Agenda item

Learning from the West Somerset Opportunity Area

To receive presentation.


This item will be led by the Council’s Strategic Manager, Julia Ridge.


Note – the Chair will allow 30 minutes for this agenda item.


The Committee noted the presentation on the learning from the West Somerset Opportunity Area programme.


The Committee received a presentation from the Council’s Head of Vulnerable Learners, Julia Ridge on the learning from the West Somerset Opportunity Area programme. The Executive Head Teacher of the Moorland Federation, Naomi Philp, also joined the meeting for this item.


The Opportunity Area was funded and managed by the Department for Education. West Somerset was 324 out of 324 Local Authorities for Social mobility and one of 12 chosen to explore ways of  improving social mobility through education. The overarching ambition from the DfE was that - no community left behind.  Putting real emphasis on the range of places where resources and additional targeting are needed the most, with the West Somerset Opportunity Area (WSOA) at the sharp end to tackle the most entrenched disadvantage.


The presentation referenced the evaluation undertaken of the WSOA, five externally funded projects which align (such as holiday activities with food), five examples of local practice which align (such as stronger partnership working between schools) and Local Community Networks. Mrs Philp explained that from schools perspective it had been a very inclusive and transformational experience as well.


The Committee asked a number of questions and made a number of comments which were responded to at the meeting, as follows:

·         Excellent work in early years – are still some schools around Minehead area getting poor Ofsted; training centre Bridgwater and Minehead provision has been ‘divided up’ will there be enough room to deliver now on what envisaged originally - the bid said ‘a provision’ in Minehead, and no building identified specifically – it is happening and if can share costs with another organisation, it is helpful. Mentioned that Ms Philp is Chair of Governors at West Somerset College and there is connectivity between schools in the system. Ms Walker referred to the standing panel on Education Standards, which Cllr Hadley will be part of.

·         The Executive are looking at the outcomes report – delivery, progress, and wider benefits - and take what can across the Council.

·         Idea of training centre in Minehead is welcomed, but rurality of area still and jobs do not pay enough to meet childcare costs.

·         Transport costs issue also mentioned – there is no regular bus service bus from Minehead to Bridgwater -  post COVID there is complexity around housing / second homes, impacting on recruitment of teachers too; people in rural area not confident about buses, reliability, mentioned an App which helps, which First Bus uses.

·         Mention also made of the Cornwall campaign around second homes.


In conclusion, Ms Philp said that she had been delighted to be involved in the project and was proud leading the way in many ways. There is work to be done still in West Somerset (school transport, recruitment) and hoped that the new Council did not lose sight of this.


The Chair thanked Ms Ridge and Mrs Philp for attending the meeting and for their detailed presentation on the learning from the WSOA and that Somerset as a whole gained from the project.


The Committee noted the update.


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