ON assuming power of Northumberland County Council in 2017, the Conservatives made a bold promise for a new school-build every year.

With new school buildings for Ponteland due to be opened in September and two new schools on one site set for Hexham in 2021, after county councillors approved a planning application last week, the authority is on course to achieve its target.

And further investment is planned for education across the county with the North of Tyne Combined Authority, covering Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside, set to become just the third area in the country to be set a major education challenge by the Government.

While the figure the region could get is being kept under wraps, Manchester received £50m over a three-year period to undertake its challenge.

Wayne Daley, the portfolio holder for children’s services at Northumberland County Council, is the cabinet member for the North of Tyne, leading the ambitious education programme.

As part of the challenge, one of the priorities would be to achieve good or outstanding ratings from Ofsted at each of the authority’s 356 schools. Currently, around 50 are rated below good.

Each of these schools would also have access to a mental health and resilience officer, while there would also be a big push on improving exam results across the board.

The package would also include a teacher deal looking to recruit more educators.

Coun. Daley said: “My vision for the North of Tyne is, whether in a huge school in Newcastle or a small school in the west of Northumberland with 50 pupils, for teachers to know they can get the best career opportunities here.

“The education challenge is an exciting opportunity to work with school leaders, teachers and children to showcase some excellent career opportunities for our young people. For too long, people have had to leave the region for top jobs, but I want more people to work here and to boost the economy in the North-East.”

The multi-million pound investment expected through the education challenge would be an extension to the millions being ploughed into education by Northumberland County Council.

Since 2017, Tynedale and Ponteland have profited from a number of schemes instigated by the Conservative administration.

Aside from the £36m earmarked for the building of the Hexham schools, £52m has been invested into creating a new primary and secondary school for Ponteland, which will be linked with a new leisure centre and facilities for the town.

Haydon Bridge High School has benefited from £4.6m to improve the dilapidating school building, and a state-of-the-art vocational centre is planned to go alongside a new sixth form centre.

In November, a £2.6m plan to build a new primary school in Haltwhistle was approved by councillors.

Hexham Priory School received funding to the value of £1.2m, while first schools in Greenhaugh and Otterburn received £360,000 each.

Coun. Daley said: “When we took control of the county in May 2017, there had not been any real focus on education as a priority.

“Unashamedly, we came in and made a promise to improve educational outcomes and also educational stock within Northumberland. We are honouring what we said and we are investing and ensuring performance is the best it can be for our young people.”