In a speech tonight, Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis announced a package of funding and support to boost early years education in South Yorkshire, including help for the Sheffield Hallam University-led programme, South Yorkshire Futures.
A new South Yorkshire Futures Mayoral Partnership Fund will be used to support specific projects that are designed to improve life opportunities for disadvantaged children from the region; and Mr Jarvis, who is also Labour MP for Barnsley Central, has also written to the top 100 businesses from the region asking for their support.
He has called on them to support a ‘Talent Bank’, offering skills to schools such as volunteering, mentoring and school governorships.
The fund, he said, would deliver “genuine transformational change” for young people in the region and help them achieve “their full potential”.
In a separate move, the leaders of Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster councils have together committed to improving education for children aged from zero to five years by jointly signing a Regional Vision for Early Years.
The announcements were made at an event to celebrate South Yorkshire Futures first year of activity in front of 250 people, including school leaders, MPs, councillors, DfE representatives, business leaders and other stakeholders from the education sector
Mr Jarvis said he was committed to helping to improve life opportunities for young people in the region who need it most.
“It should not be a matter of political debate that our school children need to be healthy, independent, emotionally secure, socially competent, able to learn and able to separate from their parents or carers, but many of our children are not,” he said.
“If we fail to deal with these challenges we will lock in the iniquities of social immobility and we cannot allow this to happen. That is why I am delighted to commit to the development of an Early Years’ pledge to commit the whole public sector to assisting with school readiness for all young people.”
Chief operating officer of Sheffield Hallam University, Richard Calvert, said: “Dan’s support is a tremendous boost for the programme and of course children and young people from the region and we are extremely grateful.
“Sheffield Hallam University has made a substantial commitment with South Yorkshire Futures, making it a civic responsibility to use our position, expertise and location in the region to help transform lives.”
Director of South Yorkshire Futures, Greg Burke, said the programme had made “huge strides” in its first year.
“But we know we must do more,” he said. “Our plans for the next 12 months, around early years, teacher recruitment, skills, higher education, and employment, are extremely ambitious - but we are not naïve. We do not have all the answers and we certainly can’t do it by ourselves.
“We are confident that working with our partners we can begin to make a real difference to the lives of those who need our support the most.”