Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 07.21.03A prominent North East politician and businessman met with the Skills Minister Nick Boles, at a Newcastle school, to call for a North East Schools and Skills Commissioner.

Jeremy Middleton, the first candidate to throw their hat into the ring for the devolved North East mayoral election, met Mr Boles, who was on a tour of the region, to discuss the needs of young people and to make the case for a Schools and Skills Commissioner. Youth unemployment continues to disproportionately affect the North East, where 18.5 percent of 16-24 year olds are out of work, the highest percentage of any region of the UK.

Mr Boles holds the position of Minister of State for Skills, a post jointly within the Department for Business of Innovation and Skills, and the Department for Education. His responsibilities include apprenticeships and traineeships, careers advice and guidance, vocational qualifications, and localism in skills.

He met Mr Middleton at Studio West, in West Denton, Newcastle’s first ‘studio school’, where pupils do as much as twelve weeks paid work experience per year. The school has attracted a great deal of support in the region’s business community, and pledges that every student will be guaranteed a place at college or university, an apprenticeship, a job, or a chance to set up their own business when they leave.

Mr Middleton said: “Despite us having some truly excellent schools in the North East, our young people have the worst chances when leaving school, college and university. It is unacceptable that their opportunities in life are so much worse than they would be in the rest of the UK. Schools and businesses must work together to give pupils the skills and confidence they need to enter the workforce and find a good job.

“If elected I will appoint a North East Schools and Skills Commissioner, with immediate effect, to work with schools, colleges, universities, employers and parents to close the region’s skills gap and drive up school standards. In addition to this I will campaign for the Government to devolve further powers to the North East, to give the Skills Commissioner the power to intervene in schools to improve performance.

“These powers would be the same as those held by North Schools Commissioner, appointed by the Department for Education, but they could be directly held to account in the North East, rather than Westminster.”

Nick Boles said: “It was a pleasure to visit Studio West, the amazing school of Jeremy Middleton and Bob Paton., who helped set it up and make it a success. I was hugely impressed by the enthusiasm of the staff and students, and the fantastic work they are doing with local employers.”