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Six new regions added to Opportunity Areas social mobility programme

20/01/2017 Joanna

The government's Opportunity Areas programme, which aims to address social mobility problems through education, is being expanded to six new locations.

Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke have all been identified as social mobility 'coldspots' and will therefore be included in the scheme, which now encompasses a total of 12 different regions.

The Department for Education has increased the total funding for the Opportunity Areas programme to £72 million, with money to be used to support local education providers and communities to address the biggest challenges in each location.

Key goals include ensuring children get the best start in early-years education, while also building teaching and leadership capacity in schools and ensuring youngsters of all backgrounds can progress to university, employment and technical roles by offering them high-quality education, advice and experiences.

Additionally, a £3.5 million scheme has been announced that will see the Education Endowment Foundation establish a research school for each Opportunity Area, which will be responsible for leading the development and dissemination of evidence-led best practice standards among local schools.

This is a necessary step due to the fact that each area has its own specific challenges and priorities, and identifying these is crucial to making sure a tailored approach can be applied in every case.

Education secretary Justine Greening said: "Opportunity Areas will help local children get the best start in life, no matter what their background. Ensuring all children can access high-quality education at every stage is critical.

"We will focus not just on what we can do to help inside schools, but also create the opportunities outside school that will raise sights and broaden horizons for young people."

The first six Opportunity Areas, identified last October, are Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough and West Somerset.

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