South Tyneside Council chiefs welcome pledge to level up education - but questions over policy remain

South Tyneside Council has said it welcomes the news the borough has been identified as a focus area for levelling up in education but questions remain regarding firm policy.

Last week the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove unveiled the Government’s plan to close the gap between rich and poor parts of the country, including a promise to “eliminate illiteracy and innumeracy by refocusing education spending on the most disadvantaged parts of the country”.

The plan, which includes 12 key promises, has been criticised by the Labour Party for containing no new money with Mr Gove himself saying it was about “shifting money and power”, not necessarily providing additional funding.

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However, while the proposal may lack detail, the sentiment has been welcomed by Council chiefs.

A council spokesman said: “We look forward to receiving more detail about South Tyneside becoming an Education Investment Area and learning what this will mean for our family of schools. We also look forward to hearing more about the funds that will be coming to our Borough to improve outcomes for our children and young people.

"We are also keen to see the details on other announcements, such as on the National Youth Guarantee - which the Government says will guarantee every young person has access to regular clubs and activities - as well as expansion of Skills Bootcamps and further funding for supported internships."

South Tyneside Council chiefs welcome the principle of levelling up education but questions remain over funding. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

Skills Bootcamps are free and flexible training courses of up to 16 weeks which are available for adults aged 19 or over who are either in work or recently unemployed.

John Hall, the North East National Executive of the country’s largest teaching union, the NASUWT, also welcomes the principle of levelling up education but believes this should involve increased investment, “not simply a redistribution of the current pot”.

He added: “This would simply be robbing Peter to pay Paul. All schools will tell you they need money and so why should Somerset, for instance, be robbed to pay for holes in funding in the North East?

"The proposal at the moment seems to be short on substance and done to placate the electorate. If levelling up education is a priority then we would like to see the Government engaging with the unions and professional teachers over what’s needed.”

Amanda Bailey, Director of the North East Child Poverty Commission, believes tackling child poverty should be at the centre of the Government's levelling up agenda.

Director of the North East Child Poverty Commission, Amanda Bailey, has also been left disappointed with the White Paper, citing the eradication of child poverty not being identified as a priority.

She said: “‘The Government’s commitment to spread opportunity and improve living standards is welcome, and absolutely critical for families across the North East.

"And yet - despite our region having the UK’s fastest rising rate of child poverty - nowhere is this pivotal challenge even acknowledged in the long-awaited White Paper, never mind included as an area for action. Nor is reducing child poverty listed as one of the Government’s measures of levelling up success.

“There will be no meaningful levelling up for families and communities across the North East unless tackling the scourge of child poverty is put front and centre of this work."

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