Northern education leaders join SHINE’s Board of Trustees

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Jonny Uttley

Two leading figures from the world of education in the North have joined SHINE’s Board of Trustees.

The new recruits are Jonny Uttley, CEO of The Education Alliance Multi-Academy Trust in East Yorkshire and Hull, and Paul Green, who works for the Department for Education in the North East.

Jonny, who has been a teacher for almost 25 years, is a National Leader of Education, and former headteacher of South Hunsley School. He is also co-author of the book Putting Staff First: A Blueprint for Revitalising Our Schools. He describes himself as “an accidental CEO” as it’s a job that didn’t exist when he began work as a history and politics teacher in secondary schools.

Paul, who started his career as a maths teacher in the North East and, for a while, in Eritrea, was previously the North East Director for Teach First. Most recently, he was Head of Opportunity North East, a three-year government initiative aimed at improving educational outcomes in the region. He is chair of governors at a nursery school in Gateshead and has also previously run a charity, One World Network North East, which created partnerships between schools in the UK and overseas, supporting them to develop children as global citizens.

Both men have a long-standing passion for tackling inequalities in education and share SHINE’s mission to raise the attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds across the North.

Jonny, who was born in Salford, and trained in Leeds, before moving to East Yorkshire, said his “passion for northern education in northern schools runs deep”.

He added: “I am very, very passionate about the idea of creating a country where opportunities are there, regardless of geography. The system doesn’t recognise that challenges are different in different parts of the country and so the work that SHINE has been doing, focusing on disadvantage in northern communities, is something that I feel strongly about.

“I was so delighted and privileged to be asked to be a Trustee because it is such a significant organisation in terms of the work that we do and how we do the work. I think it’s a pretty unique organisation. I can think of nobody who is doing anything comparable. Empowering teachers working on the ground in these schools to innovate, to share practices and to support them with funding is really powerful, and it’s absolutely what’s needed in the system.”

Paul said he first witnessed the “massive difference” education can make to the prospects of children from disadvantaged backgrounds while teaching in East Africa.

His students were able to speak and write in three different languages, while some of their parents would sign documents with a thumbprint, as they could not even write their own names.

“I saw then, the change that can happen through education, in just one generation, is incredible.

Paul Green

“The context is different in the UK, but for years we have had that same disparity, where family background is a high predictor of educational outcomes – but it doesn’t have to be. As I saw first-hand in Eritrea, it can shift and change.

“So, all the work I have done with Teach First, Opportunity North East and through the sustainability and global citizenship side is about trying to even out that disparity and see that that’s possible.

“This is a really important grounding that SHINE shares, and it chimes with what I was looking for.”

Jonny added “Empowering, supporting and trusting teachers is really important. For schools serving disadvantaged communities – whether they’re northern disadvantaged communities or whether they’re coastal communities in Devon – there’s sometimes been a sense that we’re somehow not as good as those in other parts of the country, and that’s simply not true. Life expectancy in Blackpool is lower than in Westminster, but nobody says that the GPs in Blackpool are not as good as the GPs in Westminster. We recognise that context is different, and poverty and disadvantage have an impact on health outcomes. Yet, there’s an assumption in the system that if northern schools aren’t doing as well as schools in London, it’s because the schools and the teachers aren’t good enough, and that’s just wrong.

“And so being part of something that is redressing that balance, I think, is probably what I’m looking forward to most.”

Paul added that another attraction of the role with SHINE was the work it does developing local solutions to local problems. “We’re not waiting for some solution to be imported from outside, we can develop them within places like Hartlepool or Blackpool.”

He said he is also looking forward to working more closely with the teachers who are driving innovation and finding out more about their ideas: “At the Department for Education, we often work in a top-down way, looking at the system and the structures, whereas SHINE is very much about the grassroots, and teacher innovation. I see these two aspects as complementary and there is a value in both, so it will be really interesting to get involved with SHINE to support teachers with great ideas.”

Both Paul and Jonny said they hope their knowledge and experience of education in the North will add value to the SHINE board.

One of their first tasks as Trustees was to join the panels judging shortlisted teachers in this year’s Let Teachers SHINE awards, which offer grants to teachers with innovative project ideas to improve attainment.

Fiona Spellman, CEO of SHINE, said: “We are delighted that both Jonny and Paul have agreed to join the Board of SHINE. Both have a huge contribution to make to the charity and we are looking forward to helping them apply their significant skills and experience, as well as their shared commitment to children, in their roles.”