Westminster Education Forum

Latest developments in improving educational attainment and social mobility: the role of schools, opportunities post-16 and implementing the Opportunity Areas programme

Morning, Thursday, 14th February 2019

Central London


This timely seminar will discuss next steps for raising educational attainment and improving social mobility in England  -  from early years through to higher and further education and into employment.

It will be an opportunity to examine the implementation and impact of a range of measures announced by the Secretary of State to improve social mobility through education.

Delegates will also assess what can be learnt from the impact so far of the Opportunity Areas programme, in improving social mobility in the 12 areas considered to be social mobility ‘cold spots’ in England - with cases studies from both the first and second wave of the programme.

We also expect discussion of how the Opportunity Areas could be used as a platform for wider progress in terms of social mobility across England with the announcement by the Secretary of State of targeted funding for the North East.

The range of policy initiatives to be discussed affect early years education, primary and secondary education, and further and higher education. Discussion will focus upon improving teaching quality and the role of schools in raising aspirations and improving attainment.

Attendees will consider policy and best practice aimed at tackling disadvantage in early years including options for improving collaboration, and progress on the government initiative to improve literacy and language skills in early years, with the announcement of specific funding by the Secretary of State - alongside the creation of a £30m fund aimed at creating more nursery places at successful schools and enhancing the use of data analytics to better target interventions.

We also expect discussion on the review commissioned by government on the quality of non-GCSE qualifications for 14-16 year olds, and on research by the Social Mobility Commission on the impact on social mobility of extra-curricular activities.

Further sessions focus on post-16 through both higher and further education, including the likely impact of T-Levels as preparations are made for their initial introduction in three areas in 2020 and the newly introduced Strategic College Improvement Fund to support the FE sector and improve standards.

There will also be discussion on widening access into HE and employment with the Office for Students continuing to examine how universities can reach out to students from different backgrounds, including through their National Collaborative Outreach Programme.

Delegates will also consider the opportunities for employers to engage with schools, further education and higher education institutes to ensure they are reaching out to all young people to provide greater opportunities for them to reach a high level of employment.

Guest of Honour

Hannah Streatfeild

Deputy Director, Opportunity Areas, Department for Education

Guest of Honour

Hannah Streatfeild

Deputy Director, Opportunity Areas, Department for Education


Peter Aldous MP

Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Employment and Chair, County All-Party Parliamentary Group

Siobhain McDonagh MP

Vice Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility


Senior speaker confirmed from the Social Mobility Commission

Jenny Ann

National Collaborative Outreach Programme Manager, Office for Students

Kim Caplin

Principal, Westminster Kingsway College

Professor Kathryn Mitchell

Chair, Derby Opportunity Area Partnership Board and Vice Chancellor, University of Derby

Professor Liz Barnes

Co-Chair, Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area Partnership Board and Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, Staffordshire University

Melanie Richards

Vice Chair UK, KPMG

David Woolley

Director of Student and Community Engagement, Nottingham Trent University

Mark Vickers

Chief Executive, Olive Academies

Julia Ridge

West Somerset Opportunity Area Lead, Somerset County Council

Gillian Peck

Headteacher, Putnoe Primary School, Bedfordshire

Damian Corneal

Managing Director, Accenture