Chair Robert Halfon MP has written to the Education Secretary following the conclusion of the Education Committee’s inquiry into opportunity areas.
The letter to Damian Hinds MP says that while the Committee welcomes the programme’s objective of improving social mobility, it remains ‘unconvinced’ that opportunity areas are the best way of delivering on the aims.
“We welcome the focus of opportunity areas on improving social justice and supporting disadvantaged communities, but we’re not convinced that the programme is the most effective method of achieving such aims.
"We have concerns over the value for money that the programme offers. The £2 million spent on administration costs could be far better spent helping children and young people directly on the front line and the additional structure creates confusion and duplication in the system.
"There are also questions over how the effectiveness of opportunity areas is measured. We are unconvinced that we will be able to see improved outcomes for children and young people from early years through to improvement. How the programme is spreading effective practice to other areas is also far from clear. This is particularly worrying given the number of disadvantaged communities not covered by opportunity areas.”
The correspondence expresses concern over how opportunity areas are chosen, the value for money from the £2million administration costs and a lack of independence from Government. It also highlights a lack of joined up working across Government and questions over how the effectiveness of the programme is measured.
The Committee’s inquiry explored whether the opportunity areas programme was delivering on its aim of improving outcomes for children and young people in the 12 chosen areas, from early years through to employment, along with the programme’s role in spreading effective practice to other areas.
Full details of the Committee’s inquiry, along with transcripts of evidence sessions are available here.
Committee Membership: Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP (Con, Harlow), Lucy Allan MP (Con, Telford), Ben Bradley MP (Con, Mansfield), Marion Fellows MP (SNP, Motherwell and Wishaw), James Frith MP (Lab, Bury North), Emma Hardy MP (Lab, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle), Trudy Harrison MP (Con, Copeland), Ian Mearns MP (Lab, Gateshead), Lucy Powell MP (Lab Co-op, Manchester Central), Thelma Walker MP (Lab, Colne Valley), William Wragg MP (Con, Hazel Grove)