Ipswich education improvement programme gets £1.2m to continue beyond 2021

Ipswich Opportunity Area aims to boost childrens' education prospects regardless of background, and

The Ipswich Opportunity Area programme will continue for a fifth year thanks to £1.2m in government funding - Credit: ThinkStock

£1.2million has been committed by the government to extend an innovative Ipswich education scheme that has seen pupils across the town benefit.

Ipswich was selected by the Government as one of 12 Opportunity Areas to launch in September 2017, aimed at boosting education prospects in the town and establishing inventive new projects in teaching.

The three-year programme was given a £1.4m boost to continue last year, and the Department for Education has now confirmed a £1.2m extension for a fifth year will happen from September 2021.

Key priorities for the fifth year of the programme are to improve attainment in maths and English, work on school readiness between early years providers and primary schools, support pupils' emotional wellbeing and tackle barriers to learning.

Richard Lister, Chair of the Ipswich Opportunity Area Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Richard Lister, chairman of the Ipswich Opportunity Area - Credit: Archant

Richard Lister, chairman of the Ipswich Opportunity Area partnership board said: “This is great news for Ipswich – an opportunity to further strengthen our education system and support the learning and wellbeing of our young people. I’m delighted we have this opportunity to build on progress, share what we’ve learnt and secure a lasting legacy for Ipswich.”

Last year the project expanded with a presence in Felixstowe, too, which will continue for year five.

Projects so far have included programmes to directly support pupils, as well as professional development opportunities for those in the sector.

With Covid-19, efforts will also be tackling the pandemic's impact such as catch-up for those who fell behind home schooling during lockdown and addressing pupil anxiety.

Online PE lessons

Learn Play Grow online PE sessions were commissioned by Ipswich Opportunity Area to boost sports learning in lockdown - Credit: Andrew Scotland/Ipswich Opportunity Area

Key programmes have included recruiting 18 remote teaching assistants to help youngsters catch-up with their learning, commissioning a series of online PE sessions for pupils to follow from home, and the What A Difference A Day Makes programme of Saturday morning classes which helped more than 200 youngsters secure a GCSE maths grade at least one level higher than predicted.

Plans for the year ahead include an online learning hub where Norwich and Ipswich will share ideas for successful projects, mental health support extending a programme that has funded therapy dogs and psychotherapy sessions among other support, and 21 learning behaviour leads to help the most vulnerable pupils.

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Headteachers say they have already seen the benefits.

Abbie Thorrington takes over the top job at Ipswich Academy after six years at the school. Picture:

Ipswich Academy head Abbie Thorrington - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Academy head Abbie Thorrington said: "Being in the IOA has been fantastic and something that the community at Ipswich Academy is incredibly grateful for.

"Additional funding and expertise within literacy and numeracy, as well as the wellbeing support on offer to students would not have been possible without being part of the IOA. It will be key that the IOA legacy continues beyond year five."

Dale Hall Primary School headteacher Jo Dedicoat.

Dale Hall Primary School headteacher Jo Dedicoat. - Credit: Supplied by Ipswich Opportunity Area

Jo Dedicoat, headteacher at Dale Hall Primary School added: “Without the IOA we would never have been able to fund or implement our school development to the degree that we have.

"The Opportunity Area has grown into something we need to ensure continues, my school would not have made the rapid progress it has without it.”

To find out more about the Ipswich Opportunity Area and its programmes, visit the website here.