The initiative was considered by the county council’s family and children’s services committee at its meeting on Thursday, January 7, where it was welcomed by members.
The report to councillors set out that Northumberland has made significant progress in recent years in improving the outcomes for children and young people and that the upward trend has seen the county move up national and regional league tables.
However, ‘there remain some issues of challenge and concern, including the disadvantage gap, inclusion agenda and sufficiency planning’.
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The meeting heard that there are five priority areas for improvement in education across Northumberland – narrowing the disadvantage gap, ie, the divide between outcomes for pupils from richer and poorer backgrounds; improving secondary outcomes; reducing exclusions, which remain too high despite a decrease over the last three years; special educational needs provision and processes; and post-16 education.
David Street, who presented the report, noted that the priority areas have been ‘difficult nuts to crack’, with progress in some schools, but not consistently across the county.
The report added: ‘Council officers and schools have been working collectively on these development areas over time. Gains made have not always been maintained over time.
‘Direction and support have been provided by the local authority to all, but delivery on these areas can only be completed by the schools.
‘To maximise outcomes, all the schools need to be working in the same direction. A sector-led approach where leading schools initiate, coordinate, manage and oversee best practice could be the most effective way forward.’
Cllr Wayne Daley – the former cabinet member for children’s services, before his resignation last summer – said: “There’s lots of really good things in here, I’m pleased the board is going to have some teeth to make recommendations and learn from good practice.
“This has got to not be parochial, this has got to be education holistically in the round and for the county, so where really good stuff is happening in maybe Cramlington, Berwick or Hexham, that’s shared, and people learn from it and they can improve.”
He added: “As long as people go to that board considering every child, whether they’re in a school in Cramlington, Blyth, Ashington, Berwick, as a Northumberland child and we are all corporately responsible for ensuring that every single young person in the county gets an outstanding opportunity.
“I’m sure that’s the basis on which the board will operate and on that basis, I commend this, it’s fantastic and I really look forward to this bearing results in the next few years.”
The proposed board membership includes council staff, headteachers/leaders from every different type of educational setting in the county as well as young people and governing body representation, while committee members offered suggestions of others who could be involved.