‘Hope, aspiration and a brighter future for resort’

A new plan aims to tackle problems with the education system in Blackpool. Above left: headteacher Andy Mellor and Blackpool and The Fylde College principal Bev Robinson (bottom left)
A new plan aims to tackle problems with the education system in Blackpool. Above left: headteacher Andy Mellor and Blackpool and The Fylde College principal Bev Robinson (bottom left)

A bold new vision for Blackpool’s education system outlines aims to give pupils a better chance in life and ensure no child is left behind.

New plans to overhaul the education system in Blackpool set out a bold vision for the future.

Justine Greening

Justine Greening

It is one in which no child is left behind.

The Government-backed initiative is part of a scheme that will see £72m split among 12 of the most disadvantaged areas in the country.

A year after the resort was announced as one of the 12 Education Opportunity Areas, education secretary Justine Greening has published details of what that will mean for pupils.

The plan sets out ambitious targets to drive up standards in Blackpool and has been welcomed by local schools.

Graham Cowley, chairman of the Blackpool Opportunity Area board, said: “Our vision is to create a system where no child in Blackpool is left behind.

“I look forward to seeing our young people create a fantastic future in Blackpool.”

The plan sets out three priorities for Blackpool: raising attainment and progress in schools; supporting vulnerable children and families to boost attendance; and improving advice for young people moving between schools and into work.

The resort’s education system has come under scrutiny over the years, while problems including high levels have deprivation are well documented.

The plan is open about the challenges faced – such underachievement, high rates of absence and quality of schools – details how it will address them.

By 2021, education chiefs vow to:

· Improve secondary school pupils’ progress, which is currently the second worst in England, to see the resort in the top half in the region

· Halve the rate of fixed-term and permanent exclusions in Blackpool

· Ensure the number of disadvantaged pupils going on to higher and degree apprenticeships or university puts Blackpool in the top half nationally.

Ms Greening said: “Blackpool has a proud history and huge strengths to build on but not all young people get the life chances they deserve.

“For too long, young people in these areas have been at a disadvantage because of where they are growing up.

“I want young people living in these areas to have access to a world-class education.”

The plan also specifically targets success in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

Bev Robinson, principal and chief executive of Blackpool and The Fylde College, said: “This is a great opportunity for local leaders to come together, to pool resources and share good practice.”

And Andy Mellor, headteacher at St Nicholas CE Primary in Marton, added: “The Blackpool Opportunity Area plan, supported wholeheatedly by leaders from all parts of the Blackpool community provides a real opportunity to change the landscape in Blackpool.

“It provides hope, aspiration, ambition and a brighter future for the young people of the town.”

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said: “I can see that this is a well thought-out and considered piece of work which is aiming high for the young people of our town.

“There is no excuse for poor educational outcomes and with the goals set by this plan, and the dedication of the teaching staff of Blackpool, I am sure that over time we will see the outcomes improve.”

Justine Greening said:

Blackpool has long been a centre for tourism, but a lot has changed over the last 20 years – and the town has felt the effects.

In recent years there has been huge investment made in the future of Blackpool’s younger generations. From the excellent progress to increase the number of teenagers entering apprenticeships to the work of the Blackpool School Improvement Board, there is already a solid foundation on which to build and lots of potential.

For me, both as education secretary and as someone who went through the state school system, that means investing in the next generation, whatever their background or whoever they are.

It is my priority to make sure young people can go as far as their talents and hard work will take them, and to make sure they can be the best version of themselves. But government needs to do that in partnership with brilliant teachers, social workers and community leaders to help our young people unlock the talents within them.

In some parts of Blackpool, like many other parts of the country, young people can’t see opportunities on their doorstep – or, if they do, they don’t end up benefitting from them. It could be that they feel unable to get invaluable work experience in the career they aspire to, or that the course they would love to do just isn’t available in their community.

I want to make sure more young people get the opportunity to achieve their ambitions, no matter where they live. That’s why I named Blackpool as one of 12 Opportunity Areas across the country which are getting a share of £72m so young people in their community are supported to realise their ambitions, whatever they are.

It begins with a focus on attainment in all of Blackpool’s schools, building on the work already in place. The existing maths hub, together with projects funded by the department’s Strategic School Improvement Fund, will improve maths teaching in both primary and secondary education. On top of this, the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund will create specialist programmes that focus on key science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, making learning for young people more inspiring and successful.

The plan will also support vulnerable families whose children are more likely to be frequently absent from school, or to be permanently excluded. The Opportunity Area Board will carry out new research into the root causes of absence and exclusion, with the aim of reducing these rates to below the national average.

Finally, we want to see young people’s career aspirations set higher through the work of individual enterprise advisers in every school and college in Blackpool. Running as a key theme within each of these three areas of work will be a constant focus on young people themselves. By putting them at the heart of these plans, and drawing on their obvious expertise, they will influence the positive changes we want to see in Blackpool. After all, it is their future we want to shape.

From the earliest stages of a child’s education, both within a supportive home environment and at school, all the way through to inspiring experiences in the workplace with local businesses, we will help young people living in Blackpool meet their career aspirations. This plan will create the opportunities young people need to unlock their talents and potential, because where you are from should not be a barrier to fulfilling your ambitions, it should be the springboard to your future.

I am excited to see these plans get underway and I’ll play my role in making sure the Blackpool Opportunity Area gets the progress and results that young people deserve. Working together, we can create more opportunities for generations to come – and Blackpool will be leading the way.