Opportunity knocks for Fenland and East Cambs schools - and there’s up to £25,000 for each to help disadvantaged pupils

MP Damian Hinds chooses St Andrew's C of E Primary School in Soham as his first school to visit sinc

MP Damian Hinds chooses St Andrew's C of E Primary School in Soham as his first school to visit since being made the new education secretary - Credit: Archant

Schools across East Cambridgeshire and Fenland will from today be able to apply for up to £25,000 to help some of their most disadvantaged pupils.

A better deal for Fenland and East Cambs pledged by Education Secretary Damian Hinds

A better deal for Fenland and East Cambs pledged by Education Secretary Damian Hinds - Credit: Archant

It is one of the outcomes of the successful bid by local MPs Lucy Frazer and Steve Barclay to include both areas in the Government’s Opportunity Area proposals to help schools in deprived areas.

At the heart of Government thinking is a determination to halve the attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers in reading and language development within the next three years.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said that raising education standards by supporting underperforming schools and offering young people more opportunities to make the best of their lives are central to the Government’s ambition.

Other cash will be available to strengthen mental health and support for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) – mental health first aid training will be available for all secondary schools, and the plan will create links between schools and mental health services.

It will also involve training for leaders and professionals to enhance support for children with SEND.

Training will also be provided for school staff to deliver improved careers education and guidance.

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And there is a pledge to concentrate on recruiting and developing high-quality teachers with additional support for those already working here.

Mr Hinds said: “I want all children to get a truly world-class education that not only inspires them to make the most of their lives but also gives them the opportunity to fulfil their ambitions, no matter where they live.

“Standards are rising in schools across the country but there is more to do to make sure that every child benefits from the progress we’ve already made.”

Fenland and East Cambridgeshire will also benefit from up to £1.4 million through a new Essential Life Skills programme, to help disadvantaged young people develop life skills such as resilience, emotional wellbeing and employability.

Patricia Pritchard, chairman of the Fenland and East Cambridgeshire Opportunity Area Partnership Board, said: “It is an exciting time for everyone as we strive to ensure that children and young people are well prepared with the skills, knowledge and understanding to access the curriculum throughout all stages of their school career prior to entering the world of work.”

The Essential Life Skills programme will complement the plans published today by providing extra-curricular activities like sports, volunteering and social action projects, giving pupils the opportunity to develop leadership skills.

Mr Barclay said one of the other benefits of inclusion in the programme is that all qualified teachers working in schools within Fenland and East Cambridgeshire can access free training for National Professional Qualifications which usually cost between £450 and £7,000.

“Teachers will have the opportunity to increase their skills, confidence and knowledge in a range of areas including leadership, STEM subjects, phonics and managing challenging pupil behaviour,” he said.

“These are fantastic opportunities to up skill our local teachers and ones that I hope to see many taking advantage of.”