Our Education Correspondent on 2016

Peter Bearne is the Education Correspondent at ITV Central. Credit: ITV News Central

As the schools go back after Christmas, our Education Correspondent Peter Bearne reflects on the big education stories of 2016 and looks ahead to what we might expect in 2017.

The departing head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, will not have received many Christmas cards from schools in the Midlands. 2016 was the year when the Chief Inspector of Schools consistently tore into our region for not giving children a good enough education.

In February, Ofsted warned standards would not get any better in the East Midlands until schools stopped the exodus of teachers leaving the region to work elsewhere. Teacher training colleges did not agree. In June, Sir Michael again lambasted Midlands schools for being among the worst in the country - he famously contrasted the achievements of schools in Leicester with the success of its football team. And just last month, the Chief Inspector bowed out with another damning assessment of educational performance in the Midlands in his final Annual Report.

Unsurprisingly, his departure brought no tears from teaching unions who said it was grossly unfair to single out an entire region in this way.

Another high-profile education figure who said goodbye in 2026 was "superhead" Liam Nolan. The chief executive of Birmingham's Perry Beeches Academy Trust, highly praised by David Cameron among others, resigned after an investigation into financial management.

2016 was the year when the Government lifted the ban on grammar schools in a bid to restore "meritocracy". Parts of our region such as Warwickshire have long been familiar with the "eleven plus" exam system, but now all parts of the country face the prospect of a return to selection.

In August thousands of students celebrated getting their GCSE and A-level results. Ofsted's criticisms ramped up the pressure on our schools and colleges to produce even better results. For one teenager, 16 year old Lewis White from Swadlincote near Burton-upon-Trent, it proved to be a double celebration as he passed his GCSEs, then weeks later picked up a bronze medal in the pool at the Paralympics.

16-year-old Lewis White from Swadlincote passed his GCSEs and picked up a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Paralymic Games. Credit: PA

Not so happy were the teachers, university lecturers and school support staff who went out on strike during 2016, bringing disruption to hundreds of schools and campuses. The protests were over issues including pay and conditions, the funding of schools and new contracts. The New Year begins with a particularly bitter dispute between teaching assistants and Derby City Council still unresolved.

Looking ahead, the Government's plans for new grammar schools will become clearer in 2017 following a consultation which ended last month. One of the biggest changes we'll see this year is the new grading of GCSEs using numbers instead of letters: in August, students taking English and Maths will receive a mark from 1 to 9, with other subjects following suit in 2018.

However education affects you - whether you're at school or university, whether you're a parent or grandparent, or whether you teach or support young people's learning - good luck in 2017. As always I'll be keeping you updated on all that's happening in education in the Midlands and trying to make sense of it all. Happy New Year!