A new government £24 million programme to raise standards in the North East will provide targeted support to struggling secondary schools and try to identify why high-performing pupils children from deprived backgrounds do less well after leaving primary school, Tes understands.
Opportunity North East will also focus on how to improve transition from primary to secondary school across the region; boost business engagement with schools; and improve progression to university.
It is understood that education secretary Damian Hinds outlined these priorities to school leaders in the North East in a roundtable discussion this week after announcing the £24 million fund.
Selected secondary schools in four areas of the region: Middlesbrough, Northumberland, Redcar and Cleveland and Hartlepool are to receive extra support.
Mike Parker, director of Schools NorthEast, said he believed that the overall programme could be “transformational” for the region.
He said: “It is important that this is not just a school improvement programme. With all the elements pulled together, it can be a programme for wider change in the North East.
“On transition, they want to break down some of the barriers that children might face as they move from primary to secondary.
"From our perspective, being able to identify what best practice is for transition is excellent news and will mean the North East can become a beacon for the rest of the country.
“They are also looking at high-performing pupils at primary school and why we have a number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds who, despite getting amazing results at primary school, do not do as well at secondary.”
Supporting secondary schools
Mr Parker also welcomed plans to support struggling secondary schools in the region.
He said: “I think this is really important, particularly in some of our really isolated schools that have serious challenges that school leadership alone cannot solve.”
Mr Parker said he hoped the initiative would help to attract teachers to work in some of the geographically isolated schools in the North East.
Schools North East had campaigned for an "opportunity area" to be created in the region after the first 12 were established elsewhere.
Opportunity areas, which were launched under the last education secretary Justine Greening to boost social mobility, were established in individual local authority areas.
Now Opportunity North East has been set up across an entire region.
The £24 million funding was announced by Mr Hinds on Monday.
Half of the £24 million 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.
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 to lead the programme.
Schools NorthEast, a regional network of school leaders, is holding its annual summit tomorrow.