CEO’S BLOG: Pioneering place-based change

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Fiona Spellman, Chief Executive of SHINE, discusses the two strategic partnerships SHINE has recently made in order to establish the context in which disparities exist.

Since SHINE took the bold decision to relocate out of London, it has become increasingly apparent to us that the educational challenges facing young people in the Northern Powerhouse region today are geographically unique. In the face of the common North/South division rhetoric, which tends to pit the success of London schools against the relative failures of schools in the North, SHINE recognises the need to understand the differing challenges that face disadvantaged pupils across the North of England. The issue cannot be solved by a one-size fit all approach. The techniques adopted in London will not achieve the same success in the North of England, as the contextual disparities are fundamentally different.

With this in mind, SHINE has taken steps to ensure that we, as a charity, can understand and highlight the challenges that face pupils with a view to identifying projects that will make the biggest impact, at a local level. SHINE has recently launched two strategic partnerships with Right to Succeed and Schools North East as part of our approach to achieve this.

Right to Succeed is an organisation that works to effectively deliver place-based change in education. It is their mission to deploy a collective approach that works with local stakeholders to identify and solve educational problems using evidence-based solutions which are driven by local context and needs.

Graeme Duncan, CEO, states, “Right to Succeed are thrilled to be working in partnership with SHINE on 2 major placed based initiatives in the North West. The partnership sees us working together with local stakeholders to create the conditions where major projects could have a significant impact on outcomes across the place.”

As part of this partnership, SHINE is supporting a ‘Discovery’ process of how to deliver place-based change in Manchester, more specifically focusing on reducing exclusions. This is a particularly relevant need which has been highlighted by the case involving the Urbis gang last summer. This 16-strong gang, consisting mostly of 13 to 14-year olds which tormented Manchester suburbs and the city centre. They were charged with 107 crimes in total, ranging from knife crime to theft of property from a homeless man. The critical factor is that all members of the Urbis gang met in the Pupil Referral Unit system- an organisation that provides education to pupils who have been excluded.

It is apparent here that there is a fundamental failure within the school system and in society at the early stages of development that is creating the conditions for pupils to become disengaged with school, develop serious behavioural issues and enter a cycle of isolation- unable to become functioning members of society. As Lucy Powell, Manchester Central MP, stated ‘it is a failure for all of us, not just for the individuals.’

Right to Succeed have correctly identified this common issue across Manchester and aim with the help of SHINE and other partners, to reduce exclusions across the City. With programme manager support for schools, they aim to identify the capability needs that underline the problems with behaviour and performance. The success rate in a previous pilot project, in partnership with Educational Diversity, Blackpool’s Pupil Referral Unity, contributed to a fall in exclusions from 51 in 2016 to 22 in 2017. SHINE aims to support and learn with Right to Succeed to develop context and understanding to tackle the exclusion rate in Manchester.

A similar knowledge-focused partnership has also been developed between SHINE and Schools North East. With a focus again on place-based transformative change, the partnership aims to tackle the barriers that are currently holding back children in the North East. This region has a very high number of early years providers who have an Ofsted rating of Good or Outstanding, yet this doesn’t correlate to successful outcomes at the end of compulsory education.

Through this partnership, SHINE aims to invest at least £500k in programmes developed by North East schools over the next three years. This will allow SHINE to gain a unique insight into the perspectives of schools in the region and the barriers they currently face in accessing funding. Working collaboratively with Schools North East will create a community of evidence-based education practitioners’ where contacts, lessons learned, and opportunities are shared and disseminated across the region – and all in the effort to narrow the attainment gap.

It has become clear to SHINE that regional as well as national networks need to be fostered to create a hub of evidence-based change – and this must live in and be owned by the North. In recognising this, SHINE has made strides in creating links with organisations to best source this knowledge and put it into practice.

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