A new programme to boost the prospects of young people in Sheffield and South Yorkshire by encouraging them to stay in school and achieve better exam grades could have a 'transformative impact', its leader has said.
South Yorkshire Futures - a partnership helmed by Sheffield Hallam University - aims to tackle a worrying trend that shows the county's pupils are less likely to receive good GCSE results, remain in education or attend a school regarded highly by Ofsted.
It has won support from the Government, academy trusts, councils and the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, among others. A launch event at Hallam's Institute of Education was attended by more than 200 people including educationalists, business figures and politicians, including children's minister Robert Goodwill.
Figures have sparked concern about the quality of young people's life opportunities in South Yorkshire. Two years ago a study called the Sutton Trust Mobility Map showed that, of the county's 14 constituencies, 10 have low social mobility.
In addition, last year's Ofsted Annual Report revealed that, while 82 per cent of the most deprived pupils in England attend good or outstanding schools, the rates in South Yorkshire are below average - 74 per cent in Sheffield, 65 per cent in Rotherham, 59 per cent in Barnsley and just 53 per cent in Doncaster.
The programme will 'bring a more joined-up approach' and 'improved collaboration' in three areas - preparation, in early years; performance, at primary and secondary schools; and aspiration, a strand focusing on further education, higher education and work.
Early priorities include providing a leadership and knowledge exchange service for early years providers, enhancing students' progression into university or work, and improving teacher recruitment, as well as reducing the number of staff leaving education altogether.
Professor Chris Husbands, Hallam's vice-chancellor, said: "There are examples of outstanding schools and successful practices in South Yorkshire, but the overall picture is much more patchy, with young people simply not having the same opportunities as their peers across the country.
"We simply don’t believe that South Yorkshire's young people are less capable of achieving than other young people and we don’t accept that we have less committed or motivated teachers and school leaders."
He added: "South Yorkshire Futures is our response to this challenge and a token of Sheffield Hallam’s commitment to the region. It marks a step change in the university’s mission to lead locally and to work with others who share a commitment to achieving success.
"Through the programme, we have a great opportunity to make a positive, long-term, transformative impact on the lives of the young people in our region."
Mr Goodwill said the scheme linked with the national Opportunity Areas initiative, adding that Doncaster is one of the 12 towns and cities the Government is turning its attention to.
"No-one should feel that where they come from is stopping them from reaching their full potential," he said.
“I hope that through this work, young people will lead the way in showing how positive change can be achieved.”
Visit www.southyorkshirefutures.co.uk for details.