Opportunity Area needed in North East

Education Secretary Justine Greening
Education Secretary Justine Greening

The Education Secretary has been urged to take swift steps to include the North East in a £72million schools improvement programme from which it was previously excluded.

SCHOOLS NorthEast, a network of 1,250 schools across the region, has campaigned for the Department of Education (DfE) to include the area in the flagship Opportunity Areas scheme which attracts significant funding and resources.

Education Secretary Justine Greening opened the door on the possibility of an Opportunity Area being developed in the region during questioning at the Teach First Impact Conference.

She said: “(I am) as passionate as the audience are about the North East and I’m especially concerned about social mobility in that region. I hope that the North East will be added to the list.”

The 12 Opportunity Areas were announced by Ms Greening in October 2016 with their aim being to provide extra investment and support to schools in areas identified by the Government’s Social Mobility Index as having low levels of social mobility.

Mike Parker, director of SCHOOLS NorthEast, said: “The absence of an Opportunity Area in the North East was a huge oversight by the DfE when the initial 12 were announced.

“It places the region at a disadvantage not to be part of this flagship programme of work and we need Justine Greening to prioritise rectifying this immediately.”

SCHOOLS NorthEast also welcomed last week’s announcement that Northumberland has been chosen as an area piloting a new teacher student loan forgiveness scheme to support recruitment and retention of teaching talent.