Michael Gove challenged by Lord Adonis to fund North East schools

Education minister Michael Gove criticises North East schools while snubbing £80m schools project

Joe Giddens/PA Wire Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove
Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove

The Education Secretary has again criticised North East schools even as it emerges his department is refusing to introduce a London-style £80m improvement scheme in the region.

Schools in the capital benefited from a Government-funded Challenge London scheme, in which head teachers and staff are trained up to ensure poverty is not used as an excuse for failing standards.

In the North East, both Oftsed and the Government have said schools need to stop blaming deprivation for educational standards which in many cases are below the national average. A repeat of the London Challenge was one of the key recommendations of a region-wide economic report set up to change this record and create jobs.

But, following Michael Gove’s latest outburst on ‘failing’ North East schools, Lord Adonis has warned that Mr Gove’s hope of improvements will come to nothing without funding.

Mr Gove told the House of Commons: “A lot needs to be done in the North East in order to improve education.

“One thing we need to do is ensure that local authorities end their opposition to academisation and free schools and that there is a degree of collaboration among autonomous head teachers who are determined to drive up standards, as we have seen in London.”

That London model was a key recommendation of the Adonis report, set up to look at the challenges and opportunities facing the region.

Lord Adonis
Lord Adonis

Last night Lord Adonis told The Journal Mr Gove could not both criticise the region and withhold funding.

The peer added: “London Challenge would not have happened without that funding. And we can’t expect councils to divert more funding into this at a time of cuts in budgets.

“It would require some element of Government funding, and I hope the Government will think again about providing this, because the message from London is that you can bring about transformational change with this challenge approach.

“It requires a central approach to bring about the sort of big change that is needed, and the resources that go with this. We have to establish a North East version of this – that is a must.”

Only last week Liberal Democrat education minister David Laws said a repeat of the London model could solve serious concerns raised about Northumberland in particular, where Ofsted has investigated.

Nick Hudson, the watchdog’s regional director, criticised the county council after a crisis review found the standard of schools in Northumberland was deteriorating.

Four schools failed the Ofsted tests while three-quarters of the 17 inspected had failed to improve or had declined.

Mr Gove’s attempts to deflect blame on to Labour councils thought to be opposing his school reforms has angered North East local authorities.

Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes said: “Schools have been hugely damaged by Michael Gove’s meddling with the education system, and the constant knocking of educational achievement by him.

“He has a responsibility to talk up, not talk down, the work of teachers, and to find ways of supporting rather than kicking our schools.

“There is huge appetite in our region for a North East school challenge but it will require significant Government resources.

“So far, he has not been prepared to put his money where his mouth is.”

Mr Gove has criticised North East schools several times this year, commenting on the “smell of defeatism” and adding that “for far too long schools in County Durham, particularly in the east of the county have not been good enough.”


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