Greening reveals projects in first 6 'opportunity areas'

Independent partnership boards will be set up to boost children’s attainment in six of the government’s ‘opportunity areas’, according to new plans set out by Justine Greening today.

Children in the six areas —  Blackpool, Derby, North Yorkshire, Norwich, Oldham and West Somerset — will also be given at least four ‘encounters’ with the world of work via partnerships with local employers.

The Education Endowment Foundation will also support schools in the areas by sharing best teaching practice, while the National Citizen Service will develop a programme of personal development and volunteering in each area.

Proposals for the first six opportunity areas were first announced at last year’s Conservative party conference.

A further six areas – Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich, and Stoke-on-Trent –  were added in January, with plans for those set to be published by the end of the year.

Greening has said that she wants children living in the areas to “have access to a world-class education”.

“For too long, young people in these areas have been at a disadvantage because of where they are growing up,” she added.

The programme, worth £72 million, aims to improve social mobility and young people’s life opportunities in the twelve areas which are all ranked as ‘cold spots’ in the government’s social mobility index.

The plans unveiled today outline how school leaders, business owners, council leaders and other local partners will form partnership boards in each area to improve children’s attainment.

Major employers, including EDF Energy, GCHQ, Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group, Burberry and Rolls Royce, will provide young people in these areas with work experience opportunities. The Careers and Enterprise Company will lead the programme.

Beyond the EEF and National Citizen Service support, an additional £22 million will also be available for Essential Life Skills programme funding. It will be shared between all 12 of the opportunity areas.

Jim Whittaker, a member of the West Somerset Opportunity Area Partnership Board and Managing Director of Channel Training Ltd, said the plan for his area “represents a unique and exciting move to make a lasting change in our community”.

“The work done, and relationships built, during the project will be making a positive difference here for many years to come,” he said.