BETTER education for children in the North-East is ‘fundamental’ to help the Government keep its promise of ‘levelling up’ by tackling inequalities across the country, according to one of the region’s MPs.

Politicians from both sides agree enhanced learning and training opportunities should be ‘front and centre’ of Boris Johnson’s plans to close the north-south divide.

The Government has announced a £14 billion funding package for schools, but last nigh there were calls for the Prime Minister to do more to help youngsters in disadvantaged communities across the region.

The Northern Echo has launched the Level Up North-East campaign to maintain pressure on Number 10 to keep its pledge to repay voters’ trust by delivering an agenda to redress historic imbalances in opportunities available.

The Northern Echo:

Dehenna Davison MP

Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison said: “Education is one of my biggest passions and it is one of the most fundamental parts of levelling up.

“In my maiden speech I said, “a child’s opportunities should not be determined by luck or by their postcode.” I stand by that statement.

“We need to ensure that young people in the North-East and other left-behind areas have access to the same opportunities as those in more affluent areas.

“That means ensuring our young people locally have access to the best education that teaches them the skills they need to get on in the rapidly evolving, tech-facing economy.

“This is why I was so pleased to see skills and education at the heart of the Queen’s Speech and I will work alongside the Government to ensure young people in the North-East get the best possible start in life.”

The Northern Echo:

Jacob Young MP

Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar, said a ‘lag’ in the provision of secondary education meant some young people are left at a disadvantage.

He said: “Levelling up is about unlocking the true potential of some of these left behind areas, and we can only do that if we are focused on how to give young people the skills they need to access the jobs of the future.”

North-West Durham MP Richard Holden MP said the Government would tackle the issues around education in the North-East ‘head-on’.

The Northern Echo:

Richard Holden MP

He said: “For too long, in the North-East we’ve accepted educational standards that just aren’t high enough and there are many factors that play into this.

“In the end, we need to ensure our young people are able to make the most of every opportunity available to achieve their full potential but we can’t follow Labour’s historic approach of trying to ram 50 per cent of kids into university and then forgetting about the other 50 per cent.

“We need proper vocational and educational opportunities too and that’s why I’m so supportive of our Conservative Government’s transformational agenda for post-16 apprenticeships and in work training being delivered at places like Derwentside College in Consett.”

The Northern Echo:

Kevan Jones MP

North Durham MP Kevan Jones said schools and colleges needed money to spend on students and not just new buildings.

He also said training must be available for parents who have lost their jobs and need to re-skill in the post-Covid world.

Mr Jones said: “A key part of ‘levelling up’ has got to be education, not just for youngsters but for lifelong learning.

“It is about education, but it is also about raising aspirations and that is for not just children but parents as well.

“On the back of the pandemic there is a particular problem because when furlough finishes you are going to have an increasing number of people who have not found work and they are going to need access to good quality training.”

The Northern Echo:

Mary Foy MP

Labour's Durham City MP May Foy said Tory policies over the past decade had actively harmed the education provision for the current generation of school children.

She said: "The Conservatives “Levelling Up” rhetoric is somewhat ironic given that it is their policies that have been so damaging for the North East over the past decade.

"Don’t forget that this is the same Tory Party which chose to inflict spending cuts upon the most deprived areas in the country and this has undoubtedly had a real impact on educational attainment and opportunity for many children in the North-East. 

“In my constituency, not a single secondary school has been rebuilt since Labour left office.

"In 2010, Michael Gove showed his party’s priorities when instead of pressing ahead with already identified new build schools in the region, the funding for these was simply withdrawn, leaving families and school staff who were expecting modern and up-to-date facilities in their old, often outdated buildings. 

"A decade on,these facilities are in an even greater state of disrepair and we have effectively seen a generation of children go without the resources others in the country have been provided with. 

"Although Durham County Council has commendably announced it will fund a new, state-of-the-art school campusin Belmont, Tory cuts have left the local authority without the resources to invest everywhere repairs and rebuilds are needed.   

"Every Government should be seeking to improve the life chances and opportunities available to the next generation. 

"However, unless the Conservatives bring forward concrete plans to invest in our young people’s future, they will struggle to even undo the damage they have already caused, never mind start to ‘level up’."