The first discussion on what ‘Opportunity Area’ status means for Hastings and St Leonards was held recently.
The meeting comprised of Department for Education officials, local MP Amber Rudd, leader of Hastings Borough Council Councillor Peter Chowney, local businesses, headteachers and interested parties.
The Department set out what Opportunity Areas are, highlighting that Hastings is now one of 12 across England, who have access to a £72m fund which will target the specific social mobility needs that each area suffers from.
They also said a plan will be in place by the end of the summer as to how Hastings will target the individual social mobility needs that it has, and on how to improve the life chances of our children from early years to post-16 education.
Education Secretary Justine Greening said: “Opportunity areas will help local children get the best start in life, no matter their background. Ensuring all children can access high-quality education at every stage is critical. We will focus not just on what we can do to help inside schools, but also create the opportunities outside school that will raise sights and broaden horizons for young people.
“It’s great that there is already this level of energy and engagement around the Hastings Opportunity Area – I very much look forward to coming to Hastings and seeing how these plans are moving forward.”
Amber Rudd said: “It is great that Hastings has become an Opportunity Area with access to this substantial amount of funding to help target social mobility issues. This programme will help to ensure our children get the best possible start in life, no matter what background they have come from.
“We need to work collectively and efficiently in order to produce a draft plan that tackles our specific social mobility issues.”
Cllr Peter Chowney said: “The social mobility funding for Hastings is welcome, but we’ll need to think carefully about how it should be used.”
“Although Hastings is improving dramatically, we know there are parts of our borough where educational achievement is low, where income and employment poverty is high, and where school attendance is poor.
“Children from those areas often under-achieve, and have low expectations from life. If we can use this funding to reach those children, and raise their aspirations, we could perhaps break the intergenerational cycles of poverty and unemployment that affect some of our neighbourhoods. If this funding can achieve that, it will be money well-spent.”
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