Turn the North into one giant Opportunity Area for all schools – The Yorkshire Post says

IF the Department for Education has any sense – and that remains doubtful as public confidence in Gavin Williamson ebbs away – it will bestow ‘Opportunity Area’ status on every school across Yorkshire, and the North, to drive up standards still further.

There are calls for the North to be turned into a giant Opportunity Area to improve school standards.

Not only is such an intervention fundamental to the Northern Powerhouse policy agenda – young people are this region’s future – but interventions on this scale do make a material difference.

When the trailblazing London Challenge programme was launched by Labour in 2003, the capital’s schools propped up national league tables. Now they continue to be regarded as the best in Britain as a direct result of this aspirational policy.

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More recently, schools in Bradford, Doncaster and along the North Yorkshire coast are enjoying an upturn in the performance after being turned into Opportunity Areas in 2016 by Rotherham-born Justine Greening, the then Education Secretary and now a monthly columnist in The Yorkshire Post.

Justine Greening, the then Education Secretary, set up Opportunity Areas for schools. She is pictured during a return visit to her former secondary school in Rotherham in the summer of 2017.

Extra money – and bespoke initiatives – mean attainment levels in these areas are now rising faster than the national average, hence calls for this approach to be applied to the whole region.

The problem is that the DfE, a Whitehall department that has been rudderless since Ms Grening’s unwelcome exit, believes a national approach will suffice. As London showed, it will not.

If the Government is serious about its ‘levelling up’ agenda, and is intent on delivering the promises made to families in ‘red wall’ seats, it needs to give the schools the resources they need to reverse decades of under-investment and under-performance. This is an opportunity like no other – one with far-reaching benefits for the national economy. It’s also one that Boris Johnson should take if some confidence in the DfE is to be restored at the start of a new academic year.

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Political intervention and extra investment can lead to sustained improvements in the performances of schools, iti s argued.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson