Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area has been awarded a further £1.39m to help children and young people’s learning and development in the wake of the pandemic.
The funding boost, announced today by the Department for Education, is part of 18m funding to extend the work of the Opportunity Area for a fifth consecutive year and will focus on getting young children ‘school ready’, improving results in English, Maths and Science and catch up on lost learning during the 2021/22 academic year.
Another priority is reducing the number of young people not in education, employment or training and addressing their social, emotional and mental health needs.
Ensuring every child has access to the high-quality education and support they deserve is a key part of the government’s levelling up agenda. The Prime Minister has today set out his renewed commitment to ensuring opportunity is spread equally throughout the country and has endorsed the Opportunity Areas programme as a key part of this.
Opportunity Areas Minister Michelle Donelan said:
“Opportunity Areas have been making a real difference in levelling up the outcomes for children and young people in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the country, from early years into employment. We have seen this difference in the rising standards in key subjects like maths and phonics, in how the targeted support available is boosting young people’s confidence to succeed and in how each area was able to adapt to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have seen first-hand how the dedication and commitment of people on the ground in these areas is driving school improvement and removing the barriers to success. This funding will enable them to continue this important work, help sustain long-term improvements and outcomes, support even more children and young people, and level up standards across England.”
Welcoming the additional funding, Opportunity Area Co-Chair Professor Liz Barnes CBE DL said: “This has been an incredibly disruptive year for children and young people and their learning and development. We know that areas like Stoke-on-Trent have been hit hardest.”
“This additional funding will address a number of issues experienced as a result of the pandemic, ranging from support for children needing speech therapy, “catch up” activity for pupils who have missed out on their learning, and support for young people who are struggling with their mental health.”
English, Maths and Science initiatives delivered through: the English Excellence Partnership, Maths Excellence Partnerships, and Science Across the City, will benefit from additional funding which will be used to support transition to secondary schools and address “learning loss” suffered through the pandemic.
Targeted maths support will be made available to primary schools most in need and lead science teachers will be developed to build capacity in the subject and help embed science learning communities.
Councillor Janine Bridges, cabinet member for the economy and education at Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “I welcome an extension as the Opportunity Area programme provides a real opportunity to make a difference to the lives of children and young people. In recent years we have made a strong investment in education and there has been a drive across the city to improve the number of good and outstanding schools, this is something we are passionate about and hope to continue.”
Further support will target 16 – 19 year olds, part of which will allow them to catch up following the pandemic and provide employability support and opportunities, in a bid to reduce the numbers of young people not in education employment or training.
At the same time OA funding will be used to create a network of trained Emotional Wellbeing Advisers to work in sixth forms and colleges and offer early intervention mental health support for Year 10’s and 11’s whose transition has been impacted by COVID-19.
The Football Mentoring Project launched earlier this year also receives a boost. Through the scheme, young people hit hardest by the pandemic are being offered mental health and wellbeing support by Stoke City FC, Port Vale FC and Staffordshire University to help them stay engaged in education so they can catch up on lost learning and raise their aspirations.