THE Government has been accused of neglecting the North-East after the region was shown to have a higher proportion of under-performing secondary schools than anywhere else in England.

More than a fifth of schools (20.9 per cent) fell below new ‘floor’ standards for Key Stage 4 which also took into account new tougher GCSEs in English and maths taken by pupils last summer.

Meanwhile Darlington (42.9 per cent) and Redcar and Cleveland (33.3 per cent) were among ten local authority areas in England with the highest percentage of underperforming schools.

In Darlington – where every school is now an academy – youngsters are generally meeting national standards by year six at primary school, but evidence shows some begin to falter once they reach secondary school.

The organisation Schools NorthEast, which has a network of 1,250 schools, said the Department for Education (DfE) had neglected the North-East and the region’s secondary schools were not operating on a level playing field.

Twelve ‘Opportunity Areas’ have been designated by the DfE to share £72m in order to drive up attainment and boost opportunities for young people.

But while other regions have benefitted from the initiative, the North-East has not been included.

Mike Parker, director of Schools NorthEast, said: “These results have to be seen in the context of a significant overhaul of GCSEs which experts predicted would see more schools go below the floor standard.

“That said, we have to be more ambitious for educational outcomes here in the North-East and there are three main areas that have to be urgently addressed.

“North-East schools are operating with a fraction of the money that London schools enjoy, they face a recruitment crisis and they face some of the most challenging conditions in a sparsely-populated region with widespread poverty which is proven to be the major drag on education attainment.”

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said a fresh wave of academy schools seen recently had not succeeded in making any impact on standards.

She said: “There is no single answer to this, but we need to look at things holistically, the hollowing out of services to support children and families has had an impact on how well kids do at school.

“Any school you visit will also tell you they have been deprived of resources in recent years.

“Disadvantage also has an effect on school performance and you see that in many different areas of the country.

“You also have to look at things like parental involvement and ask whether schools are stretching kids sufficiently.”

The MP added: “We do have some outstanding secondary schools and the challenge is to bring others up to that level.

"It’s a lot harder now each school runs itself separately and the oversight when things are going wrong is ineffective.”

Hurworth School headteacher Dean Judson was involved with the country’s first education federation in Darlington which aimed to drive up standards by pairing up secondary schools experiencing radically different fortunes.

Mr Judson, who is now chief executive of the Swift Multi-Academy Trust, said the Government’s performance tables did not necessarily reflect excellent practice in schools serving families in the most challenging communities.

He also said a major shortage of teachers in English secondary schools had to be addressed and be accompanied by “significant financial investment”.

Redcar MP Anna Turley said poor results for some of its schools were extremely disappointing at a time when her constituency was facing a real term cut in education funding of more than £5m by 2020 and said ministers and the DfE needed a “wake up call”.

Some schools were bucking the poor performing trend and there were pockets of excellence, including in North Yorkshire.

There scores for the county’s students for Progress 8 (which measures progress from primary to secondary school) and Attainment 8 (which includes results from eight subject entries per pupil, with double weighting for English and maths) placed it in the top 15 per cent of authorities nationally.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said there were 1.9m more children in England in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 and teachers and pupils were responding well to a new more rigorous curriculum introduced by the Government.

He said the attainment gap between the most disadvantaged pupils and their peers had narrowed by ten per cent since 2011.

The Government was also working to increase the number of high quality sponsors able to support vulnerable schools in the North-East.