Plans to extend a multi-million pound scheme designed to boost children’s learning in Derby for a fifth year have been hailed as “a vital building block in the city’s future prosperity” after they were announced this week.
Amanda Solloway, MP for Derby North, said the Government’s decision to spend a further £1.25m to extend the Derby Opportunity Area project into August 2022 would stand children in good stead after it helped raise standards across 107 schools across the city.
Derby was one of 12 communities across the country specially chosen to receive funding under the Opportunity Area scheme, which was launched in 2016 to improve school standards, attendance, literacy and maths skills, as well as tackle the barriers to learning that exist beyond the school gates.
So far, results show that it has helped 83% of Year 1 pupils meet the expected standard in phonics in 2018/19, higher than the national average for the first time, and raise their attainment at the end of KS2 in reading, writing and maths from 55% in 2017 to 61% in 2019.
It has also funded the Derby City Emotionally Healthy Schools Project, which has ensured all 107 schools in the city now have a fully trained Designated Lead for Mental Health, leading to better strategic planning for mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Over the next year it will extend its provision to include, alongside helping the city’s more deprived areas to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, a twinning programme linking it with another Opportunity Area so that feedback and good practice can be shared and the publication of an insight guide which will share what it has learned from the previous four years in order to provide careers advice for young people, improve teacher recruitment and retention and boost early years development.
Ms Solloway said: “The extension of the Opportunity Area scheme in Derby is brilliant news for the city and will allow everyone to build upon the very encouraging work that has already been taking place here.
“Being able to provide a quality education for its young people is at the heart of the Government’s country-wide levelling up strategy and any scheme that improves the learning of our young people is a vital building block in the city’s future prosperity.
“Opportunity Areas have been making a positive change in young people’s lives across the country, not least when it comes to mental health and wellbeing, and the achievements that we have witnessed here in Derby auger well for the next 14 months of this critically important intervention.”
Announcing the extra funding, which takes the total investment in the Opportunity Area programme right across the 12 areas to £108m, Michelle Donelan MP, Minister of State for Universities, said: “I have seen first-hand how the dedication and commitment of local people in Derby are helping to support school improvement and address barriers to learning.
“Derby Opportunity Area should be very proud of its achievements so far and I am looking forward to us working together in year five to create a lasting legacy.”