OPPORTUNITIES and job prospects for young people in the North-East are to be boosted by a new £24 million programme, the Education Secretary has announced.

Launching Opportunity North East on Monday, Damian Hinds said it is essential to prevent pupils in the region, which had a lower percentage of young people going to top universities than any other area of the country in 2017, from "missing out".

Half of the fund is set to be invested in boosting early career training for new teachers in a bid to raise standards in schools, with the remaining £12 million going towards driving up standards, improving outcomes for students aged 16 or over and improving the transition from primary to secondary school.

The programme will also partner with local businesses in order to create more opportunities for young people across the region.

Projects funded by the programme will be in place in 2019, and an executive board of education, business and council leaders in the North East is to be formed with the goal of pushing Opportunity North East forward.

Although the North East has some of the best-performing primary schools in the country, it is claimed that secondary school performance is currently below that of other regions.

At an event at Cardinal Hume Secondary School in Gateshead on Monday, Mr Hinds is expected to say: "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."

During the visit, Mr Hinds is also set to challenge a panel of education experts, comprised of headteachers, business leaders and university staff, by asking what they can do to "raise aspirations among all working class communities".

The Education Secretary will discuss the need to create better access to university for students from black and ethnic minority groups, but will add that educational disadvantage "is not limited to a single group".

He will say: "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."