New heads in tough schools 'should get Ofsted break'

School leaders in North East say an Ofsted grace period would help to get heads to work where they are needed most

Schools North East has called for new heads at challenging schools to get a grace period before Ofsted visits

Headteachers who take on challenging schools should be given a grace period before they are inspected by Ofsted, according to school leaders in the North.

The Schools North East network has said that giving heads more time after they move to a school in difficulty before they face inspection could help to attract the best leaders to the areas where they are most needed.

The idea is included in a general election "manifesto" drawn up by the country’s only region-wide schools network, which has been published today.


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The network, which represents more than 1,100 schools, has also called for more funding to allow schools in rural and remote areas to be able to run trips and give pupils the same cultural opportunities that are available to those in more urban areas.

Chris Zarraga, director of Schools North East, said national political parties need to understand that circumstances that schools in the region face.

Should Ofsted give school leaders a break?

The manifesto recommends giving some schools a break from Ofsted inspection as part of a drive to attract more school leaders to the region.

It says: “More also needs to be done to attract the best leaders to those areas that need them most. Headteachers are often put off from working in challenging areas as they lack the support or the time to turn a school around.

“Policies such as a grace period from formal inspections for headteachers moving into a challenging school would encourage more high-quality school leaders to come to the North East and more to aspire to lead our most disadvantaged schools.”

The manifesto also highlights the challenges faced by remote schools in the North East and calls for extra funding to address this.

It says: “Rural areas in the North East do not always have the best transport links to sites of cultural significance, and the cost of school trips and extracurricular activities can also be prohibitive to those from poorer families and less well-resourced schools. 

"Adequate funding is needed to ensure that all of our region’s schools can provide a minimum ‘curriculum guarantee’ to all pupils, allowing them to access the same educational experiences as more advantaged students, raise aspirations and build cultural capital.”

The manifesto also calls for:

  • A positive narrative about education in the North East to be promoted. It warns that negativity around the region has affected teacher retention.
  • All education policies to have a clear evidence base supporting them, and a robust implementation plan, including assessment criteria, clear goals and objectives.
  • Political parties to adopt a 10-year view of education, including education funding to allow “for realistic plans and the assessment of what is or isn’t effective in education".
     

Mr Zarraga said: “For too long the specific circumstances of our region have not been adequately understood or reflected in policy.

“This manifesto is the start of an ongoing piece of work to ensure that education policy and its impact on the North East is based on solid foundations, and, moreover, that specific policies work to resolve the challenges our region actually faces rather than the ones policymakers sometimes assume it does.”

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