Exclusions, early years, skills: Opportunity areas reveal their priorities

9th October 2017 at 10:47
The Department for Education has published plans for 'opportunity areas' in Blackpool, Derby, North Yorkshire Coast, Norwich, Oldham and West Somerset

The government has published details of the projects being carried out by the first six "opportunity areas".

The programme was launched by education secretary Justine Greening last year as a way of boosting “social mobility cold spots”.

In total there are 12 opportunity area, but the government has today published "delivery plans" for six of them: Blackpool, Derby, North Yorkshire Coast, Norwich, Oldham and West Somerset.

The other six areas are Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent.

In a foreword to the plans, Ms Greening said she wanted to “level up opportunity across this country so that all young people can go as far as their talents and drive will take them”.

Each opportunity area has its own independently chaired partnership board, with representation from education, local government, the charitable sector and business.

They have set three or four priorities for their area.

For example, in Blackpool the three priorities are “raise attainment and progress in Blackpool’s schools”, “support for vulnerable children and families to improve attendance and outcomes and to reduce exclusions from school” and “improve advice and support for young people when moving between schools/colleges and into work”.

In West Somerset the priorities are “every child has a great start in life”, “educational excellence in the classroom”, “transition to adulthood” and “skills and employment for business”.

Alongside the local partners, a national partnership with the Careers and Enterprise Company promises all pupils aged eleven to eighteen in the opportunity areas “at least four meaningful encounters with employers and the world of work”.

Each opportunity area has identified a number of “cornerstone” employers who have pledged to make a “significant contribution” to working with young people in the local schools.

For example, on the North Yorkshire Coast, the employers include Barclays, Burberry and GCHQ, which operates a site just outside Scarborough.

In Oldham, the recruitment agency Adecco, Lloyds Banking Group and the construction firm Willmott Dixon are on board.

The plans include detailed targets. For example, the Derby opportunity area aims to have “significantly closed” the city’s gap in English and maths progress and attainment with the rest of the country by 2021. 

Norwich’s plan meanwhile has a target to ensure 95 per cent of eligible three- to four-year-olds and 75 per cent of eligible two years are benefiting from funded early education by September 2021. 

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