A new report published today evaluates the first year of the implementation of the Opportunity Area (OA) programme that forms a fundamental part of the government’s approach to increasing social mobility.
The Department for Education (DfE) has targeted a three-year £72m programme at 12 areas identified because of the entrenched and widespread social, economic and cultural challenges they face in trying to improve children’s and young people’s life chances.
The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) evaluation, Implementation of Opportunity Areas: An independent evaluation, ran from January 2017 to June 2018 and focused on the processes used to implement the programme. Among the programme’s key achievements to date is the commitment and success of the OA partnership boards and the DfE local delivery teams in working together to foster cross-sector collaboration and drive the programme forward. This includes early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, employers and the voluntary sector.
Overall, partnership board members were enthusiastic and passionate about being involved in the OA programme and committed to maintaining momentum to achieve their delivery plan objectives over the three years.
Suggestions for improvement and next steps include:
- ensuring the DfE is mindful of schools’ capacity and develops a coherent strategy for accessing national partners and programmes,
- regular and consistent messaging so that stakeholders and local communities are aware of the benefits gained to date and what is being planned for the future,
- support for sharing learning and information between the different OAs so they can learn about what works, in which contexts and why.
Carole Willis, Chief Executive of NFER, said: “The evidence collected for this evaluation shows that the implementation stage of this flagship programme has been well received by stakeholders across the sector both in their understanding and engagement in the programme and their views of it. It also highlights the features that have worked effectively as well as some of the challenges ahead.
“Education can break the link between a child’s social background and their later outcomes, improving social mobility. One of NFER’s primary objectives is to help to make this a reality by providing evidence on the factors affecting education outcomes, and later careers, in order to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to progress and succeed.
The full NFER report can be downloaded here.