The government has announced the setting up of the first six new ‘opportunity areas’ to help young people from nursery right through to starting work. The press release states that “the 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”.
Pearson’s Policy Eye commented that “Opportunity Areas are the latest attempt to coral activity and resources and target them on a particular part of the country suffering from social and educational problems. Previous incarnations have ranged from Education Action Zones nearly 14 years ago to Achieving Excellence Areas in this year’s White Paper”.
The selected areas are: West Somerset, Norwich, Blackpool, Scarborough, Derby and Oldham. Later, the programme will be widened out to other parts of the country.
The initiative has a budget of £60 million for ten areas in total although the announcement does not make clear the time frames and conditions relating to the funding. The DfE is clearly looking to achieve synergy between this latest initiative and existing social mobility ones. It expects that “opportunity areas will see local partnerships formed with early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and local authorities to ensure all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential”. Opportunity areas will also be able to access the teaching and leadership innovation fund which has a 3-year budget of £75 million to support the development of teachers and school leaders in challenging areas. Derby, Scarborough and West Somerset will also receive funding from the National Collaborative Outreach Programme to raise aspirations for disadvantaged children through summer schools, organising school visits and providing academic mentoring.