Multi-million pound education scheme ‘great opportunity’ for town’s children

Hastings Thrives was an initiative launched last year with the objective of raising 'the achievement of pupils
Hastings Thrives was an initiative launched last year with the objective of raising 'the achievement of pupils

Hastings has been included in a multi-million pound education scheme aimed at raising standards in disadvantaged areas.

The town is one of 12 ‘opportunity areas’ selected by the Department for Education (DfE) to be part of the £72million scheme.

Six were announced in October 2016 and a further six, including Hastings, were announced by education secretary Justine Greening on Wednesday (January 18).

Described as a ‘great opportunity’ by Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd, the scheme aims to give disadvantaged children the opportunity to achieve their full potential, while encouraging the business world to recognise and nurture the skills of youngsters from all walks of life.

Ms Rudd said: “This is a great opportunity that will help ensure our schools in Hastings offer our children the best possible start in life.

“It will provide our fantastic teachers and teaching staff with further support to help schoolchildren in our community to make the most of their talents and reach their potential.”

Towns such as Hastings were described by the DfE as social mobility ‘coldspots’, meaning poor or disadvantaged children were less likely to achieve their full potential than their peers from more well-off areas.

A key aim of the ‘opportunity areas’ is to ensure those children get the best start in the early years, to build teaching and leadership capacity in schools, to increase access to university, to strengthen technical pathways for young people, and work with employers to improve young people’s access to the right advice and experiences.

Ms Greening also announced a £3.5million programme to enable the independent charity Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) to establish ‘research schools’ in all 12 areas. A DfE spokesman said the EEF will be launching a selection process to decide which school in Hastings may be best suited to act as a ‘base’ for the research school.

The ‘opportunity areas’ will also have priority access to other support, including the £75million teaching and leadership innovation fund.

Ms Greening said: “As the Prime Minister has set out, we are facing a moment of great change as a nation. With our departure from the European Union, we will need to define an ambitious new role for ourselves in the world.

“For Britain to succeed we must be a country where everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their talent and their hard work will allow.

“Education is at the heart of that ambition, and is central to breaking down the barriers to social mobility that too many face in our country today.”

She added: “I want to see more disadvantaged young people attending the very best universities, winning places on apprenticeships, entering the top professions, and progressing through the most rewarding careers – and I want employers to do more to draw out the potential and talents of all.”

A spokesman for East Sussex County Council said the council was still waiting for details about the level of additional resources that would be available for Hastings and how it would be administered.

He added: “However, we are delighted that more support will be available for the town which will help to improve educational outcomes and the employment prospects of children and young people in Hastings.”

Jane Fletcher, regional director at Ark William Parker Academy shared the council’s delight. She said: “We welcome this extra funding that will support Hastings’ schools and promote social mobility in the area. We are proud of our work in schools such as Ark Blacklands Primary Academy, that moved from Ofsted’s ‘inadequate’ to ‘outstanding’ in less than three years, and we see this investment as an opportunity to further transform lives in our community.”

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