A new vision for Sheffield City Region puts better access to education at the heart of economic success.
A report called 'A Better Future Together', launched last week, says the region is falling behind national school results, and not producing enough skilled young people.
It calls for a more integrated approach, rather than treating schools and areas in isolation.
And it sets a target of attracting and retaining the most talented teachers to help the region's children.
Speaking at the launch, Sheffield Hallam University vice-chancellor Professor Chris Husbands said there was plenty of work to be done.
"Excellence is too thinly spread across the city and the city region," he said.
"This is the challenge we have to face if we are going to build a system that delivers the highly-skilled, highly-qualified people who we will need in the future."
The vision, which also looks at the economy, health, the environment and connectivity, proposes an 'across-the-board action plan' to address the lack of qualifications and competence in the region, and low performance in some schools.
It calls for a 'major development' of early years provision, which it calls 'essential' to long-term success.
It aims to improve core literacy and numeracy, while putting together a programme of skills changes for older pupils.
The vision suggests an integrated approach to higher education, providing 'clear pathways' for teenagers.
And it makes retaining more graduates a priority.
Prof Husbands said the region faced many challenges, and the vision was necessary for success.
"Around the world there are strong correlations between economic success, social cohesion and underlying high performance education and skills systems," he said.
"We have to think on a 25-year scale. We have to think about young people who are not yet in the system.
"We frequently think in terms of success and failure. We have to think differently. It's accepting that good is not good enough.
"We have to assess failures as part of a long-term progression towards highly successful systems."