Education secretary 'truly inspired' on visit to Blackpool

Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi declared himself "truly inspired" after meeting pupils at a Blackpool school to take a first-hand look at how they are benefiting from the Government's Opportunity Area programme.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 4:49 pm

The resort is one of 12 areas around the country where a particular focus is being put on ensuring the best opportunities for all.

The scheme was introduced in 2017 and manifests itself at local secondary schools with a particular focus on literacy, numeracy and attendance, with projects such as Get Blackpool Reading.

Along with school management, Mr Zahawi met pupils involved in the programme, which includes 30 minutes being specifically set aside every day for reading for youngsters in the first four years of secondary school.

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Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi talks to pupils at St Mary's Catholic Academy.

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Campaign to get Blackpool reading

"I was incredibly impressed by the way the Opportunity Area programme is manifesting itself in Blackpool.

"The investment means that the schools in Blackpool can collaborate and evidence through really robust research where the need is and where the resources best need to go.

"Good literacy opens the way to all other subjects and that evidence gives the teachers and the school leadership to continue on this path, which has already produced figures such as a 32 per cent improvement at Key Stage 3.

St Mary's pupils Karol Korzekwa, Audrey Hulme and Anabel Higgins love the reading sessions

"This programme also helped protest education through this enormously difficult time we have been through, with the pandemic, so I want to place on record my thanks to all teachers and support staff for their hard work."

Mr Zahawi said the current funding for the Opportunity Area programme runs until next summer and the Government is looking at how they take it forward and make the most of the local leadership which has made the most of the current scheme.

An announcement is expected in the coming months, he added.

"The Prime Minister is great believer in developing talent, which of course is spread across the country, whereas opportunity is sadly not," he said.

The Secretary of State found his visit to Blackpool was 'truly inspiring'

"Blackpool was chosen as one of the opportunity 'cold spots' and I am delighted to see what a difference it is making here."

Among the pupils Mr Zahawi met was 14-year-old Karol Korzekwa, who is in his third year on the scheme.

"I love reading and always look forward to the 30 minute session set aside every day," he said.

"I enjoy drama and I find that the reading helps my confidence as well as my diction."

Assistant headteacher Becci Jones said: "The Blackpool schools all work together and share ideas on how to make the most of opportunity and it is going so well we are often approached by schools in other areas which are keen to find out more."

Mr Zahawi was joined in Blackpool by children and families minister Will Quince and further and higher education minister Michelle Donelan, with Mr Quince visiting Highfield Leadership Academy, which has sustained attendance levels of an average of 95.1 per cent through the pandemic, significantly above the national average.

Highfield has been taking part in a project as part of the Opportunity Area called ‘Continuum of Provision’ which focuses on reducing permanent exclusions and moves between schools by understanding the underlying causes of behaviour issues.

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