Plans outlined to drive social mobility in Opportunity Areas

Education secretary Justine Greening has launched plans to raise education standards and “broaden the horizons” of young people in areas struggling with social mobility.

The Opportunity Area programme is a key part of the Greening’s aim of tackling social mobility and improving opportunities for young people.

These 12 areas, identified as social mobility ‘coldspots’ – areas with both poor social mobility and schools that face challenges - will receive a share of £72 million to boost opportunities for young people in these communities.

Publication of plans for the first six Opportunity Areas - Blackpool, Derby, North Yorkshire Coast, Norwich, Oldham and West Somerset - mark the first anniversary of the programme, following a year of collaboration between local educators, employers and voluntary and community organisations to set out the key areas for improvement. Plans for the remaining six areas, announced more recently, will be published by the end of the year.

Local independent partnership boards – made up of school leaders, business owners, council leaders and other local partners – will work to boost attainment from the early years of a child’s education right through to university. Other initiatives include projects to raise aspirations, by providing all young people in Opportunity Areas with at least four inspiring ‘encounters’ with the world of work, for example through work experience or mentoring.

Greening said: “I want young people living in these areas to have access to a world-class education, that’s why we are setting out our ambition in these first six opportunity areas. As we prepare for Brexit, it is vital that we raise the horizons of young people and give them the opportunity to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.”

The government has also announced that £22 million will be shared among all 12 Opportunity Areas through a new Essential Life Skills programme, to help disadvantaged young people have access to the same opportunities as those in the top-performing schools. The aim is to help them develop wider skills such as resilience, emotional wellbeing and employability.

The programme will complement the individual Opportunity Area plans by providing extra-curricular activities, such as sports, volunteering and social action projects, which give pupils the opportunity to develop leadership skills.

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