A fifth year of DfE funding for Ipswich Opportunity Area

Richard Lister, Independent Chair, Ipswich Opportunity Area

A further year of DfE investment in 2021-22 is great news for Ipswich, and allows us to embed the impact of projects we’ve been working on since Ipswich was made an Opportunity Area in 2017. We are also looking forward to further developing our partnership with Felixstowe and sharing our learning more widely.

Despite the challenges that Covid has presented for our young people, their families and education settings, we know that our town has the aspiration, expertise and leadership to continue to improve opportunities and outcomes for our young people.

Our plan for 2021-22 is to embed the most successful approaches of the last four years, to drive impact, build networks and share learning.

The local leaders, teachers and practitioners that make up our OA will share their learning and experiences from a wide range of funded projects on our new online learning hub, which will be launched in June. The investment our schools and colleges have made in Mental Health and Wellbeing through the SWERL partnership with UCL over the last two years is having a significant impact and we will soon announce the schools and settings that will lead the 6 Wellbeing and Resilience Hubs that form an Ipswich Mental Health Community of Practice in the coming year. Our early years settings and primary schools will come together to build on the investment in their family support, resilience and early speech and language expertise since 2017 to form the Strong School Start network – supporting children and families from 0-5. Our community partners will work with Learning Behaviour Leads in our schools to support the learning of our most vulnerable young people with the support of the newly established Suffolk TA Network based at Westbourne Academy. This year I also look forward to seeing the Ipswich Associate Research school go from strength to strength with the support of Unity Research School, as we further invest in 35 Implementation Leads across all our education settings – colleagues responsible for consolidating the impact of IOA-funded programmes like the Workforce Development Fund, Evidence Based Practice Fund and Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 projects across early years settings, schools and colleges.

I hope that this year we can also capture the voice of young people in Ipswich and empower them to address some of their greatest challenges, enabling them to influence system wide change and inform the legacy of the Opportunity Area investment.

Our young people have faced a year like no other. The Opportunity Area goal – to improve life chances and social mobility – has brought local leaders together to provide both immediate support for children’s learning and emotional wellbeing and to lay the foundations for continued improvement in educational outcomes long term. Ipswich has already made good progress on improving attainment, engagement and aspiration, and we’re in a strong position to further strengthen our education system as we emerge from the pandemic. I’m delighted we have the opportunity to build on this work, share what we’ve learnt and secure a lasting legacy for Ipswich next year.

Ipswich is one of 12 areas in England designated by the Department for Education as an opportunity area (OA), designed to unlock the potential of England’s young people through education.

The aim is for all children and young people in Ipswich to fulfil their potential and access the opportunities available to them, regardless of their background.

The Ipswich Opportunity Area is overseen by an independent Partnership Board, bringing together senior leaders from schools, communities, business, and central and local government.

Our latest finance report is now available, to view the full report download the file below.