Why have you chosen these areas?
The areas chosen were amongst the weakest in both the Social Mobility Commission’s index 2016 and the Department for Education (DfE)’s data on school standards and capacity to improve. The areas also represent a wide geographic spread and take into account the different challenges faced by coastal, rural and urban areas: which will help us to build a strong evidence base on what works in a wide range of varied settings.
All 12 areas selected were amongst the weakest both in terms of the Social Mobility Index 2016 (see 1 below), and in terms of their school system’s capacity to improve while continuing to accommodate more children (see 2 below).
Alongside the 6 OA action plans, we have published the methodology for how we chose the areas.
Why don’t you have any Opportunity Areas in the North East?
The 12 areas chosen were amongst the weakest in both the 2016 Social Mobility Commission’s index and the DfE’s data on school standards and capacity to improve. No districts in the north east were in the weakest sextile of the 2016 Social Mobility Index so none met the original criteria. We will keep this under review as the programme develops.
Whose plans are these? Who is responsible for delivering them? Isn’t this just a further burden on local areas and schools?
This is a shared mission, with the DfE and local partners working together to achieve transformational change over the coming years.
Each OA has a local partnership board, headed by an experienced independent chair and supported by a DfE head of delivery. This board will engage a range of stakeholders across their area, from schools, further education, businesses and beyond to ensure a tailored and localised approach to delivering priorities. We are funding a local programme manager in each OA to ensure that this is not an additional burden on local areas.
Why aren’t all sectors represented on all partnership boards?
Partnership boards in each area bring together committed leaders from the local authority, early years providers, local schools, colleges, universities, business and voluntary and community organisations.
Regardless of whether a partnership board includes representation from a specific sector or not we will make sure that we engage directly with organisations and individuals who have proven expertise to improve opportunities for children and young people.
What is the selection process of choosing the members on the Partnership Board? Who holds these individuals to account?
There is no selection process. Membership is agreed between the DfE head of delivery and the independent chair of the board.
Members of the board are responsible for developing and shaping local priorities and advising on key activities that the programme should deliver to improve social mobility. Now the plans are published, they are responsible for monitoring and driving progress within their OA.
Board members are fully committed to the programme’s aims of driving positive change and increasing social mobility in OAs.
How socially mobile and diverse are the members on the Partnership Boards?
We have not asked board members about their education or family backgrounds. What matters is their commitment to improving social mobility in their areas and their capacity and expertise to drive that change.
What does social mobility mean for young people in these areas? Does it mean that they should leave to get a better job or go to university?
We want to make sure every young person has the same opportunities to succeed, no matter where they are from or whatever their background.
We do not take a narrow view of what success means – it is not only about university or professional jobs. It is about opening up about choices. It is about young people having the knowledge and skills to achieve whatever they want to achieve, whether that is in their area, or elsewhere.
What happens when the 3 years of the OAs Programme comes to an end? Is 3 years enough to make an effective, long lasting change on the OAs?
Tackling social mobility is complex and involves generational change.
Although this is a 3-year programme, we will look to galvanise a local coalition of stakeholders to work in ways that deliver sustainable and long-term improvements in each OA. That is why we have put a strong focus on local ownership of the plans and of delivery. The DfE will also assess what works most effectively in OAs to inform everything we do, so that we can finally level up opportunity for children across the country.
Social Mobility means more than education! What is being done to reach out to the wider community within the OA?
The delivery plans are locally led to make sure the priorities and action is right for each area. We are working with parents and families, community organisations, and businesses to make sure that everyone in the OA is working towards good outcomes and broad experiences for children and young people – ensuring that the impact of the programme goes beyond the school gates.
In what way can we replicate the work done in the OAs across the country?
Through our external evaluation of the programme, we will learn from what works in these areas, capturing which challenges all areas share and what is unique to a particular place, and spread effective practice to other areas.
Why have you selected the priorities you have in each of these areas?
Priorities in each area were agreed following an extensive and rigorous period of analysis, which took into account a wide range of data, including outcomes for children and young people in OAs, and the views of a range of local stakeholders.
The priorities have been agreed by the local partnership board and Secretary of State. (See published plans for further details.)
How are you going to achieve these targets? What happens if you miss them? Who is holding you to account?
These targets are rightly ambitious and challenging, which is necessary to ensure we deliver lasting change.
The plans provide more information about what we intend to do to meet the targets, which we will monitor closely. We will make any necessary changes to activity or our approach to stay on track. In publishing these plans, we are inviting young people, parents and local stakeholders alike to hold us to account.
When will you update on progress? DfE commissioned research say that you won’t know until after 2020!
Through the partnership boards, we will track progress against activity throughout the life of the programme.
Each OA delivery plan sets out local targets to meet by the end of the programme and from these targets we will be able to determine whether the programme has had a positive impact on the priorities identified in the plans. But we recognise that increasing social mobility is a challenge that will go beyond the life of the programme and that’s why we are building positive sustainable change, through local networks and partnerships in each are
How will you know what works?
Our offer to each OA will be grounded in both national and local evidence and analysis of what will work best in each area. Activities will be carefully selected to ensure that they are addressing identified barriers to social mobility and contribute to the building of a tested evidence base.
We have worked closely with the EEF, the EIF and other ‘What Works Centres’ to draw on their existing knowledge of ‘what works’ and establish how we can best embed evidence based practice into OAs. We have established a range of indicators to enable us to measure improvement and will be undertaking a thorough independent evaluation of the programme.
Isn’t this just a repeat of education action zones / City Challenge / National Challenge? How is it different? What have you learnt from previous policies?
This is different because OAs have a broader focus than schools alone. We will work to improve the quality of education from early years to early adulthood, but will also look to improve the quality of a range of other opportunities that can help children and young people succeed. These include young people’s mental health, providing access to high quality careers advice and opportunities to develop resilience and essential life skills for those who need it.
We have carefully evaluated what has worked in previous initiatives and that is why we are putting 2 things at the heart of our approach.
- Firstly, we are taking an evidence-based approach to delivering what works, working alongside the EEF and research schools to draw on their existing knowledge of ‘what works’ and establish how we can best embed evidence based practice into OAs.
- Secondly, we are putting partnership at the heart of our delivery model; listening to and working alongside local stakeholders and professionals; and, critically, young people to determine the most effective outcomes to ensure that the successes of this programme can be sustained.
How have you engaged with parents and local residents?
Over the last year, we have been consulting with local partners to understand the opportunities and challenges in each OA. As the delivery plans set out, we will be looking for parents and local residents to get involved. Success of the OA will be dependent on involving the whole community to work towards the vision set out in each OA delivery plan. Furthermore, our plans set out how we are engaging with young people in each OA.
How will the £72m given to the OAs programme be spent?
It will be spent on the priorities and activities outlined in each area’s plan.
There are some OAs that encompass more districts, more school and a larger population than others. How will the £72m be distributed across the 12 OAs?
Our starting point is an equal split but we will keep this under review as the programme develops – so if some areas say they need less then we will look to re-allocate to other areas.
Who decides how the programme budget will be spent?
In line with our central ambition for the OAs, all activity should be driven by evidence and local need. The local partnership boards were involved in the development of the delivery plans and recommend how the funding is spent. There will be no central guidance, the procurement processes will be managed and firmly rooted in the detailed needs of that particular area.
How much of the £72m has been spent so far?
One round of payments totalling £3.6m was made to the OAs in Oct 2017, using section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003. The OAs are now starting to procure local interventions with this money.
A second round of payments of around £4m has been approved by Ministers and HMT and is due to go out in January and coincide with the publication of the second 6 plans.
Exactly how much are the board members being paid?
Nothing. All partnership board members are volunteering their time to help us to deliver this important programme. Reasonable expenses will be met.
Why are you giving money to EEF research schools?
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is an independent charity dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement.
We are working in partnership with them to establish a research school in each area to help to accelerate the dissemination of ‘what works’ practice in schools and build the capacity of local schools to make better use of evidence. This has not come from the £72 million OA funding.
It is one year on, what has actually been achieved?
As well as progress locally in each area, there has been real and significant progress across all of the areas, including:
The appointment of a research school in each area to help to accelerate the dissemination of ‘what works’ practice in schools and build the capacity of local schools to make better use of evidence.
The Careers and Enterprise Company have started work in the OAs as part of their commitment to work with more than 260 secondary schools and colleges to help inspire and prepare their pupils for the fast changing world of work. Businesses have committed to work together, with the support of a £2m government-backed fund, to guarantee that in each of the OA:
- All pupils aged 11 to 18 will have access to at least 4 inspiring ‘encounters’ with the world of work.
- All 260+ secondary schools and colleges in OAs will have access to a local senior business volunteer (enterprise adviser) who will work with headteachers and college principals to unlock local business relationships and advise on their careers programme The National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) are also actively working in these areas to help raise aspirations for disadvantaged young people through a range of outreach activities such as summer schools, organising school visits and providing academic mentoring. The award of funding through the Strategic School Improvement Fund aimed at ensuring resources over the next 2 years are targeted at the schools most in need of support to drive up standards, use their resources most effectively and deliver more good school places. Round 1 resulted in 56 successful applications for funding, of which 14 of those were in support of schools in OAs, covering 9 out of the 12 OAs.Round 2 closed in October 2017 and we received applications to support schools in all 12 OAs.
This plan is mostly about school improvement – shouldn’t that be happening anyway?
Ensuring all children have a place in a good school and experience great teaching are 2 of the best ways to improve social mobility. We want the best teachers in front of those children that can benefit the most. As the Sutton Trust’s 2011 report, ‘Improving the impact of teachers on pupil achievement in the UK’ findings make clear, ‘for poor pupils the difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher is a whole year’s learning. ‘This is why this plan has a strong focus on helping schools drive up children and young people’s progress and attainment across Bradford and to ensure that they can progress to higher level learning and careers. This plan sets out the specific ways in which we will achieve this and puts the OA board at the heart of ensuring these ambitious priorities are implemented.
How was the partnership board selected?
We knew that in a city as big as Bradford we needed a wide range of local people to work with us on this ambitious programme. That is why the Board includes people drawn from different sectors including schools, both academies and LA maintained schools, the voluntary and community sector, employers, local authority, health and regional and national partners such as the Careers and Enterprise Company and the Combined Authority/ LEP. While the partnership board has set the direction of our programme, our plans have been developed in collaboration with wider groups of people. We are setting up working groups to develop the priorities for the area.
Why doesn’t the plan say anything about early years or post 16?
In focussing our plan on schools, we are making a difficult choice not to focus on areas like early years, or post-16. We are however, committed to working with partners leading improvement in these sectors – like the Better Start Bradford programme which is already working at scale to raise the quality of early years education in the city. Therefore, where our interests and programmes align we will seek to join up, share learning and resources.
This programme sounds good, but more urgently what are you doing to secure the future of the Bradford schools that are part of the failed Wakefield City Academy Trust?
“We recently confirmed new trusts for 11 academies in the Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) that have the expertise and capacity to improve education standards for these schools. This included confirming Tauheedul Education Trust as the new trust for the 3 Bradford schools that are currently part of WCAT (Barkerend Academy, High Crags Academy, Thornbury Academy).
Our priority is to ensure that all children receive the best possible education and we have worked to provide certainty for pupils and teachers. The views of parents and staff were taken in to account in taking these decisions.
“We are working to minimise disruption for pupils and ensure a smooth transfer to the new trusts, supported by the regional schools commissioner. New trusts for the remaining 10 schools will be confirmed shortly.”
How much money is there for Bradford?
Up to £6m will be available over 3 years for the Bradford OA. The partnership board provides advice to DfE the work that is happening locally and will recommend how the funding available is spent.
The department has been supporting schools, through both the curriculum and extra-curricular programmes, to help them embed the development of non-cognitive skills into the school system to guarantee that pupils in every school receive the best possible education.
The DfE have also announced extra funding of £22m Essential Life Skills programme in the 12 OAs over 2 years to enable children and young people aged 5-18 years old to participate in regular extra-curricular activities. Children and young people will be able to participate in extra-curricular activities such as sports, volunteering and social action projects. The funding has been calculated on the basis that it would pay for weekly participation in extra-curricular activities for up to 40,000 pupils in up to 12 per cent of schools in OAs.
How will the money be managed? What is the procurement process?
Bradford City Council will manage local procurement and commissioning on behalf of the partnership board, in accordance with the local authority’s public procurement rules.
Does that mean Bradford Council are making all the decisions about what is funded?
Whilst Bradford Council is acting as the local funding holder for the OA, the partnership board, working with the DfE, makes decisions about what activities we want to fund locally.
Where we want to commission activity that is under the council threshold for full open procurement (£25,000), the partnership board discusses and agrees which organisations should be invited to tender.