A pioneering North East project which engages thousands of schoolchildren in activities to help develop their life skills and business acumen has been singled out for praise by the Children’s Commissioner for its work.

The PIE (Primary Inspiration through Enterprise) Project has been highlighted in the Commissioner’s national report as an exemplar of how to effectively engage and enlighten young people in meaningful activities, increasing aspiration as a result.

The development comes only shortly after the latest annual Big PIE Challenge, which works with scores of schools and thousands of children across the whole region – as well as offering a prize of £5,000 to the winning team, it helps to develop vital skills in areas like coding, engineering and general enterprise. In a first for the North East, primary school children can also gain vocational enterprise qualifications.

The fast-growing PIE Project, a charitable trust, was established in 2013 to work with four primary schools in Walker as a means of increasing life skills and aspiration levels, but since then has grown to work with children across the North East, with more schools being added continually. This year, the Challenge included secondary schools for the first time.

The charity works inclusively in the classroom, where every child is allowed to identify and develop their strengths and address their weaknesses. The PIE Project also includes parents, teachers and businesses, to ensure that every stakeholder in a child’s life who can influence their future is actively engaged in identifying and creating opportunities.

Businesses from across the North East have been keen to lend their support to the project, with Sir John Hall – patron of the PIE Project – who has started a campaign to raise £100,000. It is also establishing an Enterprise Bursary for schools in association with Shepherd Offshore, in memory of the late Freddie Shepherd.

The innovative PIE Project also has a PEERZ Academy, which was set up to tackle low GCSE and A Level attainment, and is helping to connect young people with culture through working alongside projects including Culture Bridge North East and the Newcastle Film Festival.

Ammar Mirza CBE founded the PIE Project in his role as Chair of Governors of Tyneview Primary School in Walker, as a means to help promote aspiration and attainment from the earliest ages.

“Naturally, we are truly proud and grateful for the recognition in the report from the Children’s Commissioner, this is an honour for our work to be highlighted in such a way,” he said.

“Over the past 6 years the charity has grown significantly and made a demonstrable difference in helping realise ambitions and raise aspirations. We are committed to engaging, enlightening and educating young people in the world of enterprise and to giving them the opportunities to develop their skills from a very young age. Through us being able to offer vocational qualifications to children in primary school, we are opening their eyes to achievement in the world of business. We want to develop the ‘soft skills’ which aren’t judged through qualifications, but are essential in developing as a person.

“This year’s Big PIE Challenge was another huge success, and we look forward to finding out who has won the challenge in due course. The levels of engagement we have seen again from schools and young people has been phenomenal. Every year, the Challenge and the wider PIE Project grows to work with even greater numbers, and we are very proud of that. My grateful thanks go to those children, parents, schools, businesses and volunteers who support us, as without them, our work would not be possible.”