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Calls for North East to be part of £72m education plan

East Whitby Academy will receive extra funding for phonics - a method of teaching literacy using sounds. Photo: ITV News Tyne Tees

The government is facing questions over why the North East has been excluded from a flagship scheme which aims to make sure pupils from poorer backgrounds aren't left behind.

12 places around the country are 'Opportunity Areas' benefiting from a share of £72 million to try to improve social mobility.

The North Yorkshire Coast - the area around Whitby, Scarborough and Filey - was named among them in October 2016.

The man in charge of running the scheme locally, Sir Martin Narey, has insisted it is now up and running, and has allocated funding to a number of schools.

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SCHOOLS NorthEast described the fact that the 12 Opportunity Areas do not include anywhere in the North East as "an absolute shock and travesty" - pointing to higher rates of unemployment and lower numbers going to university here.

None of the areas in the North East met the criteria to be an Opportunity Area – we will keep this under review as the programme develops.

We are committed to tackling regional inequalities across the country, including in the North East, focusing on those areas where social mobility and education standards are the most challenging.

– Department for Education spokesperson

Questioned about this at an event recently, Education Secretary Justine Greening admitted: "I hope that the North East will be added to the list."

It's my understanding that Ms Greening wants to see more Opportunity Areas introduced, after seeing that the first set are having a positive impact - and the North East would be towards the front of the queue.