Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen has praised a £24m investment from Government to improve education, boost social mobility and raise aspirations for children in the Tees Valley.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds MP has launched Opportunity North East, which aims to tackle issues holding young people back, raising the number of students attending the country’s top universities or inspiring them to access education, employment and training post-year 11.
The scheme will see £12m invested in targeted approaches to improve the transition from primary to secondary school, drive up standards at secondary level and improve outcomes for pupils post 16.
A further £12m will be used to boost early career training for new teachers, help improve the quality of teaching and raise standards in the region’s secondary schools.
The programme will see secondary schools, and colleges work to encourage young people to consider university, degree apprenticeships and other high quality technical education options, while partnering with local businesses to improve job prospects for young people across the region.
The focus will be on four areas across the region that need it most, three of which – Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland – are expected to be major beneficiaries of the programme.
Launching the scheme, Mr Hinds said: “There are today too many education measures on which the North East is listed ninth in the list of nine English regions. It doesn’t have to be like that.
“In fact the North East has a lot of really outstanding education – especially so at primary level. The job now is to spread that through more of the secondary level and beyond.
“It’s absolutely right that we challenge ourselves to do things like increasing access to university for young people from black and minority ethnic communities but we must remember that disadvantage is not limited to a single group.
“White British disadvantaged boys are the least likely of any large ethnic group to go to university. We need to ask ourselves why that is and challenge government, universities and the wider system to change that.
“It’s vital that we do this to make sure that no part of our country feels as though it has been left behind, and that every community feels like this is a country that works for everyone.”
Welcoming the announcement, Tees mayor Houchen said: “We have some fantastic schools in the Tees Valley that are driving up standards so more young people develop the knowledge they need to succeed, and attain the skills our businesses need to thrive. We’re working hard to develop proper home-grown talent to support our growing economy, but there’s still much more to do.
“This additional investment from government will go an exceptionally long way to help our schools tackle the challenges that they face, raise student aspirations and good quality education.
“It is an outrage that white working class British boys are the least likely out of any ethnic group to progress to university. We have to do something now to prevent a lost generation of young kids on Teesside feeling shunned and left behind.
“Working with our fantastic schools and business leaders, we will ensure this money is targeted properly so our young people are given every opportunity to fill the high-quality jobs of tomorrow.”