THERE is plenty to celebrate today. Parties are in order.

Three schools in the region are in the top ten most improved in the country.

That is building a platform for the future. Skilled young people – with an expectation that they can excel – coming out of good schools and committed to work. What could be better?

It is all part of making a better future.

This paper is one of the main partners in the Darlington Foundation for Jobs. That is about taking people after school and getting them opportunities for the long-term future.

Hopefully, it will be such a success it will be introduced everywhere.

Jobs and training give hope, and also defeat those things that mar our area.

But all this improvement and good news is coming in the midst of an economic gale. We report today on the impact of the recession. The region is part of a country under strain and close to a continent with huge economic and financial challenges. It is always tempting to cut things that benefit us in the long term. Governments must protect education and skills development.

The schools need ring-fenced budgets, the community colleges need to be able to train apprentices. The universities need to be able to attract topclass people from all over the world and keep their premier league status.

This area does not need hand-outs, but its talent needs to grow to have its full effect.

In the end, we need spiritual and material regeneration. Give us space and time for both and we will transform.