WHEN Theresa May stood in Downing Street last year to make her first speech after taking over as Prime Minister, she promised to fight the “burning injustice” of social inequality.

“When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you,” she said.

An awful lot has happened since that June day, but among the fallout from the General Election, it is worth remembering that Mrs May staked her name on fighting for the less well off.

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Today’s report by the Education Policy Institute, which highlights the alarming rate at which the so-called disadvantage gap is growing in some towns and cities, will therefore make troubling reading for the PM.

Darlington has been singled out because the gap between the education level of the poorest pupils and their classmates is widening at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country. By the time children who receive pupil premium funding sit their GCSEs, they are on average more than two years behind their peers.

Worse grades, or a lack of qualifications altogether, usually means less access to further education, training and skilled jobs. And so the cycle of disadvantage continues.

Initiatives such as opportunity areas, a new strategy which brings together early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses and charities to improve social mobility, are to be applauded. But so far only 12 of these have been announced – and none is in the North-East. Targeting the regions where the education gap is widening so quickly would be a step in the right direction towards Mrs May’s pledge to be a government for the many, not the fortunate few.