THE Education Secretary, Justine Greening, was today urged to swiftly put plans in place to include the North East in a £72m school improvement programme from which it had previously been excluded.

SCHOOLS NorthEast, a network of 1,250 schools across the region, has campaigned for the Department of Education to include the North East in the flagship Opportunity Areas scheme which attracts significant funding and resources pumped into areas of greatest educational need.

The Education Secretary opened the door on the possibility of an Opportunity Area being developed in the region during questioning at the Teach First ‘Impact’ Conference in London.  

She told the audience: “(I am) as passionate as the audience are about the North East and I’m especially concerned about social mobility in that region. I hope that the North East will be added to the list.”

The 12 Opportunity Areas were announced by Ms Greening in October 2016 with their aim being to provide extra investment and support to schools in areas identified by the Government’s Social Mobility Index as having low levels of social mobility.

Mike Parker, director of SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: “The absence of an Opportunity Area in the North East was a huge oversight by the DfE when the initial 12 were announced. Opportunity Areas elsewhere in the country are attracting significant investment, both financially and in extensive partnership and support for schools. It places the region at a disadvantage not to be part of this flagship programme of work and we need Justine Greening to prioritise rectifying this immediately.

“SCHOOLS NorthEast will continue to push on the Department for Education and the Government on this issue as we know how much this will benefit our children and schools.”

SCHOOLS NorthEast welcomed the announcement yesterday that Middlesbrough and Northumberland have both been chosen as areas piloting a new teacher student loan forgiveness scheme to support recruitment and retention of teaching talent.

Mr Parker said: “Attracting and retaining teaching talent is a significant challenge which is why SCHOOLS NorthEast set up the only not-for-profit regional recruitment portal in the country. The announcement that two areas in the region will pilot a new initiative to attract teachers to areas where recruitment is particularly tough is particularly welcome.”

For further information please contact SCHOOLS NorthEast on (0191) 204 8866 or out of hours on (07957) 936 021, or alternatively email n.chapman@schoolsnortheast.com.