a National Teaching Service (NTS) following an unsuccessful pilot in the North West of England. The initiative, launched by former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan in 2015, was intended to recruit good teachers to work in deprived areas. The goal was to see 1,500 of the country’s “top teaching talent” matched to the schools that need them the most, by 2020.

The North West pilot aimed to enlist up to 100 teachers to work in eligible primary and secondary schools across the region from September 2016. Its been reported that just 54 teachers were recruited after only 116 applied and in total only 24 of those recruited have so far been matched with schools.