Ministers will unveil measures to raise educational standards in 55 English target areas with persistently poor performance, including the promise of elite sixth-form colleges for talented children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The new ‘Educational Investment Areas’ will form part of the Government’s Convergence White Paper and will see resources focus on schools in the North, Midlands, East of England and South West for the next decade.
95 per cent of the areas identified for “intense support” are outside London and the South East and include Rochdale, Isle of Wight, Hartlepool, Walsall, Knowsley, Bury, Leeds, Luton, Norfolk and Sunderland.
Labor Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson accused the Government of recycling its 2017 Opportunity Areas policy. “The government is desperate to divert attention from the utter chaos at the heart of Downing Street by recycling old announcements, showing the limits of the Conservatives’ ambitions for Britain.”
According to plans released on Tuesday, the government will also set a new target for 90 percent of children leaving primary school to reach expected standards in literacy and numeracy by 2030, up from 65 percent in 2019. Funding for the government plans is expected to come from the existing spending review agreement.
Other measures include retention payments to help schools retain highly qualified teachers in priority subjects. Investment in education is also being prioritized for new sixth-grade free specialty schools “to ensure that talented children from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to the highest standard of education this country offers.”
In addition, schools in those areas judged less than good by successive Ofsted inspections could be moved to multi-academy trusts, subject to consultation later in the spring.
Minister of Education Nadhim Zahawi said: “This white paper sets out our blueprint to put skills, schools and families at the heart of leveling up.
“It’s focused on building great schools in every part of the country, an education that prepares you for success in a high-skill, well-paying career, and making sure no one misses out on opportunities just because of life or family background .”
The package will also provide a €560m “national youth guarantee” for education for an additional 200,000 people
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The identification of 55 communities for intensive additional support sounds promising and we look forward to seeing exactly how this will work out. We are not so convinced of the idea of creating “new elite upper schools”.
“It sounds like they are serving children who are already doing very well and could put pressure on existing facilities when surely the simplest solution would be to improve the deplorable state of funding after 16 years.”
Kevin Courtney, joint secretary-general of the National Education Union, said: “Many of the areas to be supported now have been hardest hit by cuts in education over the past decade – under Government oversight and on their own initiative.
“If the government is serious about improving education, they would refund all the money they cut from these schools.”
Natalie Perera, Executive Director of the Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank, said: “It will be important to look closely at the criteria the government uses to select its education investment areas and how it intends to provide ‘intensive’ support in this regard to accomplish many areas.”