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No classroom teachers on new 'expert panel' for North East schools

The £24m Opportunity North East programme, funded by the DfE, is designed to raise school standards in the region

A new board has been appointed for Opportunity North East

The £24m Opportunity North East programme, funded by the DfE, is designed to raise school standards in the region

Having no classroom teachers represented on a new board to drive up school improvement in the North is a missed opportunity, a union official has claimed.

Business executives, council bosses and academy chiefs are among those on a new board set up to run the £24 million Opportunity North East programme.

The plan, announced earlier this year, includes £12 million to drive up standards in schools and £12 million to boost early career training for new teachers and help improve the quality of teaching.

However, no classroom teachers or teaching union representatives are on the panel, and just two members – a head and a multi-academy trust chief executive – of the 12 strong "expert panel" are actually based in schools.

A Department for Education announcement said that it was building a “coalition of schools, colleges, local authorities, businesses and higher education institutions to tackle the issues holding back young people in the region”.

But Mike McDonald, the northern regional secretary for the NEU teaching union, said: "I am afraid it is par for the course for this government, which does not listen to classroom teachers or the teaching unions

'Teachers are leaving the profession'

"With the concerns we have over funding and workload, it is no wonder teachers are leaving the profession. Not having teachers represented on this board is a real missed opportunity."

Opportunity North East was announced earlier this year with £24 million being spent on improving results in struggling schools and supporting teacher development in the region.

The panel announced today includes Outwood Grange’s chief executive, Martyn Oliver; Nick Hurn, headteacher of Cardinal Hume Catholic School in Gateshead and chief executive of the Trinity Catholic MAT; and Mike Parker, the director of Schools NorthEast.

It includes academics, with Prof Rob Coe, from Durham University, and Prof Suzanne Cholerton, the pro-vice chancellor from Newcastle University.

And there is also a significant business presence on the board with Paul Booth, chair of the Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership; Andrew Hodgson, chair of North East Local Enterprise Partnership; and Edward Twiddy, chief innovations officer and company secretary, ATOM Bank.

Schools minister Lord Agnew said: “Drawing on the expertise of local education and business leaders to develop initiatives that are evidence-led and tailored to the particular needs of the North East will help us tap into the talent that so clearly exists in the region and ensure young people have every chance to go on and succeed.”

Tes revealed earlier this year that the programme will provide targeted support to struggling secondary schools and try to identify why high-performing pupils from deprived backgrounds do less well after leaving primary school.

A DfE spokesman said: "The Opportunity North East Strategic Board boasts a wide range of skills and local knowledge from education, business and council leaders.

“The board will use their local expertise and wide range of contacts to draw on support from right across the North East to implement our £24 million investment to boost opportunities for young people."

The panel in full:

  • Professor Suzanne Cholerton, pro-vice-chancellor (education), Newcastle University
  • Professor Robert Coe, professor of education and director of the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, Durham University
  • Jill Colbert, director of children’s services, Sunderland City Council, and chief executive of Together for Children
  • Andrew Hodgson, chair of North East Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Nick Hurn, headteacher of Cardinal Hume Catholic School, CEO of the Trinity Catholic MAT, and chairman of Ascent Academies' Trust
  • Cath McEvoy-Carr, executive director of children and adult services, Northumberland County Council.
  • Martyn Oliver, chief executive officer and accounting officer, Outwood Grange Academies Trust
  • Mike Parker, director of Schools NorthEast
  • Janet Renou, regional schools commissioner for North of England
  • Sally Robinson, director of children’s and joint commissioning services at Hartlepool Borough Council
  • Edward Twiddy, chief innovations officer and company secretary, ATOM Bank
  • Dr Lindsey Whiterod CBE, chief executive of Tyne Coast College


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