Ministers have come under fire for “recycling old announcements” as part of their long-awaited levelling up plans.
With the first levelling up white paper set to be published on Wednesday, a number of policies to address regional inequality have already been teased, including proposals to cut the attainment gap between wealthy and poorer areas.
Around 55 “education investment areas” including Hartlepool, Cornwall and County Durham have been identified for extra resources to increase academic standards in schools. Roughly 95 per cent of the targeted areas are outside London and the South East.
Ministers will give schools retention payments to hold onto the best teachers in subjects where more pupils are struggling, the government said, as well as setting targets for 90 per cent of children to have reached set standards in reading, writing and maths when they leave primary school by 2030.
But opposition MPs and experts warned that there was little distinction between this policy and the “opportunity areas” initiative promised by the Conservative party in 2017, announced by then-education secretary Justine Greening. At the time, the Department for Education pledged a £75m teaching and leadership innovation fund focused on supporting teachers in subjects which were proving more difficult to raise standards in.
“Opportunity areas will help local children get the best start in life, no matter what their background. Ensuring all children can access high-quality education at every stage is critical,” Greening said.