Schools and teacher training in the North East are to get a £24m boost in an effort to prevent pupils in the region from “missing out”.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said the three-year programme would drive up standards, especially in poorly-performing secondary schools.
Half the fund will be used to improve early career training for new teachers.
Labour said any missed opportunities for children in the region were the result of government policies.
Projects funded by the programme will be in place in 2019, and an executive board of education, business and council leaders will be formed with the goal of pushing them forward.
Although the North East has some of the best-performing primary schools in the country, Mr Hinds said secondary school performance was currently below that of other regions.
Launching the fund on Tyneside, he said: “There are today too many education measures on which the North East is listed ninth in the list of nine English regions. It doesn’t have to be like that.
“In fact the North East has a lot of really outstanding education – especially so at primary level.
“The job now is to spread that through more of the secondary level and beyond.”
Mr Hinds also said there was a need to create better access to university for students from black and ethnic minority groups.
He added: “White British disadvantaged boys are the least likely of any large ethnic group to go to university.
“We need to ask ourselves why that is and challenge government, universities and the wider system to change that.”
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “The funding announced today is nothing compared to the funding that has been cut from Sure Start centres, schools, and colleges across the region.
“The Tories are trying to say that austerity is over, but the reality is that schools are still facing a funding crisis after eight years of deep and damaging cuts.”