Since 2016, Oldham has received additional Government funding as an ‘opportunity area’, to help improve the life chances of its children, young people and their families. Activity is happening all over Oldham, so when the Opportunity Area (OA) Partnership Board met recently, we were delighted to meet some of the people who have benefited from that work.
We met Meghan and Sharif, two of Oldham’s Young Ambassadors. They represent a group ranging in age from 11 to 18 who have worked together to help shape the priorities for investment in Oldham. Their hopes for the future are at the forefront of their minds; they spoke eloquently about feeling positive when they see the redevelopment and changes in the town centre. But they also feel that these chances aren’t open to everyone, because of their personal circumstances. They provided a passionate reminder of why supporting children and young people to do well at school, and get decent jobs with good prospects really matters to the people of Oldham.
We also met with three parents who told us about how the youngest children in Oldham are being supported in new ways, which I hope will make an impact for years to come. They have taken part in Making it REAL, a project in schools which gives parents confidence to improve their children’s reading and writing. I was struck by how those parents not only saw the difference in their children, but also felt a difference in their own abilities and confidence, which brings a positive knock-on effect for older siblings too.
The OA Partnership Board were interested to hear suggestions from both the parent and Young Ambassadors about where things could change or improve. These comments came at just the right time, as the Board were reviewing where else we should be investing the funding we have. One message which came through strongly was the need to communicate to help build a shared sense of the efforts which are underway to improve the future for children and young people in this community. That’s why I will be sharing more about what is happening across Oldham, to help celebrate success, and to encourage more schools, families and young people to get involved.
I will next meet with the other members of the Partnership Board in the New Year, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who is working so hard for Oldham, and to wish you all a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas.