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According to a July 2018 DfE report, children eligible for free school meals are 23% less likely to be in sustained employment by the age of 27 in comparison to their better off peers, with SEND pupils 25% less likely. The early years attainment gap is more evident than ever. Disadvantaged children, on average, are already four months behind by the age of five. In addition to this, the government had acknowledged that, at the current rate, it will take 120 years before disadvantaged teenagers are as likely as their peers to get equivalent qualifications.
Despite a huge increase in investment, the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their better off counterparts remains a significant issue. In October 2016, the government announced £60 million of funding for social mobility ‘opportunity areas’. The first six announced would act as partnerships between early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and local authorities to increase education standards for children from disadvantaged areas.
The next six opportunity areas were announced in January 2017, alongside an additional £3.5 million funding, to support the establishment of a research school within each opportunity area to develop high quality evidence informed teaching to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students. In December 2017, the government published Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential, which outlines the next steps to be taken to improve social mobility within education. This includes initiatives to close the early years gap, improve access to university for disadvantaged students and make technical education a first-class pathway to employment.
A further £30 million was announced in September 2018 to encourage projects from leading schools to develop innovative approaches to create new high-quality nursery places, alongside a further £20 million to train early years professionals.
Given the stark and worrying attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their better off counterparts, it is imperative that education institutions, local authorities and voluntary organisations are prepared to take the next steps essential for improving social mobility. To extract the greatest benefits from the government’s fresh focus on social mobility policy and funding then effective partnership working, heightened quality of teaching in early years and post-16 and providing better career guidance and experience for disadvantaged students will be a must.
This one day forum will provide delegates with the opportunity to examine progress made two years on from the first wave of social mobility opportunity areas pilots. Attendees will discuss the government’s strategy with leading policy experts and establish what lessons need to be learnt to improve social mobility throughout the education process. Participants will also explore innovative ways of working in partnership across agencies to enhance career opportunities and improve early years attainment for disadvantaged pupils.
Key speakers include:
• Jamie Weatherhead, Head of Delivery, Social Mobility Opportunity Areas in Norwich; Fenland & East Cambridgeshire; and Ipswich, Department for Education (DfE)
• Anna Frazer, Head of Employer Engagement, The Careers and Enterprise Company
• Jo Hutchinson, Director for Social Mobility and Vulnerable Learners, Education Policy Institute (EPI).
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