Justine Greening announces £60 million to target schools in 'social mobility cold spots'

'Opportunity areas' in Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough, and West Somerset will get extra help to support teachers and improve schools

Richard Vaughan

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Justine Greening has announced plans to target schools in “social mobility cold spots”, which will receive additional support to help improve the lives of disadvantaged children.

The education secretary said 10 “opportunity areas” including Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough, and West Somerset will be given £60m in extra help for teacher support and school improvement in a bid to boost social mobility. The names of the four other areas will be announced in the coming months.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham today, Ms Greening said the new opportunity areas would help local children get the “best start in life, no matter what their background”.

The announcement comes as the government is consulting on its recent Green Paper, which outlines its plans to increase selection in state schools and allow existing grammars to expand. School standards minister Nick Gibb has said the proposals are designed to 'turbocharge' social mobility.

“Ensuring all children can access high-quality education at every stage is critical,” the Cabinet minister said. “This is about giving children in these areas the right knowledge and skills, advice at the right time, and great experiences.”

'Broaden horizons for young people'

The scheme will be trialled in six areas initially with a further four areas to be announced in the coming months.

Under the proposals, the Department for Education (DfE) will work with each opportunity area to tackle each of their individual needs.

The programmes will help “build teaching and leadership capacity in schools” while also increasing access to university and “strengthen technical pathways for young people”.

“My department will work with local authorities, education and skills providers, businesses, and the wider community, not just to focus on what we can do to help inside schools, but also create the opportunities outside school that will raise sights and broaden horizons for young people,” Ms Greening added.

The programme will work alongside an additional £75m fund, which has been created to improve  teaching and leadership in the opportunity areas.

The focus on the “social mobility cold spots” -  follows on from the “achieving excellence areas” that were announced by Ms Greening’s predecessor Nicky Morgan in her White Paper.

The targeted approach to improve entire areas of the country were first attempted by Labour under Tony Blair who created “education action zones” in a bid to raise standards. 

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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