Ministers have announced the Opportunity Area programme, which funds additional education services in disadvantaged areas is to be extended for another year.
As the run-up to the December General Election continues, education secretary Gavin Williamson announced yesterday that the programme will now be extended until August 2021 with an additional £18m of funding.
The programme has been operating since 2017 in 12 ‘Opportunity Areas’ across the country – Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, North Yorkshire Coast, West Somerset, Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent.
These areas were chosen because they face some of the most entrenched obstacles to social mobility and were set up to improve outcomes and increase opportunities for all young people in these areas.
The programme has been used to fund courses to help young people in the areas develop life skills like resilience, teamwork and problem solving.
Schemes put in place to improve maths are showing signs of success across some opportunity areas, according to the government.
For example, in Ipswich, six weeks of Saturday maths classes provide targeted support, free bus travel and food for disadvantaged Year 11s at risk of not getting a GCSE level 4 or 5, with the first 75 pupils enrolled showing an average boost in predicted grades of 1.3 in comparison to the start of the programme.
‘I grew up in Scarborough, now part of the North Yorkshire Coast Opportunity Area, and having returned recently for a visit I’ve seen for myself the progress being made and the difference it is making to young people living there,’ said Mr Williamson.
‘Ability is evenly spread across the country, but opportunity isn’t. We’re determined to put right the wrongs of places left behind and see the Opportunity Area programme grow – helping local leaders and schools to tackle some of the greatest challenges young people face.
‘It’s not just about what happens now in these 12 areas but the impact these projects will have on future generations and paving the way for them to overcome obstacles to success,’ he added.
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