A former head teacher has called on schools and parents to work together after seeing education bring young people out of poverty.

Speaking at Thursday’s meeting (March 7) of Northumberland County Council’s Family and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Alan Hodgson cited his experiences in South Africa as the inspiration behind his remarks.

He said he had seen levels of poverty most people in the UK would find unimaginable. 

Mr Hodgson, who is the committee’s Catholic church representative, was speaking on a report on the county council’s inequalities, poverty and hardship plan. The report showed that 31 per cent of children are living in poverty, with two-thirds of those living in a working household.

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The report did outline the measures the council is taking to support residents at a time when the cost of living crisis is still being keenly felt. However, Mr Hodgson felt it was important to stress to parents the role education can play in escaping the poverty cycle.

He said: “Six months ago I was inspecting schools in South Africa. We’re talking about a level of poverty we can’t get our heads around – the average annual salary is about £2,500. I went into a school which was no more than a shed. The science lab was a sink.

“However, the parents and the schools were singing from the same song sheet. The value of education was going to get those children out of the cycle of poverty. Many of the parents are illiterate, but while they accepted they were in that level of poverty, their children were going to get out of it.

“What I’m saying is, working with parents got those parents to reinforce the same message that the schools are enforcing. I know it is a big ask, but the fact is around the world people see that there is a way out of poverty.

“It is very humbling when you go there and see the difference education is actually making, particularly for girls.

“We have got fabulous schools with fantastic resources and fantastic teachers. Education is the route out of poverty.”

Emma Richardson, the council’s senior manager of specialist services and poverty lead, said she ‘completely agreed’ with Mr Hodgson. She added: “Families are actively involved. Parents are key."