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Three NE areas on Ofsted's 'worst in country' list

Children have less than a 50% chance of going to a good or outstanding school in Hartlepool, Stockton and Middlesbrough, according to a critical report out today.

Ofsted listed the three North East local authorities as some of the worst in the country, when it comes to children's secondary school prospects.

It also found that 70,000 more children in England are studying in a school rated 'inadequate', than was the case two years ago.

Sure Start petition handed to Number 10

Cllr Nick Forbes hands the petition to Number 10 Downing Street Credit: ITV News

Parents and politicians were among a delegation which has delivered a petition to Downing Street over the future of Sure Start in Newcastle.

Sure Start programmes offer support to parents and children in less privileges communities.

Fifteen centres are under review, as part of wider spending cuts. The city council is looking to save more than £4million on family services, blaming the Government's spending squeeze.

The petition was organised by the trade union Unison, which says it collected three and a half thousand names.

"It's taking away a basic amenity and if you take away the basic amenities that children need to grow up, you have taken away everything. "

– Mary Jane Opalah, mother

"No one should ever have to live the way the North East people are living and that's why we've come down today to show David Cameron that we're willing to fight for it."

– Lynne Milburn, mother

"We held off cuts to Sure Start for as long as possible. This is the third year of a three year budget and we've looked at everything else before we've got to this desperate stage and unless the Government changes track we'll be forced to go ahead with these cuts."

– Cllr Nick Forbes, Newcastle City Council leader

In response, the Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins said that every part of the public sector needs to contribute to paying off the deficit left by the last administration.

“Since 2010 this Government has delivered a fair settlement to every part of the country while giving them greater financial independence so they can deliver sensible savings while protecting front-line services.

Leaving aside schools due to the move to academies, Newcastle’s spending has actually increased under this Government. And the new financial powers granted to Newcastle through their City Deal are set to bring £1bn investment into the area in the coming years.

The majority of local authorities have continued to balance their budgets whilst reducing council tax in real-terms and increased or maintained public satisfaction with services. "

– Kris Hopkins MP, Local Government Minister

Final decisions have yet to be made by Newcastle city council over the future of its Sure Start programmes.

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Children's book festival biggest in Europe

Fourteen children's authors and illustrators have been in Sunderland to help celebrate the Northern Children's Book Festival, the biggest free event of its kind in Europe.

"There's nothing like getting into a good book to whisk you away to another world... The Northern Children's Book Festival was set up with the express purpose of bringing children together with some of the UK's top writers and illustrators and passing on the enjoyment of reading for pleasure"

– Cllr John Kelly, Sunderland City Council

For a longer report click below.

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