North East Schools Challenge has £30m backing to drive up standards

Quality of leadership and careers advice to get boost in under-performing schools across the region

School pupils taking an exam
School pupils taking an exam

A decade-long commitment to raise standards and aspirations within North East schools has won £30m in Government support.

The North East Schools Challenge - based on a similar programme in London - will boost attainment in underperforming schools and equip young people with the skills to work in industries that are creating jobs in the region.

The programme now has the cash to get under way after it emerged as one of the successful part of the region’s Local Growth Fund bid.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership will plough £4.7m a year for six years into developing good leadership and improving careers advice.

Outstanding school leaders will share good practice with others, while governors with a business background and enterprise advisers will be installed.

It comes as thousands of roles are created in the software, subsea engineering and science and technology sectors, but a skills gap is threatening to close off these opportunities to a generation of young people.

Andrew Hodgson, North East local enterprise partnership vice chair and lead board member for skills, said: “We have got to make sure that people understand that the North East has been very successful in creating jobs. A number of sectors are growing very quickly and we are running out of people with the right skills to help these sectors continue to grow.

“Your economic value is directly linked to the skill level that you have. The higher the skills level in the region, the better regional economy we will have.”

The Schools Challenge is based on a similar programme started in 2003 in London. Schools in the capital that were failing are now out-performing the national average.

Mr Hodgson said it was key in the North East the programme focuses on fostering ambition and awareness of what jobs are available.

“We want the community to understand that they have to help us raise the aspirations of young people,” he said. “We need a better understanding of what opportunities there are.”

Key to the Schools Challenge will be businesses working with schools.

“The careers service in schools has not been working effectively for a very long time,” said Mr Hodgson. “There have been a lot of attempts to resolve that but this is about getting real businesspeople involved with all schools.”

He added: “The business community now has a central role to play in ensuring we achieve our vision. Business leaders and our partners have already demonstrated their commitment to take forward these plans and now the Deal will provide an essential resource to help deliver them.

“At the heart of our proposals is a partnership of schools, local education authorities and businesses with a commitment to build on the recommendations of the North East Independent Economic Review to improve educational attainment across our schools. The growth deal support is the deal-maker to give it the mandate to deliver change.”

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