£18m extension to Opportunity Area programme

£18 million announced to extend the Opportunity Area programme to support social mobility in some of the most disadvantaged areas.

Receiving Help In Lessons

Young people in some of the most disadvantaged parts of England are set to benefit from an extra £18 million investment to build on improvements in educational outcomes, careers advice and attracting teachers.

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has today announced the Government’s Opportunity Areas (OA) programme will be extended for an additional year, building on its success so far in areas of the country where children have for too long been left behind.

The programme is also showing impact in a wide range of areas from early years education to employment, following an initial £72 million boost for interventions across literacy, maths, attendance, teacher training and recruitment, post-16 options and careers advice since its launch in 2017.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I grew up in Scarborough, now part of the North Yorkshire Coast Opportunity Area, and having returned recently for a visit I’ve seen for myself the progress being made and the difference it is making to young people living there.

“Ability is evenly spread across the country, but opportunity isn’t. We’re determined to put right the wrongs of places left behind and see the Opportunity Area programme grow – helping local leaders and schools to tackle some of the greatest challenges young people face.

“It’s not just about what happens now in these 12 areas but the impact these projects will have on future generations and paving the way for them to overcome obstacles to success.”

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.

Today’s funding extends the programme into a fourth year, which will run until August 2021, to help sustain long term improvements and outcomes.

Elle UK editor Farrah Storr offers work experience for college students

B&FC students with FarrahImage credit: Nadine Ellis

Talented students are competing to swap Blackpool’s bright lights for city skyscrapers – and work alongside one of the UK’s biggest names in journalism.

Farrah Storr, editor-in-chief of Elle UK, revealed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity while visiting Blackpool and The Fylde College’s University Centre this week. Students now have to write a report for a competition to win the London trip.

Salford-born Farrah was in Blackpool to share her career experiences with a masterclass for students on telling their story.

Her visit was part of a north west tour with the Social Mobility Commission to look at improving opportunities for young people living in some of the most deprived areas of the country.

Blackpool is one of 12 Opportunity Areas identified by the Department for Education to improve education standards and help youngsters achieve their potential. 

Farrah’s inspirational talk provided the students with an opportunity to learn about the world of journalism and what it takes to succeed.

She explained: “Growing up in Salford, I never thought a career in journalism was a possibility.

“The creative industries have always been so heavily weighted in London that coming from the north west felt like an enormous disadvantage.

“While it’s true that I had to move away to become a journalist I don’t believe geography is still the enormous barrier it once was.

“To get a break today you need super sharp ideas as well as the knowledge of where to look for true opportunity.”

Cllr Kath Benson, Blackpool Council Cabinet Member for Schools, Education and Aspiration, said: “Farrah’s visit is a great example of how important ambition and aspiration are and what it takes to be successful in the workplace.

“Alongside the Blackpool Opportunity Area, we work very hard to challenge the expectations about the town and raise aspirations of children, young people and families.

“Improving the life chances of the town’s children and young people is fundamental to the future of Blackpool.”

Holiday activities summer success

During the summer holidays, Blackpool families had access to activities and healthy food at five areas in the town.

As school holidays can be a challenging time for families, especially for those who rely on free school meals, the Blackpool Opportunity Area funded free activities and food for local children and young people.

Evidence suggests that attending extracurricular activities can have a positive impact on children’s educational, health and wellbeing outcomes. Co-ordinated by the Public Health team at Blackpool Council, the pilot scheme aimed to help families access these opportunities during the summer holidays.

The summer programme was on offer at Claremont, Revoe, Mereside and Talbot and Brunswick children’s centres, as well as the community hub for Grange Park, @theGrange.

Working with partners ranging from Sport Blackpool, Blackpool FC Community Trust and the youth facility, the Magic Club, and many more, children and their families had the opportunity to socialise, get active together, and learn new skills as well as having access to healthy and nutritious food.

The project was aimed at five of the most deprived areas in Blackpool in a bid to target children and young people that are disadvantaged, and vulnerable to exclusion and absence.

The sessions were well attended and feedback suggests that families enjoyed taking part in the range of activities which included sport, dance, arts, crafts and drama.

Collage of summer images_page-0001

Building confidence   

The five areas offered the same programme of activities, whereas the Boat House provided a bespoke programme which consisted of residential experiences.

A group of 30 youngsters from the Boat House took part in a street dance project during the summer, which focused on some of the issues facing young people in Blackpool.  These included homelessness, child exploitation, crime and gang culture

Through dance, song and visual theatre, the young people (some of whom were funded from the OA) were able to experience the consequences of these issues as well as learn how to recognise the signs and find alternatives.

Another group of young people from the Boathouse enjoyed a series of day trips and activities throughout the summer. Part funded by the OA, the group visited Sandcastle Waterpark, the Blackpool Tower Circus and the Adventure Dock in Liverpool.

The youngsters faced their fears of water and heights. One of the young participants, Josh, has a phobia of water. Whilst at the Adventure Dock he fell in and panicked. After being helped out by staff, he carried on enjoying himself – so much so that he decided to jump in from the 15ft diving platform into the water.

He said: “When I first fell in I was really scared but the leaders helped me realise that there was nothing to be frightened of because I had my buoyancy aid on. I fell in a few more times before I did the jump and that boosted my confidence.

“Then, there I was at the top of the diving platform with all my friends jumping in and egging me on to do the same. I just did it and loved it.”

Primary aspirations

Schoolchildren from Anchorsholme Academy have been telling us about their experience of school and what they want to be when they are older.

The year six pupils talked about their hopes for the future and why school is important.

We want children to dream big, have ambition and go as far as their talents will take them.

Watch the video below!  

Transition Week success

And that’s a wrap!

After spending the week at different high schools across Blackpool, it was easy to see how much hard work and effort had gone into organising the five days of introductory lessons and activities for year 6 pupils.

From poetry sessions, history lessons and creative arts to circus skills, flame tests and water rockets, the pupils sampled a range of taster activities at their prospective secondary schools.


Initial feedback from both pupils and teachers suggests that the taster week has been a big success.

Pupils enjoyed the opportunity to familiarise themselves with daily life at their new school, make new friends and start to learn their way around the building. After feeling nervous and overwhelmed at the start of the week, many pupils grew in confidence once they had met their teachers and explored their new surroundings.

The well-planned visits, events and activities will help primary school pupils transition confidently to high school. The coordination between the primary and high schools has been key to the smooth running of events this week, ensuring that the year six pupils can prepare for their new milestone.

Well done to everyone involved!

Transition Week continues

High schools across Blackpool are continuing their timetable of activities and introductory lessons for year 6 pupils today.

Over the course of this week, pupils have been taking part in a selection of taster lessons to enable them to familiarise themselves with daily life at their prospective secondary school.

Transition week is designed for all students to get to know their new classmates and explore their new environment. The induction process enables the year 6 pupils to feel confident about the new routines and ready to start their journey at high school.

As secondary schools can be a daunting experience for some, earlier this week we asked a couple of students for their thoughts on the week ahead at Highfield Leadership Academy.

Urooj - Highfield

Urooj, 11, from Revoe Learning Academy, said: “I felt a bit scared when I got up this morning and was nervous as I didn’t know what to expect.

“I feel more relaxed now that I’m here. I am enjoying moving around the classrooms and exploring the school. I am looking forward to making friends this week.”

Levi - Highfield

Levi, 11, from Baines’ Endowed said: “I don’t really feel nervous about the move to high school. I am ready for it.

“There’s a big difference in size from my school to this one so I’m looking forward to finding my way around.

“I am most excited about doing PE and making friends as I’m the only one from my school coming here.”