Newcastle has launched its own schools challenge to raise standards and aspirations among young people living in the city’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
A region-wide challenge - based on a similar programme in London - has already won £30m in Government support.
After welcoming plans to improve North East schools, city education leaders are now rolling out their own ‘learning challenge’ to narrow Newcastle’s attainment gap.
Newcastle has the highest number of young people not in education, employment or training according to new figures from the Children’s Board Trust.
The city has the highest percentage nationally of 16-18-year-olds who are not in education or training at 10% while the figures for up to 24-year-olds stands at a staggering 18%.
The areas most affected are Westgate (22%), Benwell and Scotswood (16%) in contrast to Gosforth at just 2%.
The challenge, which will be led in partnership with schools, business, and further education providers will focus on improving results among children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
It comes shortly after the Government backed a plan from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership to raise standards across schools with the aim of making sure as many young people as possible achieve good qualifications.
The council will now form a steering group to develop the learning challenge and will publish its proposals at an event to be held later this year.
Coun Joanne Kingsland, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “All our young people deserve a chance to achieve and reach their full potential. The Ofsted ratings of Newcastle’s schools are well above the national average, but not all young people in Newcastle are benefiting from this improvement.
“We know the attainment gap between children who are eligible for free school meals and children who come from better off backgrounds is much wider than the national average.
“Our numbers of young people not in education, employment or training are also unacceptably high.
“I want the Newcastle Learning Challenge, to run alongside the wider work in the North East and to get to the bottom of why this is and what we can all do to solve it.
“Getting more young people into education, employment or training is fundamental to creating our ambition for a working city and tackling inequality.”
Newcastle councillor Stephen Lambert said the city council is doing is best with limited resources to tackle the growing NEET problem.
He said: “The days of the free market in post-16 education is well by its sell-by date and is failing thousands of our youngsters across the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods of our city.
“As the Childrens’ Trust rightly recommends we need to support the development of a stronger integrated approach partnership approach to NEET reduction with other providers and this must include the voluntary sector too. We have a big job to do locally and regionally to tackle the NEET issue.”