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Opportunity Areas

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New Opportunity Areas across England will receive £60m of funding to help local children get the best start in life.  

Six areas, identified as the most challenged when it comes to social mobility, will have access to funding to address the biggest challenges they face. 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.

Following the announcement, a number of organisations have expressed their support.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:

A great education for young people shapes rewarding lives and careers. It is the biggest single driver of our national and local prosperity.


The current regional variations in education performance across England damage the future prospects of too many school leavers. The CBI and businesses warmly welcome the invitation to work side-by-side with the government and charities. Opportunity Areas present a new way for companies to support the hard work schools and individual teachers are putting in to inspire, educate and develop our next generation. The CBI will bring together businesses in each of these areas to find new solutions that work for all communities.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

This initiative presents a real chance to boost the employment prospects of those young people in England who are most in need of support.


Small businesses have a significant role to play in providing young people with the right opportunities. Half of our members already employ at least one apprentice or would consider taking one on in the future, yet only a quarter say they have a relationship with their local school or college. This needs to change if we are to see a step-change in social mobility.


By targeting investment in these communities on young people’s future employability, we hope that young people will receive the right advice at the right time, and get the experience they need to develop and fulfil their true potential.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

The Education Secretary is right to recognise that a young person’s chance of getting on in life is affected by where they live.


Overall social mobility in Britain is low. Also there are certain areas where it is extremely low – so called opportunity black spots. So, I welcome the Education Secretary’s plans for Opportunity Areas. They will bring extra focus and resources to areas where disadvantaged young people find it a struggle to get on.

Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

The creation of Opportunity Areas is an important step in addressing the shameful link between where a young person grows up and their educational achievements.


If all schools are to produce great results for all their pupils, we must look to evidence of what has worked elsewhere to judge how to spend this important new resource. It’s vital that we learn from the successes of the best-performing schools and enable this to be shared in a supportive and constructive way with those who need more help.


We plan to work with the new ‘Opportunity Areas’ to continue to support schools and young people from disadvantaged homes.

Sophie Livingstone, Chief Executive of City Year UK, said:

It’s fantastic to see the Secretary of State for Education focusing on tackling social mobility and she’s right to put the voluntary sector at the heart of that approach. We’re excited about the opportunity to work her on this agenda. Young people have a big role to play in tackling social mobility through stepping up to full-time volunteering opportunities as mentors and role models. We believe that the support should be in place to recognise their commitment to give back and enable more young people to play their part to change the outcomes for children growing up in our toughest areas.

Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, said:

There is a new geography of disadvantage in Britain - where the chances of a child doing well in life depends massively on where they come from, rather than where they aspire to get to.


If social mobility is to take off, much more needs to be done to create a level playing field of opportunity in our country. That requires action in the labour market, in regional policy and in education.  The initiative by the Education Secretary to create opportunity areas in some of the social mobility ‘cold spots’ identified by the Commission’s Social Mobility Index is a welcome step.


We hope that local communities in these areas will work closely with the Government to ensure that future progress in life depends on an individual’s aptitude and ability, not background and birth.

The National Citizen Service (NCS) said:

NCS exists to give young people from all backgrounds the chance to build crucial skills for life and work. Over 275,000 teenagers have taken part in the programme since 2011, thanks to the energy and expertise of local organisations in communities up and down the country. We welcome the Government's place-based approach to social mobility and we look forward to working with a wide range of partners in the voluntary sector to find new ways to transform life chances in Britain.

Rachel de Souza, Chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, said:

Norwich can feel like a prosperous place but there are areas of the city that are missing out, where young people don't get the chances they deserve. We need new ideas to fix that. We welcome this initiative and look forward to deepening our partnerships with early years, further education, and higher education to help all Norfolk families get on in life.

Bev Robinson, Blackpool and Fylde College, said:

I welcome today’s announcement from Justine Greening about investment in opportunity areas, specifically the involvement of outstanding Further Education colleges such as Blackpool and The Fylde and more importantly the inclusion of representatives from across the local education and training system.

Moor End Multi Academies Trust said:

Moor End Multi Academies Trust is delighted that Oldham has been named as one of the first six Opportunity Areas.  As a sponsor new to the area, we are very optimistic about working with our academies to significantly improve the life chances of children at Waterhead and Stoneleigh Academies.


This national initiative can only support our key aims of working in partnership with wider groups, in ensuring social mobility and equality for all children and young people, regardless of their starting points.

Helen Arya, Executive Principal of Oasis Academy Limeside, Oldham, said:

As one of the few National Teaching Schools serving an area of high deprivation, we would welcome any initiative, which increases social mobility. We have always considered life for our children as a challenging journey through many phases, a journey which is smoother and more successful if everyone works together with the same premise and relentless insistence on quality provision with high expectations for all. Through this kind of cooperation, less precious time is wasted at times of transition or through negotiating the different systems employed by various agencies.


The challenges communities like ours face are too complex to be solved by isolated institutions. It is only by working together with a shared vision, that we can build sustainable social capital and thus promote the ambition, achievement and belief needed for true social mobility and equality of opportunities. This is particularly the case in a time of austerity with scarce resources. For our communities every second and every penny must count.

Oasis Community Learning, Oldham, said:

At Oasis we are very proud to have been serving communities in Oldham since 2010 when we opened our secondary school Oasis Academy Oldham and our primary school Oasis Academy Limeside – our outstanding National Teaching School that plays a pivotal role within our Trust.


As part of our long-term commitment to our young people and their families we prioritise not only raising the pupils’ aspirations and delivering the exceptional education they deserve, but also providing diverse and integrated services in the local area through our community hubs.  As such we are excited to learn that the Government has chosen Oldham as one of the first six Opportunity Areas, and we look forward to finding out more about the strategy and how it will support the communities in which we work.

The Co-Operative Academies Trust, Oldham, said:

The Co-Operative Academies Trust is delighted to see the government identifying Oldham as one of its first Opportunity Areas. We have begun to work closely with Failsworth High School and we expect them to join our trust in early 2017. Our trust is committed to co-operative solutions in our communities so we welcome the additional support the government’s initiative can offer.

Sue Robb, Head of Early Years at Action for Children, said:

I welcome the Government’s recognition that the early years is the key foundation for a life course approach to supporting social mobility and children’s futures. A place-based approach will allow a focus on local issues, solutions and partnerships that will help to deliver change and improvement on the ground.

Professor Toby Salt, CEO of Ormiston Academies Trust said:

As a Trust committed to enabling social mobility in often quite isolated communities, we welcome a localised approach that recognises the context schools operate in.


Progress is being made across our academies in Norfolk and beyond, but today's announcement will provide an additional boost. Education is the greatest social equaliser.

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