Great Britain

Secretary of State for Education speaks of 'enormous potential' of University of Bradford

EDUCATION minister Gavin Williamson returned to the University of Bradford today to see first hand the work it is doing to improve the fortunes of the city.

The former University of Bradford student spoke to senior figures from the institution, Bradford Council and local health services during his visit, and heard about the progress of the Opportunity Area in Bradford.

In 2017 the Government designated Bradford as one of 12 Opportunity Areas - chosen as these areas were seen to be social mobility ‘cold spots.’

Millions has been spent on programmes to boost attainment in the District.

During his visit Mr Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, heard about how different interventions being made by the Opportunity Area scheme are having an impact, and how things could be improved.

Speaking to the Telegraph & Argus after the visit, he said: "We're looking at how things could be better in the future. Without a shadow of a doubt, the opportunity area has been a great success. We need to think about how we build on that and deliver the best outcomes."

He referred to one scheme, Glasses for Classes, that provides children with glasses to help their attainment, as one particular success story of the Opportunity Area.

This new 'Glasses for Classes' project aims to improve maths and reading skills

Mr Williamson spoke of funding the Government was providing to help children across the country catch up on education missed during lockdown.

He said the money will be used to provide tutoring for young people, saying it would have a "profound impact" on their education.

He added: "Tutoring has been the preserve of the affluent for many, many years. That's why in less than 12 months we have provided packages amounting to £3 billion to help children catch up."

Recently the government announced a £1.4 billion recovery fund for children who have been affected by school closures due to the pandemic - the latest part of the £3b fund referred to by Mr Williamson.

However, many teachers and education figures felt this funding fell well short of the estimated £15 billion needed.

We asked Mr Williamson whether he thought this funding was enough, especially in a place like Bradford where children already needed help catching up to national averages even before lockdown.

He said that a total of £3 Billion had invested in educational catch up in recent years, and added: "As the Prime Minister himself said there is very much a sense that there will be more to come."

He had discussed the good work the University of Bradford had done during the pandemic - including running the world's first trial into Covid vaccine booster jabs.

The Telegraph & Argus pointed out that in 2018 the Government turned down a bid by the University of Bradford to open a medical training school.

MP 'furious' as Bradford University's bid for medical school rejected by government

Mr Williamson was asked whether that was a missed opportunity by his Government to further the University's good work and links with the NHS.

He said: "You won't be surprised to hear that as a former student I think the University has enormous potential. The University is a powerhouse for research and development. If we strive to move the city forward, the University has to be at the heart of that.

"The University does quite a lot in terms of medical technology and research, and we look at how we continue to build on that. The University is leading research, leading science, leading innovation. That to me presents an incredibly exciting opportunity.

"The University has an enormous opportunity to a great power for good and help bring improvements right across the city. It is good to see real enthusiasm from the University. They are making sure they don't just carry the city's name - they are very much an important part of the city."

After the visit Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: "We’re pleased to welcome the Secretary of State to the district. As the youngest city it’s right that he sees the good practice here and what more needs to be done to accelerate this good work.”

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