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Six £60m social mobility pilots ‘must focus on graduate-led workforce’

Six areas identified as the most challenged when it comes to social mobility will form partnerships with councils, schools, early years providers, colleges, universities, businesses and charities to tackle childhood disadvantages, education secretary Justine Greening MP has announced.

Speaking yesterday at the Conservative Party conference, Greening said the six areas – West Somerset, Norwich, Blackpool, Scarborough, Derby and Oldham – have been identified as ‘social mobility coldspots’, where “education attainment was poor and where job prospects were poor”.

These areas will be handed a new £60m government grant to address the biggest challenges they face, including by building young people’s knowledge and skills and providing them with development opportunities – such as working with organisations such as the National Citizen Advice and the Confederation of British Industry.

If the trials in the six areas are successful, it is expected that the scheme will be rolled out nationally.

“I talked about our education system needing to give children and young people three things: knowledge and skills, the right advice and great life experiences,” Greening said. “Opportunity Areas will have an extra push on all of these.”

The overall package includes a teaching and leadership innovation fund, which focuses on supporting teachers and school leaders in challenging areas to develop. This will allow the DfE to target its programmes on early years in order to build teaching and leadership capacity in schools and strengthen technical pathways for youngsters.

Three of the six areas – Derby, Scarborough and West Somerset – will also be able to benefit from successful bids for the National Collaborative Outreach Programme, which will help “raise aspirations” for disadvantaged children through summer schools, school visits and academic mentoring.

Megan Jarvie, head of policy and public affairs at the Family and Childcare Trust, said the £60m funding package was welcome, since the early years are “vital in setting children up to achieve at school and beyond and improving social mobility”.

But she emphasised that there must be a focus on using the new funds to develop a graduate-led early years workforce “to deliver high-quality early education to children”.

“Evidence shows that early years graduates have a significant impact on the quality of early years education and that only high quality early education helps to improve children’s outcomes,” Jarvie added.

“However, we know that England’s early years workforce has a low proportion of graduates compared to other developed nations – some 43% of three and four year olds in private and not-profit day nurseries and 60% in pre-schools did not have a graduate working with them in 2015.”

(Top image c. Isabel Infantes, EMPICS Entertainment)


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