Opportunity Area Funded Programmes

Opportunity Areas:

What is an Opportunity Area and how did the Government decide on the areas to support?

How we arrived at the 12 Opportunity Areas (DFE Document Extract)

The purpose of Opportunity Areas is improving social mobility; using education as a key driver to achieve this. Therefore, the Social Mobility Commission’s Social Mobility Index was used as the starting point to identify these areas. The 324 LADs (excluding City of London and Isles of Scilly due to size) were arranged into six equal groups (sextiles) based on this index to identify the group of LADs with the greatest challenges and fewest opportunities. From this the LADs in the lowest sextile were cross referenced with the AEA index, identifying those LADs that were also in the weakest sextile based on this index. That gave a ‘long-list’ of 32 areas. This list of 32 LADs can be found in the associated data file, published alongside this document. As can be seen from the above descriptions, these two indices focus on different problems so low performance on one does not automatically imply low performance on the other. Therefore the selection criterion used, being in the lowest performing on each index, identified the areas that were in most need of additional support across a wide range of issues. In order to have a consistent and fair approach in selecting the opportunity areas announced in January 2017, the same data sources were used for the areas announced in October 2016.

We want to better understand the challenges each of these areas face, identifying any common themes and what is unique to a particular area. This will then aid our learning about what works in different types of areas so we can look to apply this to other areas as appropriate. When narrowing this list down we therefore considered the following factors:

  • Regional spread – we wanted to include districts in the North, Midlands and South
  • Type of area – we wanted a spread of coastal, urban and rural areas
  • Ensuring we have a spread of areas across the long list of 32 to understand differing needs and allow for better comparison between areas

This led us to choose 12 areas to work with. The 12 Opportunity Areas are:

  • West Somerset
  • Norwich
  • Blackpool
  • North Yorkshire Coast
  • Derby
  • Oldham
  • Fenland and East Cambridgeshire
  • Hastings
  • Bradford
  • Stoke on Trent
  • Doncaster
  • Ipswich

Please note that we are not suggesting that these are the weakest areas in England for education.

They are amongst the areas which face the greatest challenges across a range of issues.

The Harmony Trust schools are based in Oldham and Derby

The Harmony Trust have been successful in securing a bid through Oldham Opportunity Area with a focus on reading and school to school support.


The overview of the proposed programme is as follows:

  1. Support for school leadership teams including Reading Leads to evaluate current practice, identify areas of need and to strategically plan for improved outcomes in Reading. To also identify key pupils and groups of pupils who are at risk of not making expected progress and/or meeting end of key stage expectations.
  2. Delivery of high quality professional development to Reading Champion teachers from ESCAL across pre-determined schools. Key teachers and aspiring leaders will have access to 5 ongoing CPD sessions, run an evidence-based research project in their own school, receive mentored support from Literacy experts and measure the impact on attainment within their own school. The programme has been written and designed around the best available evidence including the findings of the Education Endowment Foundation as summarised in their key report ‘Guidance for Improving Literacy at Key Stage One & Two.’
  3. Reading Champions will also have access to a professional learning community led by the Reading SLEs, the vehicle for sustained continuous improvement, responsible for sharing best practice and to inform practitioners of new developments and research, bringing together local and national expertise. This programme is research and evidence based and is designed to improve the pedagogic knowledge of teachers, allowing them to implement strategies within the classroom, across a key stage and at a whole school level. There is collaboration on many levels and experts provide support, guidance and mentoring. There are opportunities for challenge and accountability with clear impact measures. The whole programme is driven by improving outcomes for Oldham’s pupils including those most vulnerable


The Harmony Trust has a proven record of securing school improvement and improving outcomes within its own academies. Established in 2014 the Harmony Trust set out to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils. Raising the aspirations of the whole school community and expectations for educational excellence across its academies. The values at the core of the trust. Trust data for 2016/17 shows excellent progress measures, above national and within the top 10th percentile nationally. The trust launched its Read, Achieve, Succeed initiative in 2016 and combined with a review of the teaching of reading saw a significant increase (24%) in the combined measure to above national. An example of individual school improvement is that Richmond Academy saw an increase in Reading attainment from 37% to 76% resulting in a combined measure of 71%, above national averages for a school with 98% of pupils with EAL and 95% of children living in the top 5% of the most deprived wards in the UK (IMD) The school is also one of three trust schools that have moved from an inadequate OFSTED judgement to good under the governance of The Harmony Trust.

Our key delivery partner also has excellent records in both delivering quality assured professional development and school improvement services. The ‘Every Sheffield Child Articulate and Literate’ Team (ESCAL) has been recognised at a national level for the quality of its literacy and language CPD programmes. Programmes such as the ‘Inference Training’ have been delivered throughout Oldham’s Harmony Trust schools and to external participants with significant improvements in attainment in Reading at the end of Key Stage Two.

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