A new government-backed initiative to improve the life chances of South Yorkshire’s young people has been launched in Sheffield.
South Yorkshire Futures, a Sheffield Hallam University led social mobility partnership focused on improving educational attainment and raising aspiration, was unveiled by Robert Goodwill MP, Minister of State for Children and Families, at an official launch event.
The programme aims to tackle the challenge of young people in South Yorkshire being less likely to achieve good GCSEs, less likely to remain in education and have fewer life opportunities than their peers in other parts of the country.
For example, the Sutton Trust Mobility Map revealed in 2015 that of the 14 South Yorkshire constituencies, 10 have very low or low social mobility.
In addition, although there are examples of good local schools and outstanding teachers in the region, last year’s Ofsted Annual Report also revealed that while 82 per cent of the most deprived pupils in England attend good or outstanding schools – the rates are 53 per cent in Doncaster, 59 per cent in Barnsley, 65 per cent in Rotherham and 74 per cent in Sheffield.
South Yorkshire Futures aims to build a shared vision for the role of education in improving social mobility in South Yorkshire, bringing a more joined-up approach and improved collaboration in three areas – preparation (early years); performance (primary and secondary) and aspiration (further education, higher education and work).
Examples of early priorities include providing a leadership and knowledge exchange resource for early years’ providers, developing a high quality teacher offer to improve local teacher recruitment and retention and improving progression into higher education or work.
The launch of South Yorkshire Futures was held at Sheffield Hallam’s Sheffield Institute of Education and attended by more than 200 leading educationalists, business people, politicians and other regional stakeholders, including Robert Goodwill MP, who earlier in the day had been in Doncaster as part of his role with opportunity areas in the UK.
Robert Goodwill, Minister for Children and Families, said: “No one should feel that where they come from is stopping them from reaching their full potential. That’s why I’m delighted to see the work being done by Sheffield Hallam University to support the Opportunity Areas programme, which is helping to meet our shared ambition of creating better opportunities for young people growing up in this area.
“I hope that through this work, young people living in each of the government’s 12 Opportunity Areas – including Doncaster – will lead the way in showing how positive change can be achieved.”
Professor Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said: “There are examples of outstanding schools and successful practices in South Yorkshire, but the overall picture is much more patchy, with young people simply not having the same opportunities as their peers across the country.
“We simply don’t believe that South Yorkshire’s young people are less capable of achieving than other young people and we don’t accept that we have less committed or motivated teachers and school leaders.
“South Yorkshire Futures is our response to this challenge and a token of Sheffield Hallam’s commitment to the region. It marks a step change in the university’s mission to lead locally and to work with others who share a commitment to achieving success.
“Through the programme, we have a great opportunity to make a positive, long-term, transformative impact on the lives of the young people in our region.”
The programme has gained support from the Department for Education, Regional Schools Commissioner, Multi Academy Trusts, Teaching School Alliances, Local Authorities and the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.