Making the announcement, the education Secretary Gavin Williamson revealed that Opportunity Area (OA) programme will be extended for an additional year to support social mobility in some of the most disadvantaged areas of England by focusing on improving educational outcomes and careers advice, and attracting teachers.
The programme targets areas across education, from the early years to employment.
It was launched in 2017 with an initial £72m investment across literacy, maths, attendance, teacher training and recruitment, post-16 options and careers advice.
The new funding will extend the Opportunity Area programme into its fourth year, running until August 2021.
The programme has been operating in 12 areas across the country, they are - Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, North Yorkshire Coast, West Somerset, Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent.
Local areas can set their own needs and targets, with nine of the 12 having identified early years as a priority.
West Somerset has shown progress in early years’ development, with performance historically below the national average for pupil outcomes at the end of reception year, but now showing year on year improvements.
However, concerns have been raised over the effectiveness of the programme in raising outcomes for children, as critics say it ignores several areas also in need of support.
The education secretary Gavin Williamson said, ‘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.
‘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.’
- For more about the Opportunity Area (OA) programme read Nursery World’s series. The latest article on OA Ipswich is available here.