Opportunity areas (OAs) are social mobility cold spots where the Department for Education (DfE) is prioritising resources, and bringing local and national partners together, to break the link between a child’s family background and where they get to in life. The core objective is to improve outcomes for children and young people from early years through to employment.
Doncaster is one of 12 areas in England chosen by the government as an Opportunity Area (OA).
In 2016, Doncaster was ranked 301st in the Social Mobility Index and rising slightly to 298th in 2017. The programme (and the work of partners) has been successful, with the past three years witnessing the start of a transformational change in life chances for young people in Doncaster. But further work is required to secure and build to these improvements to lead to long-term sustainable change.
The Doncaster delivery plan identifies 4 priorities for action:
- Priority 1: Building Solid Foundations for all Children – Narrowing the attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged primary pupils in literacy and numeracy.
- Priority 2: Brilliant Teaching and Leadership for all Secondary School Pupils- Increasing the number of good school places so that every young person in Doncaster has access to high quality teaching and learning.
- Priority 3: No Career out of Bounds – Helping more of Doncaster’s young people to find the right academic and vocational routes for the careers they aspire to.
- Priority 4: Opportunities Extend to All – Taking active steps to help most vulnerable to access opportunities that will support them to succeed in and out of education
These priorities are underpinned by three Cross-cutting themes: Collaboration, Essential Life Skills and Teacher Recruitment and Retention
In November 2019, the Government announced a one year extension to the Opportunity Area programme. In 2020/21 we will sustain our focus on school improvement at both primary and secondary and continue to build on the substantial success that we have had in increasing the quality of careers education information advice and guidance. We will also focus on system-change to support leaders and settings on inclusion, engagement and progress of our most vulnerable learners, including supporting parental/family engagement, transition, mentoring, and SEND pupils’ progress.
Finally, we will build on and maintain our successful strategies to ensure the recruitment and retention of the best teachers into the borough, aimed at placing teachers in Doncaster’s schools that are hard to fill and in so doing, provide valuable teaching experiences.
A summary Doncaster OA’s 2020/21 projects can be found here.
In May 2021, the Government confirmed that the Opportunity Area programme would again be extended into a fifth year, covering the 2021/2022 academic year.