Byline: By Graeme Whitfield
Teachers and business leaders have combined to warn of serious shortcomings in the education system, despite record GCSE results across the North.
Schools in all parts of the region saw the numbers of children getting five or more good GCSEs on the rise, with all of the region's passing the 50% mark for the first time.
But that still left thousands leaving school without basic qualifications, to the alarm of the region's business community.
Particularly worrying was a slump in the uptake of languages, which coincided with the first year of languages being optional in state schools after the age of 14.
Ministers admitted too few young people were getting a good education, and also acknowledged the concerns about the decline of modern languages in the region's schools.
The Government said a drive to teach languages in primary schools would eventually ease the problem, but a teachers' leader from the North said Ministers had created a gulf in language teaching between state and private schools.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association and former head of Durham Johnston School, said: "There's an increasing divide between independent schools and state schools, because independent schools have almost universally kept compulsory languages."
He was backed by Bill McGawley, chairman of the Institute of Directors in the North-East who said: "We need to ensure that more pupils leave school with good GCSE results in the basic two key subject areas, English and maths, as further progression in education and training is difficult without the underpinning of literacy and numeracy.
"But confirmation that there is a sharp decline in the number of teenagers taking languages raises serious concerns. …