Doncaster Opportunity Area Newsletter

Welcome to the first edition of the Doncaster Opportunity Area newsletter.

This newsletter will be used to provide updates on the latest Opportunity Area developments.  It will highlight key activities, events, and opportunities to get involved with the programme.   It will also include information on the closely related areas of work, such as the Education and Skills Programme.


The government announced Doncaster as 1 of the second wave of 6 Opportunity Areas in January 2017, alongside Bradford, Fenland & East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent.  This expanded upon the original 6 Opportunity Areas announced in October 2016 (Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough and West Somerset).

Opportunity Areas embody a major policy driver for the government and the Department for Education to improve social mobility and ensure that the life chances of young people are not restricted by their background or where they live and grow up.  Each Opportunity Area was selected by the DfE based on the social mobility ‘coldspots’ identified by the Social Mobility Commission.

Funding of £6million will be allocated to each Opportunity Area to support local education providers and communities to address local challenges to social mobility.  The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is overall investing £2million, matched by £1.5million from the DfE, to oversee the establishment of Research Schools in each Opportunity Area, which aim to bridge the gap between education research and classroom practice.  Additional investment from major DfE funding streams may also be prioritised to bids supporting improvement in Opportunity Areas.    
It is important to note that the Opportunity Area programme is not working in isolation.  Particular efforts continue to be made to ensure that this major development for Doncaster links with other existing work such as the Education and Skills Programme which will take forward the recommendations of the ONE Doncaster report, and the Children and Young People’s Plan 2017-2020 which sets the strategic direction for all partners working with young people in Doncaster.  

Progress to date

As local partnerships between early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and local authorities are crucial to the programme delivery within Opportunity Areas, a series of stakeholder visits have taken place to gather local intelligence.  Stakeholder events were also held on 5th April at the Mary Woollett Centre and 12th July at Doncaster College, where up to 200 cross-sector attendees received information about the programme and contributed their ideas around barriers and opportunities for improvement.
Discussions at the first event focussed on some of the broad elements affecting social mobility such as Early Years provision, home learning environments, educational outcomes, aspiration and the Post-16 and Post-19 landscapes.  The second event included an analysis of two strands of the ONE Doncaster report which also influence social mobility: improving routes to work by developing Doncaster as a University City, and initiatives for improving childhood, e.g. 100 Things to Do Before You’re 11.    All comments, along with additional questions from stakeholders, will help to influence and shape the future delivery of the programme.
Although the progress of the Opportunity Area programme has been impacted by the Local and General Elections in May and June, and the surrounding periods of purdah, time was utilised to focus on a ‘Problem Diagnosis’ stage, involving robust data analysis and intelligence gathering. This process will help to identify the priority areas for intervention across Doncaster, ensuring that efforts and resources are invested where needed most.
Young people are central to the Opportunity Area programme, as it’s their lives that are hoped to improve the most.  Meetings have taken place with Doncaster’s Youth Council and Youth Parliament to encourage their engagement and young people will  continue to be consulted throughout the duration of the programme.
Also, Partners in Learning, Doncaster’s Teaching School Alliance, has recently been awarded its Research School bid by the EEF.  This marks a significant success for the borough, which will bring £200,000 of funding over three years, along with expertise from the Schools Research Network into the area, to help to improve teaching and learning across Doncaster’s schools.

Doncaster will be joining 21 other Research Schools to support the use of evidence to improve teaching practice and build affiliations with large numbers of schools across the region to roll out improvements at scale.   With well-established networks with local schools, Partners in Learning is well placed to ensure that the benefits of this opportunity reach all of Doncaster’s schools, children and young people.

What’s next

At the heart of the successful delivery of the Doncaster Opportunity Area is the formation of an Opportunity Area Partnership Board (OAPB).  Doncaster has already convened an informal board meeting and is set to hold its first formal OAPB meeting in September 2017.  Details of the board’s membership will soon be confirmed, but will consist of 10-12 cross-sector representatives and will be led by a Chair with significant experience within the education and skills sectors, and an understanding of the local area and wider system issues. 

A draft delivery plan, which will outline the key priorities to improve social mobility in Doncaster, will be presented to the OAPB in September and is due to be finalised in October 2017.  The delivery plan will consolidate the findings of the ‘Problem Diagnosis’ with information put forward by stakeholders, and provide details of how funding will be used to scale up existing initiatives, tilt-in national programmes and allow opportunities for suitable pilot studies.  All activity will be rooted in an evidence-based approach, with Sir Kevan Collins acting as the Evidence Champion for all Opportunity Area delivery plans. 

Before the delivery plan is finalised, a further stakeholder event will take place on Monday 25th September from 4-6pm at Doncaster College. The event will be an opportunity for stakeholders to hear about the progress made on the programme and debate and discuss the suggested priorities, inputting directly into deciding what interventions should be put in place to deliver more opportunities for children and young people in Doncaster. If you would like to attend this event, please book your place as soon as possible by using the link below, as seats are limited in line with the venue’s capacity. The password to access the event page is DoncasterOA

Book your place at the next Opportunity Area Stakeholder Event

And finally…

This newsletter has been sent to stakeholders that might be interested in the Opportunity Area programme, or have attended previous information events. 

If you have any further questions or suggestions, please use the email link below. 

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Doncaster Council · Civic Office · Waterdale · Doncaster, Dnc DN1 3BU · United Kingdom

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