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Education Secretary Damian Hinds challenges employers and universities to seek out all the talent in the North East.

As the Education Secretary today, (8 October 2018), launches a £24 million programme to increase opportunity for communities in the North East of England, Andrew Hodgson, Chair, North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP),  said:

‘The North East LEP is committed to reducing the gap between our best and lowest performing secondary schools and to improving social mobility for our young people.

“While we have the second highest proportion of outstanding schools, we also have the second highest number of schools rated less than good after Yorkshire and the Humber. It’s this disparity that we are tackling by supporting teachers, governors, schools and leaders. Ensuring the next generation has a clear pathway to achieving their full potential is a fundamental part of our Strategic Economic Plan.

“I am delighted with today’s investment announcement and recognition by the government of our ambition to drive up student attainment levels.  This funding will allow us to accelerate and build on our existing activity in this area and make a real difference to the lives of each and every young person in the North East.”

Read the full details of the funding announcement.

To learn more about Education Challenge, the North East LEP’s goal to reduce the gap between our best and lowest performing schools and to reach a target of all schools achieving a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ OFSTED rating, email: [email protected]



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Education Challenge Project Manager appointed

A project manager has been appointed to support the delivery of a ground-breaking education programme.

Neil Willis will lead the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Education Challenge.

The role will see Neil spearhead the Next Generation Learning project, which aims to reduce the gap between the region’s best and lowest performing secondary schools and improve social mobility in our young people.

Neil brings extensive experience to the role, having spent 16 years as a science teacher and in senior leadership in secondary schools in the North East.

In 2016, he began working across schools as an Education Consultant, developing projects including STEM-specific provision through the National STEM Centre, teacher training and CPD, faculty improvement and school improvement.

Over the past two years, Neil has been involved in North East Futures University Technical College (UTC), which saw him build a significant amount of partnerships with regional industry to enrich the curriculum and bring industry into the classroom.

Newcastle University graduate Neil said: “I am very excited to play a part in shaping the education landscape and driving change through the LEP’s Education Challenge.

“Building on the success of Gatsby Foundation’s Career Benchmarks, the Education Challenge will support teachers, schools, governors and leaders to integrate careers learning into the curriculum to ensure those entering the workforce in the future have the skill level to support our diverse economy and are fully aware of the progression routes available to make this happen.”

The appointment comes after the North East LEP area was selected by Ford Next Generation Learning and The Edge Foundation as the first area internationally to translate elements of the successful ‘Academies of Nashville’ model to the UK.

The Academies of Nashville model transformed attendance, attainment and progression by placing employers and business partners alongside teachers and school leaders to develop highly personalised approaches to progression.

The Next Generation Learning project aims to replicate this success.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, said: “The North East is leading the way when it comes to implementing outstanding careers provision within education.

“Neil brings with him vast skills and experience, which will be a great asset to furthering the aims of the Education Challenge. We are delighted to welcome him to the team.”

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In conversation with Claire Wedderman, Regional Manager at Inspiring Governance

We caught up with Claire Wedderman, Regional Manager at Inspiring Governance, the online matching service that connects skilled volunteers to schools with governor vacancies. Claire talked to us about the benefits of becoming a school governor:

Whether you’re looking to develop your skills or contribute to the issues that you feel passionately about, becoming a school governor demonstrates a commitment to the success of young people in the region whilst growing your own strategic leadership skills. Recruiting skilled governors is more difficult in rural, urban or deprived areas and in those schools that ‘require improvement’, so there are opportunities to make a real difference. There are 250,000 people across the country who are already participating, so why not join them in 2018?

At Inspiring Governance we are the free online matching service that connects skilled volunteers to schools with governor vacancies. We work with employers from all industries in order to source suitable volunteers with a desire to share their workplace skills with the local community. Once matched, we provide new volunteers with free support and training to guide you through your first year in the role.

Here in the North East, our region’s schools are facing cuts to their funding, teacher shortages in certain subjects and more crowded classrooms than their Southern counterparts. We believe that having the right people on school governing boards is the first step in tackling such issues, and that by working with schools, recruiting boards and volunteers, we can ensure each school benefits from our free matching service. We are already working with Universities, businesses and Civil Service departments in the region, who are all encouraging their staff to become governors. However, there are so many North East schools with vacancies, that we need more businesses to support our recruitment drive, and use this opportunity to develop their team.

Jacqui Sugden, Clerk at Churchill Community College in North Tyneside is one recruiter who has successfully appointed through Inspiring Governance. She said: “The site has been very helpful in recruiting new governors with the right skills to match the governing body’s needs. The objective, professional approach that these new governors provide is invaluable.”

The best governing bodies are professional, with members who have the knowledge and background to effectively challenge senior leaders. The wide range of skills sought by schools in the North East means that you or your colleagues could be great candidates for school governance. Schools need volunteers with backgrounds in finance, HR, and operations, and of course people from the diverse industries in the region, such as the growing digital sector, health and life sciences and energy, offshore and subsea engineering who are able to challenge and hold senior leadership to account.

Jack Footman, Council Officer who has recently been appointed to a school said: “I decided to pursue a governor role in order to support a school to deliver the best possible outcomes for young people. So far it’s been an excellent experience as I’ve learnt from experienced and passionate governors, as well as seeing a good school continue to progress to outstanding. Inspiring Governance linked me to a school that matches my ambitions very efficiently and have been really supportive throughout.”

Volunteers find that giving their time to school governance has a tangible impact on their board-level skills, developing their abilities in strategic planning, chairing, financial planning, and team working, all of which are valued by employers and can assist your own career development. Combined with the opportunity to make a real difference in your community, school governance is a win-win volunteering role.

Volunteer Matt Vickers, Senior Consultant at Abbott Risk Consulting said: “I wanted to become a School Governor to help give something back to the community, and hopefully be able to get a good understanding of how schooling works. I’m hoping that decisions made now, may help to shape things for my young son’s educational future.”

We believe that effective governance is crucial to closing the attainment gap, part of the North East LEP’s Education Challenge.

Strong governing boards provide confident, strategic leadership and robust accountability, oversight and assurance for educational and financial performance.

If you’d like to know more about Inspiring Governance, volunteering as a governor or setting up an employer scheme please visit our website – www.inspiringgovernance.org – or contact me direct via the email address [email protected]

To register as an employer, volunteer, or recruiting governor please visit: www.inspiringgovernance.org

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A partnership that works both ways


Jane Austin, Head of HR and Communications at water retail company Wave, became involved in the North East LEP’s Enterprise Adviser programme after Wave’s CEO heard about the programme at a conference.

Jane was matched with a school just a couple of miles from where she lives and is now working in partnership with Fiona Brennan, (pictured left), Work-Related Learning Co-ordinator at Marden High School in North Tyneside.

Together, Jane (pictured below) and Fiona aim to strengthen careers guidance at the school, ensuring that the school achieves the eight Good Career Guidance Benchmarks which have been successfully piloted here in the North East and now form a central part of the Government’s new careers strategy.

“We had already completed an internal audit to see how the school was performing against the eight benchmarks, and this helped us to identify our priorities for the academic year, and for our work with Jane,” explained Fiona. “For example, we found that our careers provision varied across year groups and that we needed to provide more opportunities for our younger pupils.”

 “Working together with Jane has been a really positive experience and I feel that we’re making good progress towards achieving the benchmarks. The most useful thing has been having the support of someone who is looking at our situation from a different perspective.

 “We want to make sure that students come away from our career events feeling inspired and wanting to know more. We need to spark their interest and give them experiences which they can relate to.

 “We now have a number of careers-focused events planned for different year groups in the New Year and more in the pipeline – these include a half day event where pupils will run their own business, learning how to make business decisions in areas such as pricing, HR and production. We’re also challenging stereotypes, with younger pupils meeting people who work in all sorts of different careers, from firefighters to marketers.

“I’m really, really happy with our partnership and Jane’s experience and passion means we work very well together.

 Jane Austin added: “Working together, we’ve made huge progress in a short time. We’ve moved towards filling the gaps in provision which the school had already identified and we’re in a position now where we have a plan for the careers offering for every year group and we can evidence the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks in a more robust way across all ages.

 “While I’m working with the school on a strategic level, I’ll still be supporting them at events which is great as I have the pleasure of watching the students grow and, every time, I come away astounded by them.

 “There’s something amazing about a partnership between business and education. The school gains from it but so does the business.

 “I’ll be calling on my colleagues in finance, sales and our CEO, who will all be volunteering at events and sharing their knowledge with pupils. Our employees get a lot out of being involved and opportunities to volunteer are really valued by people at all levels – the partnership really does work both ways and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

 Find out more about the North East LEP Enterprise Adviser programme.


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Education Challenge: Join the team responsible for trialling next generation of learning in North East Schools

During 2017 we’ve been working closely with colleagues in Nashville, USA and across the UK as the North East prepares to be the first place outside America to trial elements of a new model of learning, which has already transformed the way young people learn and achieve across more than 30 school districts in the USA.

We visited Nashville in September and hosted a return visit to the North East in November, and have been inspired by the way this approach can really make a difference to young people’s futures – it’s a proven example of international best practice and the fact that we have the opportunity to develop it here in the North East LEP area is hugely exciting.

The Academies Nashville model places employer engagement at the centre of education and, when it was implemented in Nashville, resulted in an almost 23% rise in high school graduation rates as well as improvements in attainment, discipline and attendance.

Pupils learn through project-based learning, completing courses which relate to sectors they’re interested in – from healthcare to hospitality – while close partnerships with employers result in industry placements for both students and teachers.

It’s now time for us to start translating elements of the model for use in the North East so as we enter the New Year, we’re looking for four people to join our project team and help us to make this happen.

We’re already working with three schools – Excelsior Academy, Norham High School and Churchill Community College – who will be the first to trial the approach. These schools will work closely with the North East LEP and our partners at The Edge Foundation, Future Me and businesses across the region.

The first post we’re recruiting for is a Regional ‘Careers in the Curriculum’ Project Lead who will be based here at the North East LEP offices in Newcastle. This person will liaise with employers and teachers across the region, developing opportunities for teacher CPD placements in industry and co-designing project-based learning for pupils. This person will also be responsible for sharing what we learn with the wider region, making sure that as many schools as possible benefit from this project.

We’re also recruiting three Industry Alignment Managers who will be based in each of the three pilot schools. They will work with teaching staff to develop project-based learning approaches in the school, evaluating the impact of the approach and managing relationships with employers.

Each of these four posts will play a key part in this ambitious and exciting project. The project is a core element of the region’s strategic economic plan, where our education challenge. It’s an opportunity to be a part of something which can make a real difference to outcomes for our young people, preparing them with the skills they need to start their careers and helping businesses and schools work more closely together within the curriculum.

We need to find people who are creative thinkers, who can connect a variety of stakeholders with a common aim and who, above all, are enthusiastic and motivated about making a difference for young people in the North East.

Could that be you or someone you know?

The ‘Next Generation Learning’ project is part of the North East LEP’s Education Challenge, which aims to reduce the gap between the region’s best and lowest performing secondary schools and improve social mobility in our young people. The education challenge will support teachers, schools, governors and leaders to integrate careers learning into the curriculum to ensure those entering the workforce in the future have the skill level to support our diverse economy and are fully aware of the progression routes available to make this happen.

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Our Plan for Higher Education – Diverse, Employment-focused, Value for Money

New independent report points the way forward for Higher Education

We welcome the publication of the Edge Foundation’s Plan for Higher Education which sets out how greater diversity of provision, more employer engagement and a keen focus on value for money can ensure that HE helps to close the skills gap.

Here, Olly Newton, Director of Policy and Research at The Edge Foundation sets out his thoughts on Higher Education Diversification

New polling data commissioned by Edge for the report raises some significant questions about perceptions of value for money amongst graduates. The percentage who felt they received good value for money for their degree has fallen steadily from 93% of those who graduated before 1980 to just 58% amongst recent graduates. Meanwhile, the majority of graduates from the last five decades (52%) would choose not to go to university in the current funding regime.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The report highlights some amazing programmes here and abroad that are helping to ensure excellent employment outcomes for students. This includes a diversification of provision to include accelerated, part-time and sandwich courses and a reinvigoration of L4 and L5 qualifications to give us the technicians we need to power industry in the North East. It also includes high quality careers services and employer engagement, which many of the universities in our region pride themselves on.

The report also points to two ambitious international models to provide inspiration for the future. DHBW in Stuttgart is a University entirely made up of degree apprentices studying whilst employed with leading firms and their supply chains. The Minerva Schools based in California is an international university with no campus that achieves excellent results at a fraction of the cost of traditional tuition through innovative online seminars.

We are blessed in the North East with fantastic Higher Education partners and we are keen to learn from the best models nationally and internationally to help them continue to be a powerhouse for skills and growth in the region.

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Sharing good practice with national leaders in learning

It’s been a great year for our skills programme; we’ve really seen our plans start to come to fruition, and have received local, regional and national recognition from government and other organisations for the pioneering activities we’re delivering. Good career guidance for people of all ages is just one of our areas of focus, and with the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot at the centre of this, we’ve seen impressive results, great examples of collaboration and a real sense of cohesion in this space.

We’re very proud that practitioners and school groups from across the country are reaching out to us and wanting to visit our region to see the pilot in action.

Here, our pilot lead, Ryan Gibson, tells us about the recent visit from the Ark Schools Group, who were interested in finding out more about our implementation of the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot:

When I was appointed to lead the national pilot, looking to improve the quality of careers guidance for all young people, I was not only tasked with supporting schools and colleges in the region but to build a model that could potentially be replicated in every area of the country. To do this, we needed to test the benchmarks in action and work directly with schools and colleges to understand the strengths of their current provision and enable them to devise actions that would drive rapid, sustained and measurable improvement.

At the North East LEP we have started to pilot various approaches as to how we can share learning with others across the country who wish to improve the quality of their careers provision. We have explored and developed various models, including visits and practice-sharing events and recently hosted a learning visit from 12 schools from across the country who are members of the Ark Academies Trust.

Hannah McAuley from Ark provides an insight below:

At Ark schools, we have a mission to ensure that every one of our students will access the university or career of their choice.

As a central university and careers team we have always worked with a range of different partners to provide skills development opportunities, financial bursaries, access to role models and engagement with a host of businesses and universities, but of late we have been grappling with how we can ensure that the vital work that is done in schools to prepare young people for their next steps is the same no matter which Ark school you attend.

Last month, I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of 12 colleagues from across Ark schools to visit those taking part in the Career Benchmarks pilot in the North East. Meeting with the North East LEP and the community driving this work was an extraordinary experience for us and there are a few key lessons that we have taken away:

  • The importance of shared language: If 2015 was the year of the selfie and 2016 of post trust then I am pleased to announce that ‘Gatsby Benchmarks’ is well on its way to be the new phrase of choice for 2017! Every business leader, teacher, careers leader and university we met had aligned themselves behind the Gatsby language. This not only created shared expectation, but started to build community of purpose amongst this diverse group of stakeholders. Even after the first day we found that by adopting the language we were better able to articulate the challenges we are facing with this work in our own schools and use it to develop our actions for the future.
  • No careers lead is an island: While it was clear that the careers lead was the central spine driving the work in each school, partnership and a supportive senior leadership team was clearly fundamental to its success. Investing in strategic and lasting partnership work with businesses, colleges and universities provided a richness to the conversations on all sides about what we were preparing students for. This was complemented by a staff body who were bought in to the framework and whose leadership team understood how all school roles were being deployed to support this work.
  • Meaningful over many encounters: A relentless focus on making existing work more impactful meant that pilot schools were not overwhelming themselves or their students with numerous activities. Led by the North East LEP, there is a relentless focus on making existing work in the region much more impactful. One of our group called this process “Squeezing the maximum value” out of every activity and engagement”. For us at Ark, this was the understanding that it isn’t enough to just send a student out to a workplace if you don’t scaffold the experience and help them to learn from it. This is something that we expect in every lesson we teach and the same principles should be applied to any experience we provide for our students.

There is no doubt that being involved in the pilot has been transformational for the schools and colleges in the North East. What I found most inspiring was how the career benchmarks framework had brought alignment between purpose and process.

Every school leader and teacher wants the best possible future for their students, but so often, this work can feel intangible. Whilst the Gatsby benchmarks don’t necessarily tell us how to achieve this work, they force us to have high expectations and set out what it is we need to achieve. I have no doubt that over time; these benchmarks will transform the way schools prepare students for life beyond school.

Hannah McAuley is Head of University and Careers Success at Ark Schools. Ark is an international charity, transforming lives through education. In the UK, Ark has a network of 35 schools, educating more than 21,000 pupils with a mission to ensure that every young person can access the university or career of their choice. These schools are all non-selective and in areas where they can make the biggest difference.

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North East teachers forge links with engineering sector

Every year, Tomorrow’s Engineers Week inspires the next generation of engineers, letting young people know about the career opportunities available within the engineering industry.

In the North East, as part of an event organised by the North East LEP, EngineeringUK, Unipres UK Ltd and STEM Learning, a group of STEM subject teachers were invited behind the scenes at Unipres to gain an insight into the career paths on offer to their students.

Moira Shaftoe, Employer Support Manager (NE) at EngineeringUK said:

It’s great to have Unipres on board as part of the Tomorrow’s Engineers North East employer Network. Tomorrow’s Engineers Week shines a spotlight on engineering careers in a way that young people may have never considered before.

We understand the importance of taking teachers on that journey too, many of whom have limited knowledge about the exciting career opportunities available in the sector. We aim to inform teachers about the routes into and relevance of STEM subjects to those careers and how to maximise the potential of engaging with an employer to help bring the STEM curriculum to life. Participating in the event at Unipres will enable teachers to use the experience to enrich the teaching and learning of STEM subjects in school and contribute to the development of their wider careers strategy.

The teachers attending the event were all from schools which are part of the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks project which is being piloted in the North East. One of the benchmarks of the project, which aims to improve students’ transition from school to work or further study, is encounters between schools and employers and employees.

As well as a behind-the-scenes site tour of the Unipres Sunderland plant, which manufactures steel components used to form the internal structures of cars, the teachers heard from the company’s HR Manager and Apprentice Coordinator, who spoke about routes into a career in engineering or advanced manufacturing.

Rob Dodds, Apprentice Coordinator at Unipres UK Ltd, said:

We’ve been working with Moira as an active partner of the Tomorrow’s Engineers employer network for a couple of years now. We have a strong outreach programme that extends across the region, inspiring young people of all ages about careers in engineering and manufacturing and career opportunities within our business. The event we hosted during Tomorrow’s Engineers Week provided teachers with an opportunity to explore how they can make use of the Unipres resource, and wider network of local employers, by integrating employer engagement into the curriculum.

The day also included a presentation from a teacher who had completed an Insights into Industry placement, and time for attendees to plan how they will use their findings when they return to the classroom.

Chris Bryant, a teacher at the King Edward VI School in Morpeth, said:

This event will help me to build careers learning into the curriculum. Having links with employers makes a big difference to being able to use real world situations, companies and people to allow students a more thorough understanding of their future opportunities.

Moira Shaftoe added: “We want to help make young people aware of the variety of opportunities there are in the engineering sector, especially in the North East which is home to world-leading engineering organisations. We plan to work with more companies in the region, helping to build and nurture relationships between teachers and employers.”

Find out more about Tomorrow’s Engineers

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Pilot schools share over £50,000 for innovative careers guidance projects

First bids approved for North East LEP/Gatsby National Careers Benchmark Pilot

The first North East schools leading a pilot programme have received more than £50,000 between them to help fund their innovative ideas to improve careers education – ideas that could be used across the country if they prove successful.

The proposals are part of the Gatsby Foundation National Career Benchmarks Pilot led by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP).

The projects are being funded by Lord Sainsbury’s Gatsby Foundation as part of a four-year national pilot running in the North East LEP area to test eight benchmarks of good career guidance.

North East schools and colleges were selected to test how the benchmarks can be implemented, identify any barriers to helping young people make more informed decisions about their future study and employment, and ensure that young people are better equipped with the skills employers need.

Sixteen schools and colleges in the North East LEP area are taking part in the national pilot and the findings will be rolled out across the country at the end of the project.

A total of £53,100 was approved in the first round of awards from the Innovation and Activity Fund. Pilot schools and colleges were asked to submit their innovative ideas to further develop careers education in collaboration with employers and other education providers.

Ryan Gibson, National Facilitator for the Career Benchmarks Pilot at the North East LEP, said: “There is a real buzz around careers education in the North East LEP area. Lots of schools and colleges are using the benchmarks and making an impact on good practice at a national level.

“The Innovation and Activity Fund is supporting schools and colleges that are already participating in the pilot to develop innovative practices, systems and processes that help schools and colleges to make measurable and rapid progress towards achieving the benchmarks.

“Successful projects are those that are able to demonstrate increased partnership working, enhanced collaboration, potential wider benefit, replication and scalability.

“We’re looking for projects that use an innovative approach to address particularly challenging issues, identified by initial audits against the benchmarks. Solutions can then be tested and potentially rolled out across the country.”

The first three grants will fund projects from St Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Hebburn, Churchill Community College in Wallsend, and six schools and colleges in the newly-formed Labour Market Information working group.

The project led by St Joseph’s will look at how employer engagement programmes such as the Careers and Enterprise Company’s and North East LEP’s flagship Enterprise Adviser Programme can be successfully integrated alongside existing provision.

The project will concentrate on benchmarks targeting meaningful encounters with employers and employees and multiple experiences of workplaces.

St Joseph’s will produce a best practice guide detailing how a school can map its current provision and what it must do to effectively integrate employers across the school. This guide will be made available to every school and college in England via the North East LEP and the Gatsby Foundation.

Churchill Community College in North Tyneside will work with Northumbria University’s Multidisciplinary Innovation Unit to explore creative ways of schools and colleges providing high quality work related experiences in challenging financial environments. A series of recommendations will be made, with the most appropriate being tested by the school.

The Labour Market Information project, a collaboration between six schools and colleges, will spend two months working with young people to explore how they currently access information about job sectors, apprenticeships, vacancies and pay and how they would like to access this in the future.

This research will form a case study that will be used by the national ‘LMI for All’ data portal and will inform future thinking about how young people and their parents get better help to access important information about future career opportunities.

The national pilot, including the projects funded through the innovation fund, will be independently evaluated by the International Centre for Guidance Studies, led by Tristram Hooley, at the University of Derby.

Future funding windows will be looking for pilot schools and colleges to work in partnership with other organisations to enhance school/college ability to achieve the benchmarks and improve careers guidance provision.

The Career Benchmarks were drawn up by Professor Sir John Holman after visiting the Netherlands, Germany, Hong Kong, Finland, Canada and Ireland, as well as a selection of UK schools, which have strong international reputations for careers guidance and educational results. The benchmarks for creating good careers guidance are :

  1. A stable careers programme
  2. Learning from career and labour market information
  3. Addressing the needs of each pupil
  4. Linking curriculum learning to careers
  5. Encounters with employers and employees
  6. Experiences of work places
  7. Encounters with further and higher education
  8. Personal guidance