Questions asked over £6m Norwich scheme to help disadvantaged children

Norfolk Labour county councillor Emma Corlett. Picture supplied by Emma Corlett

Norfolk Labour county councillor Emma Corlett. Picture supplied by Emma Corlett - Credit: Archant

Questions have been asked about the effectiveness of a £6m government pilot scheme which aims to tackle disadvantage among Norwich youngsters.

Norwich was chosen as one of the government's first six opportunity areas in October 2016, after it came 323rd out of 324 districts for social mobility - a measure of how someone improves their life chances.

Among priorities of the Department for Education-led scheme, within which Norfolk County Council is a partner, are to give children a better start at school, with improvements to early speech, listening and language.

The goal is also to cut exclusions by two thirds and raise attainment through targeted support and development.

However, questions about the scheme were asked of Jackie Bircham, from New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and the programme director for the Norwich Opportunity Area, at a meeting of Norfolk County Council's cabinet scrutiny committee.

When questioned by councillors about how the success of the scheme could be measured, Ms Bircham said it was too early to determine the full impact of the work being done, although she said the data did show "green shoots".

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And she said: "It has been quite difficult to really focus on where the money needs to be spent to have the greatest impact."

She added the city's secondary schools had been keener to get involved than primary schools, some of which were reluctant to take staff out of classrooms for training.

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She said some schools had embraced the support and change, but accepted it was a case of "holding their nerve" that what they are doing will bring improvements, when it is difficult to measure what the impact has been so far.

But Labour county councillor Emma Corlett, a school governor at Bignold Primary School, said: "I have still got concerns about value for money. As someone who represents an area of Norwich which is meant to be benefitting from this, and a school governor, I am not seeing £6m worth of investment.

"I do not doubt there's good individual people doing good work with a little more resource, but from the original announcement made, I don't see it, feel it or experience it on a daily basis."

MORE: 'It's much harder than it was 10 years ago' - the school fighting deprivation

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