Education Secretary announces 6 new opportunity areas
David McQuade - January 23, 2017

Opportunity areas will create local partnerships with early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and LAs.

Yesterday (Wednesday 18 January), speaking at the offices of PwC at an event jointly hosted with the Sutton Trust, Education Secretary Justine Greening set out the role of education in removing obstacles to social mobility, and the importance, as Britain prepares for its future outside the European Union, of ensuring that all young people can fulfil their potential.

The Education Secretary announced the expansion of the opportunity areas programme to a further 6 areas across England, along with a new £3.5 million programme that will see the Education Endowment Foundation establish a research school for each of the 12 opportunity areas.

In October, the Education Secretary announced that 6 social mobility ‘coldspots’ (Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough, and West Somerset) would become opportunity areas, which will see local partnerships formed with early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and local authorities to ensure all children and young people have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

A key aim of opportunity areas is to build young people’s knowledge and skills and provide them with the best advice and opportunities, including working with organisations such as the Careers and Enterprise Company, the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses, and the National Citizen Service. The Department for Education (DfE) will target its programmes to ensure children get the best start in the early years, to build teaching and leadership capacity in schools, to increase access to university, to strengthen technical pathways for young people, and work with employers to improve young people’s access to the right advice and experiences. DfE will work with each opportunity area to respond to local priorities and needs – because each area will have its own challenges.

Justine Greening announced that the programme will now be expanded to 12 opportunity areas, adding Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland & East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent.

Increased DfE opportunity area funding of £72 million will support local education providers and communities to address the biggest challenges in the 12 areas, and opportunity areas will have priority access to other DfE support including the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund worth £75 million, focused on supporting teachers and school leaders in challenging areas to develop.

A new £3.5 million programme, with £1.5 million coming from DfE and £2 million from the Education Endowment Foundation, will support the creation of a research school for each opportunity area. These schools will lead the development and dissemination of evidence-led practice in local schools.

Opportunity areas have been selected from areas identified in the social mobility index published by the Social Mobility Commission.

Justine Greening said:

“As the Prime Minister has set out, we are facing a moment of great change as a nation. With our departure from the European Union, we will need to define an ambitious new role for ourselves in the world. For Britain to succeed we must be a country where everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their talent and their hard work will allow. Education is at the heart of that ambition, and is central to breaking down the barriers to social mobility that too many face in our country.

I want to see more disadvantaged young people attending the very best universities, winning places on apprenticeships, entering the top professions, and progressing through the most rewarding careers – and I want employers to do more to draw out the potential and talents of all.”