West Somerset has been named as one of six “Opportunity Areas” to receive a share of £60million government funding to help improve social mobility in the area.
The Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening MP, yesterday announced the funding as a way to help children and young people get the best start to life through early years, by building teaching and leadership capacity in schools, increasing access to university, and working with employers to improve young people’s access to the right advice and experiences.
Part of this funding will also see West Somerset receive a share of £1million from the Careers & Enterprise Company to help support young people progress into the world of work.
This funding aims to ensure that every pupil in a West Somerset secondary school or college meets with four employers during their education. Evidence suggests that this significantly increases rates of employment and earnings.
Exactly how much of the £60m will be allocated to West Somerset and for what projects has not yet been announced.
Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “West Somerset is an area where we are already focusing a lot of work on improving opportunities for young people. For example, workshops with local employers have been planned at West Somerset College, Danesfield Middle School and Minehead Middle School to highlight self-employment and apprenticeship options. The fact is that West Somerset’s overall Social Mobility Index places it at the bottom of the national table. This is unacceptable and is an issue that both the public and private sector can have an important role in addressing.
“The news that West Somerset will receive a share of this investment is a wonderful boost for the work that is underway. Local programmes will benefit from this funding, in turn giving vulnerable young people a better chance at excelling in life.”
Cllr Karen Mills, Lead Member for Economic Regeneration at West Somerset Council, said: “This is excellent news and demonstrates that some of the issues we face in West Somerset are being addressed.
“Investment in our young people is vital to give them the opportunities to gain the qualifications, skills and employment prospects that their peers in other parts of the county – and country – can enjoy.
“We have made great strides ourselves by creating our employment hubs locally but more needs to be done earlier. I look forward to working with our partners to make the most of the funding that is being invested in West Somerset.”
West Somerset is also one of three areas that will benefit from successful bids for the National Collaborative Outreach Programme, which will help raise aspirations for disadvantaged children through summer schools, organising school visits and providing academic mentoring.
The Social Mobility Commission has highlighted that the six areas to benefit from the funding have particular entrenched barriers that make it harder for young people to progress.
The Social Mobility Index compares the chances that a child from a disadvantaged background will do well at school and get a good job, across each of the local authority district areas of England.
It examines a range of measures of the educational outcomes achieved by young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and the local labour and housing markets, to shed light on which are the best and worst places in England in terms of the opportunities young people have to succeed, when they are from poorer backgrounds.
West Somerset’s overall Social Mobility Index places it at the bottom of the national table.