Advertisement

Budget brings fundamental changes to schooling in North East

The Chancellor announced plans today to target improving school standards in the North of England. Photo: ITV News

Add together what the Chancellor unveiled in today's Budget - and it equals a fundamental change to schooling in the North East.

What we don't know yet is how it will all work out.

The North East will arguably feel the impact of these education reforms more than any other part of the country.

Here's what has been announced - and the questions that many people in and around our schools have been asking today...

  • All schools to become academies - out of local council control, and with more freedom, for example, over the curriculum

This will be particularly significant here, as far fewer schools in the North East have chosen to do this voluntarily than in to other parts of the country - so around 80% of them, that's 1,000 schools, are now faced with the prospect of converting over the next six years.

But what kind of support will schools to do that? Could funding not be better spent on recruiting teachers, not changing the system?

And, most importantly, what impact will it have on pupil performance? The arguments over whether schools benefit from becoming academies in terms of exam results, and inspection reports, are certainly unresolved.

  • Longer secondary school days - with a focus particularly on sport, as part of efforts to tackle obesity

This has been trailed as the end of the 'Victorian 3.30 home-time.'

George Osborne said it would be "voluntary for schools, compulsory for pupils."

But funding will, at least initially, only be available for a quarter of secondary schools - so how are they decided, and what about the others?

  • £20m per year on a Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy - aimed at tackling the underperformance of schools in the North of England

The Chancellor said in his House of Commons speech that "London's school system has been turned around - we can do the same in the Northern Powerhouse".

So should we expect a similar project to the London Challenge initiative - which got successful school heads working closely with those underachieving?

Playing into wider concerns around the Northern Powerhouse - will it truly reach the North East, or not much further than Manchester and the M62? The fact that celebrated Bradford headteacher Sir Nick Weller - rather than someone in our region - has been asked to come up with the plan has not helped ease concerns.

Of course, essentially, what will the plan be - and will it work to fix the well-documented underachievement of schools and pupils here?

  • A National Funding Formula - aimed at levelling out the 'unfair' differences in school budgets throughout the country

This was already in the pipeline - indeed the Education Secretary announced a consultation on it just last week.

What George Osborne said today was that he will get 90% of schools receiving the funding they are due by 2020, and he will commit an extra £500m of core funding to get it done.

SCHOOLS NorthEast claims a new formula could bring an extra £45m to our region - but there are also concerns that a new calculation could actually see funding taken away from schools in deprived areas.

How will it be worked out? That'll determine who the winners and losers are.

We should get more detail on all of this tomorrow, when the Education Secretary takes over from the Chancellor, publishing a White Paper and leading a House of Commons debate.

Some of these questions will be answered very soon - others will play out over the years to come.

For reaction from schools, parents and pupils to today's Budget, watch my report: