North East jobs market failing pupils from disadvantaged North East schools

More jobs are needed in the region to keep talented youngsters who are leaving education, according to a North East MP

MP Pat Glass and Tristram Hunt MP, Shadow Education Secretary, speak to head teachers at St. Bede's School in Lanchester
MP Pat Glass and Tristram Hunt MP, Shadow Education Secretary, speak to head teachers at St. Bede's School in Lanchester

Pupils from disadvantaged parts of the region are outperforming their more privileged peers - but the jobs market is failing them a North MP says.

In a recent report, members of the Commons’ education select committee said white working class children were the poorest performing group in England’s schools’ system.

But a regional breakdown shows white working class children in the North East are achieving a higher number of good GCSEs compared to every other region outside of London.

Durham MP Pat Glass, who is a key member of the education select committee, says teachers and school leaders in the region do exactly what is expected of them.

But upon leaving school, college or university, the shortage of jobs in the North East is driving young talent away.

“Pupils work hard and the schools do well by them,” she said. “But there aren’t jobs for these young people unless they leave the region.

“We need to take collective responsibility and get a strategic plan for the North East that delivers jobs for these kids.

Sarah Irving, left, and Sarah Howe celebrate their GCSE results at Excelsior Academy, 2012
Sarah Irving, left, and Sarah Howe celebrate their GCSE results at Excelsior Academy, 2012
 

“This includes better transport links down the East Coast and making sure that HS2 runs further north than Leeds.

“We have some of the best schools in the country and our schools’ leadership and management is outstanding.

“Children in parts of the region are out-performing children from much more affluent parts of the country, but in the end we don’t have the jobs for them.”

Excelsior Academy, in the west end of Newcastle, has seen a remarkable turnaround in its fortunes since becoming an academy in 2008.

When it was Westgate Community College it was deemed to be a failing school by education watchdog, Ofsted.

Nearly 60% of children left the school without a single qualification and only 14% achieved five good GCSE grades.

However, pupils’ performance at GCSE and A-level is above the national average in English and maths and their progress is among the highest in Newcastle, according to the school’s head Phil Marshall.

She said: “We haven’t changed our community; we’re still taking the same children from the same houses, homes and families.

“You have to believe, that despite a lack of aspiration at home, these young people can do well.

“But it’s really important that young people do stay in their communities and that there are employment opportunities for them.”

Ms Glass said children in London enjoy the benefit of free public transport and have better access to higher education.

“Before the sixth form opened at Consett Academy in 2012, the closest place for these kids to study A-levels was Durham city,” she said. “This proved a costly bus journey into school and put a lot of children off going into higher education.

“I am sure there are other parts of County Durham where schools don’t have a sixth form and kids have to travel into the city to do their A-levels.

“We need free transport like London because this cannot be an excuse for young people’s failure.”

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