£18m extension to Opportunity Area programme

Young people in some of the most disadvantaged parts of England are set to benefit from an extra £18 million investment in the government’s Opportunity Area programme.

Building on improvements in educational outcomes, careers advice and attracting teachers, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that the government’s Opportunity Areas programme will be extended for an additional year, building on its success so far in areas of the country.

The programme has been operating in 12 Opportunity Areas across the country, 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.

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

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.”