A unique research programme has been undertaken in north-east England to discover why the region has the lowest proportion of 16 and 17-year-olds in full-time education.
A survey published this week has revealed that more than 80 per cent of young people plan to continue into post-16 education, and nearly 70 per cent have parents who are encouraging them to go to college or university.
However, only 61 per cent actually remain in full-time education after 16, a figure nearly 10 per cent below the nationwide average.
The survey into young people's attitude to education and learning was commissioned by the North-east Assembly in an attempt to discover why the North-east is lagging behind in participation and attainment in education.
The study makes a serious attempt to gain a better understanding of the reasons why young people in the North-east leave school with lower educational qualifications than in the rest of the country, and yet at ages five to seven perform better than the national average in English, maths and science.
Emily Sweetman, the assembly's principal policy officer, said: "One thing that has remained constant is that the North-east is consistently 10 per cent below the national average in GCSE attainment and in participation, and we have got to bridge that gap.
"One reason why we don't do so well is low aspirations. We are trying to discover why. We have found a complex mix of issues about how youngsters feel."
The survey of more than 4,000 youngsters aged between 11 and 18 revealed that 63.3 per cent do not know what they need to do to go to university or college.
Some 72.7 per cent are not sure if they are clever enough and 71.3 per cent are not sure if they will be able to afford to go to university or college.
Ms Sweetman said the figures were more encouraging in two areas, the Tees Valley and in South Tyneside, where programmes had been set up to introduce further education to primary pupils and parents to try to change attitudes to post-16 learning.
The report said: "Many young people appear supremely confident in relation to their future lifestyles, suggesting with a high level of certainty that they will have plenty of good food to eat, nice clothes, a nice home, nice holidays, and a nice car at thirty along with a range of hobbies.
"It would seem that many are not making the link between their qualifications and their future lifestyle. There is a need to take steps to improve school environments, and to increase young people's confidence and their own sense of value."