Education Debate Outlines Way Forward for Schools

Posted on the 13 January 2017

Education Debate Outlines Way Forward for Schools

Education leaders in the North East have a clear vision of the way forward for the region's schools in 2017 following a high-level debate hosted by law firm Ward Hadaway.

More than 30 leading figures in the sector gathered at the firm's offices on Newcastle's Quayside to hear prominent speakers discuss the future of education in the region and across the country.

Former CBI Director General and current Transport for the North chairman John Cridland and well-known North East businessman and academy sponsor pioneer Sir Peter Vardy were amongst those on the panel for the event, alongside Nick Blackburn, chief executive officer at Darlington-based Heathfield multi-academy trust.

The debate took place as opinions continue to be voiced on what schools in the North East need to do in order to catch up in performance terms with counterparts in London and the South of England.

The Ward Hadaway-assembled panel debated the Northern Powerhouse plan to boost regional schools performance and discussed at length the merits of multi-academy trusts.

They also tackled the challenges of a system that has encouraged academy trusts to take responsibility for more schools whilst also ensuring continuous improvement in educational outcomes, the prospect of new selective grammar schools and the need to ensure schools help to address the North's perceived skills gaps.

Frank Suttie, Partner in the Education team at Ward Hadaway, who chaired the debate, said: "This was a very timely event bearing in mind the current debate surrounding the performance of schools in the region, particularly in comparison to counterparts in other areas of the country.

"It was clear from the event that boosting academic attainment in North East schools is a key priority with the growth of multi-academy trusts offering one potential way to achieve this.

"Schools are increasingly under the stewardship of multi-academy trusts – the Government's preferred model for managing schools that have moved to be independent of their local authority – and it was interesting to hear from Nick Blackburn on what his organisation has done to improve school performance.

"Sir Peter Vardy's contributions were also very illuminating as someone who was at the forefront of academisation from its earliest days with his sponsorship of the Emmanuel College group and with Emmanuel College in Gateshead recently being named as one of the top five best performing schools in the North East.

"John Cridland was particularly adept at making connections between high-performing schools helping to create the high-performing workers who can drive the region's economy forward and on ways that schools and businesses can work together for their mutual benefit.

"All in all, it was a very stimulating discussion and provided much food for thought as we look for ways to further improve the region's schools and its economy."

Ward Hadaway's Education team works with a wide range of organisations in the sector, from providing legal advice to individual schools and academies to working with multi-academy trusts, academy sponsors and companies supplying the education sector.

Tim Care, Partner, Public Sector and Academies, at Ward Hadaway, who also took part in the discussion, said: "How to improve the performance of our schools is of critical importance, not just to those who work in the sector but also to everyone with an interest in the future success of the region.

"We wanted this event to bring to the fore some of the crucial issues at stake, including the growing role which multi-academy trusts are playing in this arena, for education leaders across the region and I think, thanks to the high quality of the panelists, this is something we certainly achieved.

"We also wanted to highlight some of the ways in which Ward Hadaway already helps organisations across the education sector and how we intend to extend and further develop our services in 2017.

"We have some exciting plans in the pipeline which we will be unveiling very soon."