THE Education Secretary pledged to tackle the schools funding crisis as he visited the region to launch a pilot project yesterday.

With head teachers sending letters round parents warning of a dire funding shortfall, North Yorkshire schools on the brink of deficit and a Redcar headteacher using his own money to fund his school, Damian Hinds acknowledged funds were ‘tight’ for schools.

And he said he would be ‘making the strongest possible case’ for more overall schools funding to be included in the Comprehensive Spending Review later this year.

Mr Hinds visited St Aidan’s Church of England Academy in Darlington and spoke to head teachers and governors from across the town as he launched what he described as the biggest teaching reform in a generation.

The £130m Early Career Framework is being piloted across the North-East as well as Doncaster and Greater Manchester and involves more support for teachers in the early stages of their careers.

The Education Secretary believes this will help boost retention and recruitment rates in what he described as an increasingly competitive jobs market.

He said the North-East ‘had some fantastic schools’ but overall the secondary attainment in the region is lower than in other areas and some schools faced challenges in recruiting and retaining teachers.

“The early stages of a teacher’s career are an incredibly exciting time – but they can also be very challenging, which is why it’s so important to make sure they are properly supported,” he said.

“Earlier this year I set out my plans to transform the support available to newly-qualified teachers through the centrepiece of our flagship Teacher Recruitment & Retention Strategy.

“Today marks an important milestone on this journey by inviting tenders to create training and support for those starting out their careers in teaching.”

Mr Hinds also visited Gateshead to see vocational opportunities on offer to youngsters as part of the Department of Education’s £24m Opportunity North East programme, which aims to improve education and boost career prospects in the region.

Last month the Department called on North East schools, academy trusts and local authorities to pitch proposals to boost the prospects for young people by drawing on their expertise to improve transition from primary to secondary. The best proposals will be granted up to £1.8 million from the ONE funding.

Mr Hinds defended a perceived lack of funding for high needs pupils, saying he had brought in £250m more at the end of last year to ease the pressure on local authorities. He said that more special needs pupils than ever before were being helped.