A year ago, in January 2017, East Cambridgeshire and Fenland was announced as a designated ‘Opportunity Area’. This meant, that after much campaigning by myself and fellow MP Steve Barclay our area was rightly recognised as an area particularly challenged when it comes to social mobility and consequently in need of extra funding to help address these challenges.
As one of only 12 ‘Opportunity Areas’, East Cambridgeshire and Fenland is set to receive £6 million extra funding over three years and priority access to other Department for Education support including the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund worth £75 million.
Representatives from the East Cambridgeshire and Fenland education sector, together with those from the Department of Education, met last March to discuss how the extra funding could be put to best use. A plan was then drafted and put to the Secretary of State for Education for approval. This plan has now been approved and tells us what the Opportunity Areas programme is going to deliver locally.
The plan focuses on 4 areas of priority. To accelerate the progress of disadvantaged children in communication, language and reading; to strengthen support for young people with mental health concerns and Special Educational Needs; to raise aspiration and increase access to a wide range of career choices and post-16 routes and to recruit, develop and retain the best leaders and teachers in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire.
This really is an opportunity to make a real difference and improve outcomes for young people in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire. It is also an opportunity for businesses, based locally and across Cambridge, to engage with schools in these areas to provide much needed career opportunities and, as I have advocated before, to work with the schools to develop aspirational, skilled young adults who will be an asset to their business.
The responsibility to engage does not just stop with businesses, it is there for individuals too. Whatever role we play interacting with our youth whether a potential employer, a parent, a teacher, a counsellor, a babysitter, we all have an opportunity to support and inspire them, to help guide them through the challenges they will face as they become young adults. This government funding is a great boost and will help improve and increase opportunities but it doesn’t take away the onus on all of us to make a positive difference too.