Hastings schools to receive share of multi-million pound 'opportunity area' fund

Schools in Hastings are to receive a share of a multi-million pound fund, after the town was named as one of 12 'opportunity areas'
Schools in Hastings are to receive a share of a multi-million pound fund, after the town was named as one of 12 'opportunity areas'

Schools in Hastings are to get a share of a multi-million pound funding scheme after being named as an ‘opportunity area’ in a new Government programme.

As part of the programme, which aims to improve social mobility through education, Hastings has been named as one of 12 areas of the UK set to receive special funding for schools in the area.

Lorraine Clarke, regional director for the ARK academies trust

Lorraine Clarke, regional director for the ARK academies trust

The programme is to run over three years with funding of £72 million to be shared between all 12 areas. Hastings is expected to get as much as £6 million in direct funding from this collective pot.

The Government says it chose the 12 areas as they are places were young people are facing the greatest challenges in the UK.

According to documents provided by the Department for Education (DfE), the work in Hastings will focus on four key areas. They are: improving literacy; raising attainment in maths; improving mental health and resilience in children; and broadening horizons and preparing young people for work.

To oversee the plan, the Government has formed the Hastings Partnership Board, which is made up of experts from local government and schools as well as from health and volunteering organisations.

The board is chaired by Richard Meddings, a financial expert and trustee of Teach First – an organisation which trains teachers to work in low-income communities.

Speaking about the plans for Hastings, Mr Meddings said: “Hastings is a vibrant town with a rich cultural heritage and a real sense of community. It is also a town that is changing – educational outcomes are improving. But Hastings still lags a long way behind other areas and too many young people reach adulthood without the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

“This ambitious plan seeks to address that. Over the coming months, we will focus on the things we know will make the biggest difference.

“We will improve literacy and maths, promote good mental health, and provide opportunities for young people to develop essential life skills.

“I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge to improve social mobility in Hastings. Collaboration is key to our success and I would like to thank all the local partners and people who have contributed to this plan.”

The Hastings Partnership Board is also made up of a number of local members, including Dan Shelley of Sussex Coast College, Jessica Stubbings of East Sussex County Council, Victoria Conheady of Hastings Borough and Lorraine Clarke of the Ark Academies Trust.

Ms Clarke will also be involved in the plan through her work at Ark Blacklands Community Primary School.

As part of the plan the school has been named as the ‘research school’ for Hastings. The designation means the outstanding-rated school is considered a ‘centre of excellence’ by the DfE.

This means the school, which is to receive extra funding, from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), will loan out its staff for training at other schools in the area in order to improve results. Much of the focus will be on the school’s phonics teaching as it has one of the best results in the country.

Ms Clarke, who as regional director for the Ark schools trust acts as executive headteacher for Blacklands, Castledown and Little Ridge Schools, says she is ‘delighted’ with the news.

She said: “It is very nice to be recognised for the work we are doing at the school but it is really great to be able to help support other schools in the area as well.”

The plan has also been welcomed by East Sussex County Council. A spokesman for the council said: “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.”

The Government says it will drive the first of its two objectives – to improve maths and literacy – through a series of new schools funding programmes.

The new programmes include a £250,000 literacy campaign to get more young people reading every day and a £500,000 fund to improve maths teaching in all four mainstream secondary schools and eight primary schools in the town.

Funding of £300,000 will also be provided to support local teachers develop their skills to help improve literacy.

Through these programmes the Hastings Partnership Board aims to put local results into the top half of the country and ensure those from disadvantaged backgrounds make more progress than the national average.

There will also be funding for a training programme to give teachers an understanding of mental health issues.

As part of this all schools in the area will identify mental health leads, while a parenting programme will also be developed. This part of the programme will also see work to expand the i-Rock service – with project leads aiming to increase its capacity by more than 40 per cent. A similar service for younger children will also be set up.

The final focus of the plan will be to teach employment skills – particularly confidence, communication and resilience. To do this the partnership board aims to ensure every school and college has a dedicated Enterprise Advisor to provide careers guidance by the end of 2018.

The Government has set ambitious targets for all four areas of the plan, aiming to make Hastings into a model for other areas.

Announcing the plan for Hastings last week, the recently-appointed Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “The world economy is changing and it is through education, skills and training from the early years into adulthood that we will make sure no one is left behind – delivering a modern country that is globally competitive and fit for the future. Education is at the heart of that ambition, and is central to breaking down the barriers to social mobility that too many young people from Hastings face.

“Hastings is a town steeped in history, but is also a town that is earning a reputation for being vibrant and creative. Educational outcomes are improving in Hastings and we want to build on that success and make Hastings a centre for excellence.

“Across Hastings there is a real commitment from the educational sector, employers, the voluntary sector, young people and the wider community to work together to ensure that all young people in Hastings have a high quality of edication and are supported to realise their potential.”