Ipswich Opportunity Area funding 'lifeline' to Ipswich schools

The IOA stakeholders at Castle Hill Primary School in Ipswich

Will Quince, children and families minister visited two Ipswich Opportunity Area schools - his first visit since his new role - Credit: Will Quince

An Ipswich headteacher has described funding to improve education outcomes as a "lifeline" during a ministerial visit. 

Gemma Andrews, headteacher at Castle Hill Primary School explained the impact the Ipswich Opportunity Area (IOA) funding has had at the school and the many projects they have been able to do because of it. 

A government-funded programme, the IOA has been an initiative to boost education attainment in schools.

It started five years ago after Ipswich was chosen as an area that needed to increase the opportunities for young people and support pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Will Quince, minister for children and families who took on responsibility for the IOA in his new role, visited both Ipswich Academy and Castle Hill Primary School on Monday to see the progress made. 

He said: “It’s my first visit to an opportunity area and I was keen to meet some of the teachers doing an incredible job and see first-hand the difference the programme is having on young people.  

“Ipswich Academy has seen improvements in behaviour, attendance and its GCSE results, and Castle Hill’s forest school is helping develop pupils’ physical, social and oracy skills as well as build their self-esteem and a positive attitude to learning."

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Castle Hill became part of the IOA five years ago as it began transitioning to another Academy Trust. 

She said: “The IOA has helped on two levels. Firstly, for us as a school it brought us back into the network of Ipswich schools and helped us work together.   

Will Quince pictured with headteacher of Castle Hill Primary School at the forest school

Will Quince visited Castle Hill's forest school which received Ipswich Opportunity Area funding - Credit: Katrina Gardiner

“It was after a period of quite turbulent times for Castle Hill. In fact, Ipswich Opportunity Area began its work just as our previous Academy Trust was being closed and we were moving across to another Academy Trust.   

“From a Castle Hill perspective, it was a bit of a lifeline for us."  

The school has been able to fund a number of projects because of the IOA funding, from the SWERL project which supports mental health and wellbeing to the forest school which gets children outdoors and learning about the environment.  

The school was also able to provide extra training to staff and network with other schools in the area.   

In the next 12 months, schools will have to negotiate the IOA project without government funding, something Mrs Andrews hopes will change.  

She said: “I hope that the government see that this is a really important piece of work and that 18 months to two years of those five years was us managing through the pandemic.   

“As we begin to come out of that pandemic, I think it’s still important that we have that funding to keep those networks and keep that excellent practice going across Ipswich.”