Secretary of State for Education visits the Blackpool Opportunity Area

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  • Education Secretary visits St George’s School, A Church of England Academy and Blackpool and The Fylde College
  • Secretary of State meets school and college leaders to discuss the key challenges in the area
  • Over £7m is currently being invested in Blackpool as part of the Opportunities Area programme to support vulnerable children and young families and funding for Essential Life Skills and early speech and language.  

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has today (Thursday 5 March) visited Blackpool to learn more about the work that the Opportunity Area programme is doing to level up opportunities for children and young people in the town.

The Secretary of State began by visiting St George’s School Blackpool who are working with the Opportunity Area programme across a wide range of projects that are providing extra support for early and mid-career teachers, embedding the teaching of literacy across the curriculum and to support the most vulnerable pupils, with a range of needs from speech language and communication to emotional and mental wellbeing.

He then followed this by visiting Blackpool and The Fylde College, who are a key partner along with St Georges School in the delivery of the Blackpool Careers Journey – a joined up offer of support for all children and young people in the town to help them prepare for work.

Over £7m is being currently invested in Blackpool as part of the Opportunity Area programme and for Essential Life Skills and early speech and language.  The programme is working in three priority areas of raising attainment and progress in Blackpool schools, providing support for vulnerable young people and families to improve attendance and reduce exclusions from school and improving advice and support for young people when moving between schools/colleges and into work.

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “It was fantastic to get back to Blackpool today to see how we are raising the bar for young people living here, by investing in excellent teachers and improving education standards in key skills like literacy.

“Every child, in every part of the country, should have a fair chance – that’s why we are levelling up funding to make sure all schools can deliver a high quality education.

“We have also have recently announced an extra £18 million to extend the Opportunity Area programme, helping to cement the great work already being done to help Blackpool’s young people reach their full potential.”

Chair of the Blackpool Opportunity Area Partnership Board, Graham Cowley, said: “Blackpool welcomes the visit by the SoS to review our Opportunity Area activities.  All our partner organisations are proud to be collaborating to improve life chances for all our young people, supporting them to access the world of work and to thrive within it.

“Continuing Government support for the Opportunity Area programme inspires confidence in partners to continue to drive towards longer-term aspirations for our community.”

Graham Warnock, Headteacher at St George’s, said: “The staff at St George’s love working in the Academy.  Our high expectations and approach to discipline has created a calm, harmonious and purposeful environment where young people thrive socially and fulfil their academic potential.

“We have seen the difference caring discipline makes and I was pleased with the Government’s behaviour hub initiative announced earlier this week. It was fantastic for the Secretary of State to have the opportunity to visit this wonderful Academy and see first hand the transformation this approach is having at St George’s and the positive benefits and outcomes for our pupils”

Bev Robinson OBE, Principal and Chief Executive of Blackpool and The Fylde College, said: “Fundamental to the levelling up agenda, is the investment in technical and professional education and training aligned to the needs of the economy.

“Blackpool and The Fylde College is recognised as a leading provider in this space, working with employer partners to co-create learning opportunities leading to sustainable, vibrant careers. We welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate outstanding technical and professional education in practice to the Secretary of State and for students to share their success stories with him.”

The programme has been operating in 12 Opportunity Areas across the country – Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, North Yorkshire Coast, West Somerset, Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent.

Areas were chosen because they face some of the most entrenched obstacles to social mobility and were set up to improve outcomes and increase opportunities for all young people in these areas.

Across all the Opportunity Areas around 60,000 young people have also been given the chance to develop life skills like resilience, teamwork, problem-solving, confidence and leadership thanks to a share of the £22 million Essential Life Skills programme.

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