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 focuses on latest developments in policy and local initiatives aimed at improving social mobility in England.

It is bringing together stakeholders with key policymakers to assess next steps for the Opportunity Areas programme.

Delegates will also discuss priorities for policy as the new government pursues its ‘leveling up’ and regional investment agenda. It comes with further commitments to further investment in skills provision, further education and training expected to be made in the forthcoming Budget.

The discussion also takes place in the context of the Social Mobility Commission’s Barometer poll for 2019 which highlights a gap in optimism between young people in different areas of England, who were asked if they felt there were good opportunities for them to do well in their region

This poll is a ‘call to action’ for this government to do more to help social mobility. Politicians at national and local level must listen to it. Regions which have been marginalised for decades should get the investment they need to provide opportunities for young people so they don’t have to move out to move up.” - Dame Martina Milburn, Chair, Social Mobility Commission, 21st January 2020.

Keynote speakers, their contributions

The seminar includes a keynote contribution from the Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Dame Martina Milburn - and will follow the expected publication next month of the Commission’s latest state of the nation report.

It also includes a keynote address from Alison Wilson, Deputy Director, Opportunity Areas, Department for Education, on:

  • government priorities for the Opportunity Areas programme following its extension, and
  • the next steps for Opportunity North East (ONE) programme which aims to improve educational outcomes in the region, with the recent publication of its £22m delivery plan.

Further speakers Case studies, and chairs

Confirmed speakers include: Chris Derbyshire, University of Sussex; Richard Hamer, BAE Systems; Sarah Holmes-Carne, Kenton School, Ellen McHugh, St Albans Girls’ School; Wayne Norrie, Greenwood Academies Trust; Adrian Hurst, Stoke City FC and Chris Starkie, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

Contributors sharing particular areas of experience include:

  • Work being done to partner with schools to encourage and improve transition into university - with Anand Shukla, Brightside;
  • Progress made so far by the Bradford Opportunity Area programme - with Anne-Marie Canning, King’s College London and Independent Chair of Bradford Opportunity Area.

The chairs are: Justin Madders MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Social Mobility and Lord McNally.

The agenda

  • 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;
  • Review of the progress of Opportunity Areas in tackling social mobility;
  • Innovation in tackling inequalities among young people - the role of employers, widening access to university, and retaining young people within a particular region;
  • 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; and
  • What next for the Opportunity Areas Programme?

Engagement with policy officials at this conference

Westminster Education Forum conferences typically attract strong interest from policymakers. This seminar will be an opportunity for stakeholders to engage with officials who have reserved places representing: the Cities & Local Growth Unit; Department for Education; Home Office; MoD; NAO and Ofsted.

Keynote Speaker

Alison Wilson

Deputy Director, Opportunity Areas, Department for Education

Keynote Speakers

Dame Martina Milburn

Chair, Social Mobility Commission

Alison Wilson

Deputy Director, Opportunity Areas, Department for Education


Lord McNally

Justin Madders MP


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