Extending the Opportunity Area programme

Oldham opportunity area (OA) was launched in 2017 by the government as one of 12 OAs to raise education standards. The OA brings together national and local government, education leaders, teachers, voluntary organisations and employers.

At the time the OA launched, Oldham ranked 294th out of 324 districts in the social mobility index. It was 34th most deprived out of 326 areas in England in the 2015 index of multiple deprivation. .

For the last three years, we have worked hard to deliver a programme of work designed to help the young people of Oldham realise their potential. Today, Minister Michelle Donelan announced the exciting news that there will be OA funding for an extra 12 months. During this time, we’ll continue to focus on our three priorities:

  • Early Years: ensuring all children are ready for school by the age of 5.
  • Attainment: raising attainment for all pupils and raising it fastest for disadvantaged pupils.
  • Preparing for the future: helping all children and young people prepare for life, learning and work.

The chair of our board, James Kempton, said:

“I am delighted by the Government’s decision to continue supporting the young people in Oldham by extending the Opportunity Area funding into another year. Our mission is to ensure that young people growing up here have access to the same sort of opportunities to succeed that you find in other parts of the country.

Over the past three years Oldham Opportunity Area has begun to make an impact, but there is still plenty for us to do. We will focus on strengthening the offer for Early Years children, driving school improvement by reshaping the way schools are supported, and helping our young people to access vocational training and the best universities. The social and economic impact of COVID has left many of our young people concerned about their futures. This makes our work even more crucial over the coming months.”

Over the next 12 months our projects will include:

Early Years: Speech Language and Communication

In the 2015/16 academic year, only 60.5% of children in the Oldham Opportunity Area achieved a Good Level of Development (GLD) at age five compared nationally to 69.3% of children. Through our partnership with Making It Real, we targeted eight of our most deprived wards. This hard work contributed towards a big improvement in 2019, when 68.1% of children in Oldham achieved GLD.

Despite this heartening progress, there is still some way to go and we will continue our focus on this area in the next 12 months. In particular, we’ll support our most disadvantaged wards to make sure progress continues in closing the deprivation gap.

Oldham Learning

In 2017, a quarter of the town’s state-funded secondary schools were rated ‘requires improvement’ or inadequate. This meant too many children and young people in Oldham were falling behind. Our disadvantaged pupils often made the least progress.

In the next 12 months, we will focus on the creation and implementation of Oldham Learning. For the first time, Oldham will have a system-led partnership that will set the direction for school improvement. The partnership will have the ability to agree and commission work programmes across the borough. Oldham Learning will direct investment and oversee activity to ensure there is a stable supply of high-quality teachers in Oldham. The group will also focus on support and professional development for school leaders, curriculum colleagues, teachers and governors.

Support for vulnerable learners

The work of the OA Mental Wellbeing team over the past three years has ensured that over 90% of our schools now have a mental wellbeing lead in place. Over 97% of schools have done a mental health self-assessment and put an action plan in place to improve.
We will continue to build on that excellent progress to make sure some of our most vulnerable children and young people aren’t missed. This will include looked-after children (CLA) and Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) pupils.

We will also continue to build staff capacity to support our young people’s mental wellbeing in schools. This will be through bespoke training and the continuation of an online portal that provides schools with access to specialist services.

Youth engagement

The Oldham Opportunity Area has put youth engagement at the heart of its programme. We have worked with the local authority youth service to train and accredit young people in research and engagement. The Oldham OA young ambassadors continue to be at the heart of our work. We will support them in further development and accreditation in research and leadership.

Progression opportunities into employment and higher education

In the coming months, our young people will experience increased challenges when seeking a job or a university place. As a result of COVID, we will likely see an increase in youth unemployment in the borough. To support young people, we will deliver projects that provide opportunities for progression into employment and higher education. These projects will be co-designed with our team of young ambassadors.

Sharing learning

We have learned a lot over the past three years and will continue to do so over the next 12 months. One of our new areas of focus will be to evaluate and share our insights with other areas. In particular, we will partner with a neighbouring authority, to make sure make sure we get maximum benefits from this extra year of activity.

To stay up-to-date with the latest news, follow us on Twitter: @OldhamOA

Event: Supporting EAL learners at home and as they return to school

14 July 2020 from 1pm-2.30pm via Zoom.

The Harmony Trust Teaching School Alliance continues to support Oldham Schools to improve outcomes for EAL pupils through their EAL Leadership Programmes, EAL Champions Teacher Programme and The EAL Specialist Teaching Assistant Programme.


EAL Learners and in particular newly arrived pupils may be some of those that are affected the most by the school closure period caused by Covid19. To support schools in planning for these pupils while at home and as they return to school, we are offering a free 1 hour and 30 minute session seminar via Zoom to all Oldham schools.

This course is suitable for all key stages and will provide teachers and teaching assistants with practical strategies to meet the needs of EAL learners while working
at home.

We will look at:

  • Strategies to support home learning
  • Strategies to support transition back to school

To book, please contact Kim Callaghan: TSA@theharmonytrust.org

The course will be delivered online using zoom, in order to access this training, participants must have a ZOOM account using the email they provide on registering.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Oldham Opportunity Areas Team

Find your future in digital

As part of their Oldham Digital Skills Programme, the Rio Ferdinand Foundation have an amazing online opportunity running on Wednesday 15 July, from 11am – 12pm. The session is for young women from Oldham aged 13-25 alongside their partners Manchester Digital and Oldham Opportunity Area. 

This is an online ‘ask me anything’ style session; young women will be matched with some of Manchester Digital’s Role Models (professional women working across Greater Manchester in Digital/Tech industries) for a series of quick-fire, group video chats. Participants can ask them about their personal journey, career highs, false starts & challenges. They’ll hear about the many opportunities available to them with a career in the tech or digital sector and leave feeling inspired & empowered about their future. 

Amazingly Manchester Digital have had to turn down some of their pro role models for this event; too many wanted to sign up and support young women from Oldham!! 

There are only a few places left so visit the Eventbrite page to register!

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/find-your-future-in-digital-female-only-live-qa-with-professional-women-tickets-110662985970

‘Kindness and Gratitude’ week

Hi everyone!

We appreciate that the last week has been particularly challenging, especially for our primary school colleagues, and we would once again like to remind you of our support and availability for you whenever it is required. 

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, supported by the Mental Health Foundation, who have chosen the theme of ‘Kindness’.  We have based this week’s theme upon this, and also incorporated gratitude, which goes hand in hand with kindness, both to others and to ourselves.  Over the next week we will be tweeting about resources and ideas as well as sharing the amazing work going on in our Oldham settings.  Please keep us posted!

Our document for this week is at the bottom of this post.  In response to queries we have produced one version with all elements in, and one which does not contain sections pertaining only to staff, enabling you to share more easily.  As always, if you require anything in addition please let us know.

We’d also like to remind you that Wednesday this week (20th May) is national ‘Thank a Teacher’ day and we would encourage you to find little ways to celebrate this within your setting for staff, pupils and parents to take part.    There is a set of resources for you to use including a Thank a Teacher toolkit, which contains graphics, images and frames for social media. On the day, there is a national website https://thankateacher.co.uk/thank-a-teacher-day/ where positive messages can be published.

Important update – free online courses for Oldham parents

These courses are for everyone who wants to be the best mum, dad, grandparent, carer that they can be. Parents and carers are dealing with new issues as a result of lockdown and these courses may help resolve or at least help to look at the reasons behind the behaviour changes going on.

The courses are:

  • Understanding your pregnancy birth labour and your baby
  • Understanding your baby
  • Understanding your child

To access, visit www.solihullapproachparenting.com. You will need an Oldham postcode. School staff wanting to take up on the offer should use their school postcode. The access code for the courses is DAISY. Any questions, please contact: info@obsdirectory.co.uk.

We hope you manage to have as restful a half-term as possible.  Keep safe and as always we look forward to seeing you (even virtually) soon.

Natalie, Chrissy & Aimee

‘Supporting Emotional Wellbeing’ Week

We hope you all had a restful long weekend!

Our theme for this week is ‘Supporting Emotional Wellbeing’. We understand that the times we are finding ourselves in are unlike any other. As a result, we may be finding that our wellbeing is affected.

We’ve put together an Emotional Wellbeing document (link at the bottom of this paragraph) with further information on how, as staff, you can look after your own wellbeing and also how you can look after children’s emotional wellbeing during this time. There is also guidance on how parents can support young people at home. We’d like to draw your attention to the Catch it, Check it, Change it framework over the final pages. This is a fantastic way for children, parents and staff to see how their thoughts influence their wellbeing. If it would be helpful to receive this as worksheets or any other format please contact your advisor.

We hope you find the information and resources useful, and as ever, if you need any further clarification, please contact us. We are working hard to provide wellbeing support from afar so if there is anything we can do to help, please let us know.

Later in the week, we will be sending out information on our parents’ programme run by Bounce Forward. Their ‘raise resilience’ parent training is an example of how you can support your parents to achieve this. Over 100 Oldham parents have already completed the course, with a further 152 parents currently taking part in cohort 2. Cohort 3 will start on Monday 18th May. The feedback has been really positive:

“The course was really interesting and I enjoyed it. It boosted my confidence and gave me strength and helped me to deal or to handle my children during this period”

“I found the parental resilience course helpful and useful . Giving us useful tips specially in this hard time. When everyone is finding it difficult to cope with day to day life. And managing kids has never felt so difficult. It gave us tactics to deal with difficult situations with a positive approach”

More details will follow, but you can also check out https://bounceforward.com/bounce-forward-raising-resilience-oldham-open/

Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May), hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. The theme is ‘kindness’ so our theme will focus on kindness and gratitude. As always, we are keen to hear what is happening on the ground. If you have any ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ or things you are grateful for, please let us know! We love to share what our Oldham staff are saying. We will send out resources for staff, parents and children; however, if you want to have a look beforehand, https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week is a great resource.

Finally, for all schools involved in the Responsive Schools Programme and supervision in schools. We are currently in discussions about the final training but this will not take place until next academic year. Please remember that remaining one-to-one supervision sessions must be accessed this academic year, and we will keep you updated with future plans for the project. Also do not forget about the extended provision for any staff within your setting.

Stay safe
Natalie, Chrissy & Aimee (Wellbeing Team)