An Opportunity Areas progress meeting was today held at the Isle of Ely Primary School. In January 2017, the area of Fenland and East Cambridgeshire was rightly recognised as an area particularly challenged when it comes to social mobility. By designating the area an ‘Opportunity Area’, after much campaigning by local MPs Steve Barclay and Lucy Frazer, £6 million of extra funding has been made available to schools in the locality to improve outcomes.
Lucy Frazer MP, who opened this morning’s meeting, said, “I am delighted by what I’ve heard today. The Opportunity Area programme has the potential to make a real difference and there was a great deal of positive feedback from those involved. Today was a chance for the schools to hear what new opportunities are available to them and for me to hear what the schools feel is and isn’t working.”
Opportunity Areas recently made available two new funds to those schools in its remit. Twenty-five grants of £10,000 to help with the recruitment of teachers in September 2018 as well as ‘evidence based improvement funds’ for up to £25,000 to accelerate the progress of disadvantaged children and young people in the acquisition and development of communication, language and reading. Applications are being welcomed for projects that meet this priority and which demonstrates a strong evidence base for success.
In addition Opportunity Areas schools will now have access to 'Teach First' support. Teach First is a charity that recruits top graduates with the potential to become excellent teachers and future school leaders. The aim of the charity is to confront inequality by developing great teachers to work in low-income areas.
The Opportunity Areas programme focuses on 4 priority areas. These are to accelerate the progress of disadvantaged children and young people in the acquisition and development of communication, language and reading (the specific focus of the recently announced evidence based improvement funds); to strengthen the effectiveness of support for young people with mental health concerns and those with Special Educational Needs; to raise aspiration and increase access for young people 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.