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Headteachers, councillors, experts and business leaders welcome new Opportunity Areas

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Today, Wednesday 18 January, Education Secretary Justine Greening, announced six further Opportunity Areas across England, targeting social mobility ‘coldspots’ through education.

The Opportunity Areas programme has now been expanded to twelve locations, adding Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland & East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich, and Stoke.

Headteachers, business leaders, councillors and others have welcomed the announcement:

Brett Wigdortz OBE, Founder & CEO of Teach First, said:

Every child, wherever they are born, deserves a brilliant education and fair start in life. We’re delighted the Department for Education is expanding their opportunity areas, by investing in a further six communities that have for too long been left behind.


This is a welcome step in helping to transform young people’s lives. We know from experience it’s only when schools, businesses, local communities and government work together that a real and lasting change can be made.


I’m proud that Teach First already works in schools in many of these communities and we look forward to working closely with the government to increase the attainment and unlock the aspirations of pupils from all backgrounds.

Dave Hill, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said:

Additional support and investment for disadvantaged areas is a positive thing and we welcome the Department for Education working together with local authorities and others to achieve change. We must maintain a relentless focus on improving outcomes for children and young people at all times to ensure that this initiative helps them to achieve their full potential.

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

Improving educational standards in ‘coldspots’ is one of the biggest challenges we face in our drive to improve social mobility. While evidence of ‘what works’ is one of our most useful tools to do this, we know that research on its own is not enough to make a difference in the classroom.


Our new Research Schools will use their own expertise and experiences to provide strong leadership and guidance to schools in each Opportunity Area, supporting their colleagues to use research to improve pupil outcomes. No-one is better-placed to support schools in doing this than teachers themselves.

Andrew Warren, Chair of the Teaching Schools Council, said:

The Teaching Schools Council welcomes the expansion of Opportunity Areas and the positive impact that we believe these programmes can and will have, both in the short and longer term.  This initiative is completely in keeping with our vision that every child goes to a great school: every child, whatever their background, whatever their postcode.  We look forward to working with schools, RSCs, MATs, LAs and other partners to play our part in this exciting opportunity.


Paul Tarn, CEO of the DELTA Academies Trust, said:

I am delighted that the Secretary of State is taking direct action to change outcomes for children in Doncaster. This strategic focus to drive change and greater social mobility will play a key role in transforming outcomes in the town’s most challenging schools. This initiative is the catalyst needed to drive up standards and it is key to ensuring that young people have the education and skills to take advantage of the significant regional investments made by employers, thus driving economic growth and regeneration.

Martin Harrison, Principal & Chief Executive of Dearne Valley College, said:

I welcome the opportunity for the young people in Doncaster to have the opportunity to reach their full potential.  Our young people are no less bright than others in the country and it is important that they have the best start in life through education and training to develop their life skills so that they can all be successful.

Rachel Davies, Interim Principal and Chief Executive of Doncaster College and University Centre, said:

Doncaster College welcomes the extension of Opportunity Funding to Doncaster.  This will assist a new Local Partnership to work collectively to raise educational aspirations and outcomes, which will benefit the ambitions and employment opportunities of Doncaster’s young people.


I welcome the opportunity for the young people in Doncaster to have the opportunity to reach their full potential.  Our young people are no less brighter than others in the country and it is important that they have the best start in life through education and training to develop their life skills so that they can all be successful.

Julia Muir, CEO of Gaia Innovation, said:

As a South Yorkshire employer I welcome this much needed extra funding to support the young people of Doncaster and improve levels of social mobility. As a volunteer Careers and Enterprise Adviser for Trinity Academy Thorne near Doncaster, I have learned first hand of the significant challenges faced by schools in Doncaster and across South Yorkshire, and I urge all employers to take action to assist schools in their local communities to fight disengagement, raise aspirations, improve attainment levels and secure great destination outcomes for every single child.


Sir Nick Weller, CEO, Dixons Academy Trust, said:

I very much welcome the expansion of Opportunity Areas, and am especially pleased to see that not just Bradford but the North more widely is being very well supported.  I hope this additional resource can be put to good use, especially in attracting more of the best quality teachers and leaders into the area.  We need people who are committed to tackling educational and social disadvantage, to ensuring that all children get the education they deserve, and to improving social mobility for the next generation of young adults in our city.

Hamid Patel CBE, Chief Executive of Tauheedul Education Trust (TET), said:

Tauheedul is a high-performing sponsor that was chosen by the Government to establish a Bradford-based hub of academies.  We already sponsor two academies in the city and are dedicated to ensuring that all our students achieve their potential.


As a Trust, we have always had a strong commitment to improving social mobility through education, so we were delighted when the Education Secretary's new Opportunity Areas were launched.  They offer a real opportunity to make a difference to the life chances of young people in the most deprived parts of the country and we are looking forward to playing our part.

Heather Whitehead, Director of Operations and Curriculum, Keighley College, said:

Keighley College – part of the Leeds City College group – serves a large student body drawn from a wide cross-section of Bradford and surrounding areas. We are therefore delighted that Bradford is one of the latest Opportunity Areas identified by the government.


The Opportunity Area programme marries perfectly with the College’s mission to provide life-changing education, skills and experiences for individuals, businesses and communities.  We are in no doubt that this new support package will further enhance the opportunities for our students including access to higher education and technical pathways into employment.

Duncan Jacques, CEO of Exceed Academies Trust, Exceed Teaching Schools Alliance and Exceed SCITT, said:

Exceed Academies Trust, The Exceed Teaching Schools Alliance and Exceed SCITT welcome the news that Bradford has been identified as one of the new 'Opportunity Areas'. As an organisation working within one of the most economically challenged areas in the country and with some of the most disadvantaged communities we have understood for many years, that for many of the children we work with, securing a quality education is one of the few ways that they can break the cycle of entrenched poverty.


The communities we serve have high aspirations for themselves and for their children but very often need additional support to level the playing field. The opportunity area status and the additional funding it brings coupled with a Nationally recognised focus and the further collaboration between agencies should help to ensure that we give the young people of Bradford a helping hand on the journey to success.

David Horn, Headteacher of  Beckfoot School, said:


The Beckfoot Trust welcomes the news that Bradford has been identified as an 'Opportunity Area' by the Government.


In all of our schools we are seeking to create remarkable learning environments. Schools where every student develops a love for learning and a belief they can achieve great things.
This initiative will encourage schools, colleges and business to learn from one another, celebrate great practice and most importantly provide students with the confidence to know that they can translate potential into genuine achievement.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council, said:

I’m delighted to see the announcement today.  We made a strong case to Government for more investment in teaching and learning in Bradford.  I went  to see the Education Minister personally last month to talk about Bradford and how important it is to support our children to achieve here. Our MPs have also been active on this issue for Bradford. Education is a top priority for us.


We are the youngest city in the UK with nearly 25% of our population under the age of 16.  Situated right in the heart of the north of England, it’s vital for Bradford’s young people to be successful if the north is to be successful.

Coun Imran Khan, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Education, Employment and Skills, said:

It’s excellent news that Bradford District has been named as an Opportunity Area and is set to benefit from this funding package. Bradford certainly is an area of opportunity in every sense and I’m glad on this occasion that the Government has recognised this with this investment.  We will work with the schools and the Regional Schools Commissioner to make sure the best use is made of this precious resource.

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said:

Initiatives such as the Opportunity Areas programme help prioritise people and places with the greatest potential and Bradford being involved in the programme is a welcome addition to the social mobility activity already being delivered in the Leeds City Region. Our Enterprise Adviser programme is already working with schools and business leaders to share intelligence and advice about careers and inform teachers about the opportunities available to their students and has already connected with 130 secondary schools and 95 businesses.


We know there is still more to do and look forward to progressing this work with the government to further address some of the local challenges and eliminate the skills gaps and shortages that are a barrier to growth in the City Region.

Fenland and East Cambridgeshire

Dr Nikos Savvas, Principal and Chief Executive, West Suffolk College, said:

Fenland and East Cambridgeshire is a wonderful place with job opportunities more plentiful than ever. However we are particularly aware of the struggles our young people face when accessing the education and progression opportunities they deserve.


We are delighted with today’s announcement which can capitalise on the strong education network of our outstanding further education colleges. It will support early years, schools, colleges, universities and businesses, to collaborate in providing broad and consistent provision of the highest standard right across the region, and help all our learners fulfil their goals.

Gary Peile, CEO of The Active Learning Trust, said:

I welcome today’s announcement from the Secretary of State that Fenland and Ipswich have been identified as two of the additional Opportunity Areas. The Active Learning Trust sponsors schools in both areas, providing educational opportunities for pupils aged between two and 19. We place the utmost importance on developing links with the local community, specifically parties who share our determination to improve the life chances of young people. We therefore hope that this additional funding and focus will make a real difference to outcomes for young people in Fenland and in Ipswich.


Mark Pendlington, chair, New Anglia LEP, said:

Today's announcement is yet another boost to providing the life opportunities that young people here in the East both need and deserve.


The new opportunity area for Ipswich is a real vote of confidence in the town and the transformation so many people are working to achieve across all areas of the community and economy.


This is a real call to action to release the potential in the next generation, and today New Anglia LEP commits to working even harder with leaders from business, education, local authorities and the community to make it happen.

Sir Steve Lancashire, CEO and Founder of Reach2 Academy Trust, said:

We are delighted that Ipswich has been identified as a new Opportunity Area. As a trust that specialises in providing exceptional opportunities for learning in some of the most challenged parts of the country, it is welcome indeed that the Government is explicitly recognising and prioritising areas of the country where social mobility is at risk of stagnation.


We have six schools in the region, and look forward to seeing the difference that this concerted effort will make, complementing the work that we do to provide a world-class education to each and every child in our care.


Carl Ward, Chief Executive, City Learning Trust, said:

I am delighted that the government has announced the establishment of 6 further opportunity areas and very pleased that Stoke on Trent has been chosen to become one of them.  The benefits from the joined up thinking such an approach can provide, and the extra funding that will be available to promote social mobility, support schools and links with employers will be significant for the young people, employers and communities in these areas.


My experience of working with the Derby opportunity area planning group tells me that this provides a fantastic moment for partners to work together to create the synergy and momentum that committed partnership working generates so that standards and outcomes are further improved.

Toby Salt, Chief Executive of Ormiston Academies Trust, said:

We welcome the expansion of Opportunity Areas.  Ormiston Academies Trust has already seen the positive impact that the programme is having in Norwich and we look forward to actively engaging through our academies in Stoke on Trent and Ipswich to forge new collaborations and build on existing social mobility initiatives.


Professor Chris Pole, Chair of the Hastings Academies Trust Board of Directors, and Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Brighton, said:

The Hastings Academies Trust, and our sponsor, the University of Brighton, have been working since 2008 to improve the educational opportunities, progression and aspirations of children and young people in Hastings and St Leonards.
We are very pleased to learn that the area has been identified as one of the Department for Education’s shortlisted opportunity areas. As a family of nine academies supporting nursery, infant, primary and secondary provision, including the first National Teaching School in the area and with strong links to the local college and university, we are passionate about working collaboratively to raise standards in education and enable young people to meet their full potential.

Lesley Gannon, Chief Executive Officer, Diocese of Chichester Academy Trust, said:

We welcome the announcement that Hastings is to be shortlisted as an Opportunity Area.


The Diocese of Chichester Academy Trust is proud to support a number of academies in the Hastings area and is committed to working with partners to improve the life-chances of the children and young people in our community.


Investment of this kind will help support new opportunities for collaboration and development and hopefully ensure that more young people are able to maximise their potential.

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