Westminster Education Forum

Next steps for improving social mobility in England - the Opportunity Areas programme, tackling regional inequality affecting young people, and the roles of education and business

Afternoon, Thursday, 23rd April 2020

Central London


This conference will assess the next steps for improving social mobility in England, and next steps for the Opportunity Areas programme.

The context and keynote speakers

It follows the recent announcement from the DfE of an extension of the Opportunity Areas programme for a further year backed by funding of £18m to target improvement in educational outcomes, careers advice, and teacher recruitment. There will be a keynote address from: Alison Wilson, Deputy Director, Opportunity Areas, Department for Education.

Stakeholders and policymakers will discuss priorities for policy in the new parliament and options for funding including:

  • Increasing investment in the early years workforce;
  • Supporting schools to attract outstanding teachers in ‘social mobility coldspots’; and
  • Repurposing the pupil premium as a ‘social mobility premium’.

It follows proposals put forward by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility, and chair of the Group in the last parliament, Justin Madders MP, will be chairing a session at the seminar.

This conference will also be an opportunity to consider findings in the latest state of the nation report by the Social Mobility Commission following its expected publication next March - and the agenda includes a keynote contribution from the Commission’s its chair Dame Martina Milburn.

Case studies, further speakers and chairs

Contributors sharing particular areas of experience include:

  • Anand Shukla, Brightside - on the work being done to partner with schools to encourage and improve transition into university;
  • Sarah Holmes-Carne, Kenton School - on initiatives within the school to raise the attainment of pupils;
  • Dr Tim Coulson, Norwich Opportunity Area - on the progress made so far by the programme, and lessons from its implementation;
  • Wayne Norrie, Greenwood Academies Trust, Nottinghamshire - on what is being done within the Trust to develop employer partnerships and the impact on pupils; and
  • Anne-Marie Canning, King’s College London and Bradford Opportunity Area - on the progress made within the Bradford Opportunity Area at the beginning of its cycle.

Further confirmed speakers include: Chris Derbyshire, Partnerships Manager, University of Sussex; Richard Hamer, Education Director, BAE Systems; Ellen McHugh, Assistant Head Student Leadership & Enterprise, St Albans Girls’ School; Adrian Hurst, Head of Community, Stoke City FC; and Chris Starkie, Chief Executive Officer, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

The chairs are: Justin Madders MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Social Mobility and Lord McNally, Member, House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee have agreed to chair at this seminar.

The agenda in summary

  • The State of the Nation - analysing the current landscape of social mobility;
  • The Opportunity Areas Programme - impact so far and next steps for creating sustainable improvements in outcomes for young people;
  • What next for the Opportunity Areas Programme;
  • Addressing regional inequality in the UK and its impact on the opportunities for young people;
  • Innovation in tackling inequalities among young people - the role of employers, widening access to university and retaining young people within a particular region; and
  • The role of education - best practice in the use of current provision, and developing community-led approaches and partnerships both in and outside of the classroom.

Keynote Speaker

Alison Wilson

Deputy Director, Opportunity Areas, Department for Education

Keynote Speaker

Alison Wilson

Deputy Director, Opportunity Areas, Department for Education


Lord McNally

Justin Madders MP


Dame Martina Milburn

Chair, Social Mobility Commission

Ellen McHugh

Assistant Head Student Leadership & Enterprise, St Albans Girls’ School Employer

Adrian Hurst

Head of Community, Stoke City FC

Wayne Norrie

Chief Executive, Greenwood Academies Trust, Nottinghamshire

Anne-Marie Canning

Director, Social Mobility and Student Success, King’s College London and Independent Chair, Bradford Opportunity Area

Dr Tim Coulson

Independent Chair, Norwich Opportunity Area

Sarah Holmes-Carne,

Principal, Kenton School

Richard Hamer

Education Director, BAE Systems

Anand Shukla

Chief Executive, Brightside

Chris Derbyshire

Partnership Manager, University of Sussex

Chris Starkie

Chief Executive Officer, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership