Blog Post

West Somerset Opportunity Area

Partnership Board Update and Blog

The work of the West Somerset Opportunity Area was interrupted by the national lockdown and other effects of Covid-19.  A scheduled meeting in March was cancelled whilst DfE and local stakeholders considered the most relevant response to circumstances. Subsequently, Board meetings were held in May, June and July. The following is a synopsis of business at each of these meetings.

19th May 2020

Conflicts of interest recorded for Peter Elliot, Paul Rushforth and Naomi Griffiths

The main focus of the meeting was use of the OA funds held by Somerset County Council which could not be used in the original way planned, due to national restrictions.  Some activities were paused, delayed, or cancelled resulting in an underspend.  The programme team consulted with local stakeholders, including education leaders, about the best way to manage remaining funding, following DfE agreement that OA funds can be spent up to 31st March 2021. The feedback from the consultation informed four priorities for use of the underspend:

  • Curriculum and transitions: Reduce the impact of the educational hiatus on disadvantaged/pupil premium children (all ages)
  • Community partnership: Emotional wellbeing /SEND: Improve resilience
  • CEIAG, post-16 and skills:  Reduce NEET
  • Digital Connectivity enabling benefits to be realised

The most pressing priority was identified as digital connectivity for children and young people who lacked resources at home.  The board agreed in principle that funding should be used for the recommended purpose and a proposal developed.

As second proposal was to support family engagement in the community as a need had been identified by stakeholders.  A proposal for funding from another source had been made by a community partnership in West Somerset and it was agreed that any further funding decisions would depend on the outcome of that bid.

The programme team agreed to do more work on a comprehensive plan to utilise the underspend.

Jeff Brown (consultant) joined the meeting to provide an update on the Young People’s participation research funded by the OA and undertaken by the Youth Sport Trust

18th June 2020

At the June Partnership Board, the main item of discussion was a fully scoped plan for use of the underspend presented for approval by members.

The plan set, out in detail, the project that will be funded within the priorities agreed at the May meeting. Partnership Board members endorsed the plan, which will be delivered by the local programme team.

OA support for purchase of IT equipment and relevant support, to support on-line learning by children and young people, had been agreed at the previous partnership board meeting and Julia Ridge, OA Programme Manager, provided an update on progress.

The Partnership Board were also asked to review the proposed delivery plan for a fourth year of the OA programme. The plan reflects a prioritisation exercise conducted by the Board in January.

No conflicts of interest were recorded.

18th July 2020

Conflict of interest registered by Tom Thayer of EDF.

Professor Colin Diamond CBE has been confirmed as the new Chair of the Partnership Board. Professor Diamond works in the Department of Education at Birmingham University, specialising in educational management. He lives in Somerset.

The main agenda item at the meeting in July was the approval of the Year 4 OA delivery plan, which had been approved by Minister Donelan since the meeting in June as well as confirmation of a funding allocation of £980,000. An overview of the plan can be found here.

Tom Thayer presented a proposal requesting funding for a skills development initiative that will enable participants to benefit from a Hinkley Point C programme of support that will prepare them for future employment opportunities within the sector. The Partnership Board endorsed the proposal but requested that some match funding be found from other organisations.

Opportunity Area Year 4 Announcement


West Somerset was the lowest ranking district in the Social Mobility Index in January 2016, a measure that compares the chances that a child from a disadvantaged background will do well at school and get a good job. Not enough children were achieving the same level of attainment at school as in Somerset or nationally.

In 2016, West Somerset, along with 11 other areas across England, was selected to become an Opportunity Area. This resulted in a planned programme of education interventions, implemented from 2017. These interventions have to date yielded success, but there is still more to achieve. The fourth year of the programme, which starts in September 2020, will further ensure that improvements are built on and embedded, preparing more young people in West Somerset to take advantage of current and future opportunities.

The Year 4 Plan

Four educational priorities will be implemented in the 2020 to 2021 academic year.  We will also aim to share learning, developed within the Opportunity Area, with other parts of Somerset and the south-west.

  1. Continued development of sustainable, high quality teaching and learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) A targeted programme of activity to further strengthen Early Years provision in West Somerset will build on professional development of the workforce and will focus on speech and language, maths, physical activity and inclusive practice.  Successful initiatives that have engaged families in the development of young children in the home learning environment will be extended. Best practice will be embedded in settings and will support sustainable, long-term good quality provision led by the West Somerset Early Years Community, which is a specific self-directing professional group established in 2019 to drive improvement in West Somerset. Ensuring sufficiency of childcare in West Somerset will also be a priority.
  2. Delivery of evidence based: literacy strategies, maths mastery and SEND practice in West Somerset schools. Investment will help schools strengthen teaching and learning of core curriculum subjects and ensure education is inclusive.  Special attention will be given to those students who are at most educational disadvantage, particularly during the period of Covid-19 education recovery. Strong transition and curriculum coherence throughout all key stages will deliver a school system that helps more children and young people attain at and above national benchmarks
  3. Deliver, with schools and early years settings, a focused Children’s workforce recruitment campaign that promotes education in West Somerset. The need to boost recruitment of teachers and other education professionals in West Somerset is one that is regarded as important by early years’ settings and schools. This intervention will help to ensure a strong workforce base will be sustained by the local school system in West Somerset.
  4. Support schools to meet requirements of the national careers strategy and engage young people in the world of work. Working with partners to ensure a programme of activity designed to broaden horizons and develop aspirations will be delivered across West Somerset.  Employers will be engaged to support this process and encouraged to develop their own work-based training through the apprenticeship route.  

The Healthy Mover in me

Kate Chaplin – Youth Sports Trust Tutor  and Development Coach, has written a blog in the eyes of one of the children at a nursery/pre school. 

Chapter One

In the Autumn of 2018, my Early Years teacher went to Minehead to “Teacher School,” for the day.

They learnt lots of games and activities that would help me to learn, be active and play with my friends and family.

Chapter Two

During Autumn, the leaves changed colour on the trees and some of them fell onto the ground when the wind blew. We started to play the games that my teacher had learnt.

Sometimes we were like the Birds in the Trees who were balancing on the branches when the Autumn winds blew

Look at Me!

I can balance on both my feet close together On one foot On the other foot How many seconds can I balance for on each foot?

Chapter Three

Soon, our parents and carers came and joined us. We would all listen to a story and then play together.

My favourite activity with my parent or carer has been……

I can dance with a scarf and draw shapes in the air. This is helping me to learn to hold a paintbrush, pencil and one day to read and write.

Chapter Four

In the spring term, we were given a rucksack.

In my rucksack I have……?

My favourite thing in my rucksack is my……?

Chapter Five

At home, I have played with the toys and cards in my rusk sack with my parents and we all had lots of fun.

Chapter Six

At Easter, we had an egg hunt and played Healthy Mover games! We had a picnic with our friends from other nurseries.

I made some great new friends and learnt not to be scared of going to a new place and trying different games and activities.

Skill Up West Somerset

Skill up is a complimentary service to support the businesses and people of West Somerset with their Apprenticeship and Skills journey, offering impartial advice and guidance. Marie Howard, is the Skill Up Apprenticeships and Skills Adviser, providing information and support for your business to help you understand the Apprenticeship and skills landscape, and introduce you to local training provision.

If you would like to learn more about the government funding available for Apprentices or have other skills requirements please contact Marie for free, impartial, advice and guidance. Email: Telephone: 07395796297

Jane Parker, is the Skill Up Information Adviser and Employment Coach, providing information and support to any individual in the community and will be regularly available across West Somerset’s Employment Hubs. Email: Telephone: 07734494755  


Study Up

We have created this website to help you find out more about the wide range of Degrees, Foundation Degrees, Degree Apprenticeships, Higher Education, Professional Qualifications and courses on offer in Somerset and how to access them.

Providers of Higher Education (HE) across Somerset have worked together to provide the latest information on courses, campuses, study options, funding and FAQs, We hope that this will help you understand the great opportunities for studying and living in Somerset.

Borrow an iPad for business

Why not add a bit of digital to your business! People can now loan a brand-new iPad from Minehead Library, in the same way they might loan a book! Funded by Somerset West and Taunton, this service is specifically aimed at businesses or potential new businesses.

Five tablets have been pre-loaded with a range of toolkits, apps and links to help you get started in developing your digital strategy and exploring opportunities such as website design, on-line finance and social media.

The iPads can be loaned free of charge for one month – all you need is a Somerset Libraries Card (and if you don’t have one, just come inside with ID such as a driving licence and the staff will be happy to help) We also have an excellent ‘Books for Business’ collection – including advice for creating the best CV, marketing and finance and making the most of social media

Email –

Twitter – @SomersetLib

Today we are happy to welcome the launch of the new Hungry Little Minds campaign…

Hungry Little Minds is the new Department for Education campaign that encourages parents and carers to adopt positive activities and behaviours to boost children’s communication, language and literacy development.

The three-year campaign, which launched with social media and online adverts in July, aims to help parents understand that they have a massive impact on their child’s learning.

Reading, playing and chatting with them are simple things they can do to help them develop, even when they are too young to say much back. Parents can access tips and activities from and also search for activities in their area using a new postcode finder service.

Organisations are encouraged to support the campaign, share content on social media and link to the campaign website from their sites, making it easier for parents to get the latest advice.

The FUN Project brings families together with outdoors activities.

The FUN project (Families United through Nature) is providing opportunities for families who need support, confidence building and ideas to get outdoors with their children to benefit from the health and wellbeing opportunities of the natural environment. Being outdoors is good for both physical and mental health, and the project’s activities aim to  promote and encourage family time and communication between parents and children as well as introduce children to the wonders and importance of our natural world.

For Easter this year 7 FUN family activity sessions were run at Minehead, Watchet, Williton, and Dulverton and in Exmoor National Park at the Field Studies Council’s Nettlecombe Court. 80 parents and children attended. Activities included talking about insects and pollination and planting giant sunflowers, making bird feeders, stream and woodland activities.

Comments from some of the days included: “If we weren’t here my son would be talking about computers and xbox games all the time.” “Really enjoyed ourselves, wish we could be here for longer”

“I didn’t know this woodland area was here …will come again and bring a picnic”

“The session was relaxed, friendly and the team were on hand with information about the mini beasts which made it really interesting………the mini bus was as much part of the adventure as the outdoor pursuits”

“Great to have an activity on indoors over easter on a wet day – needed to get the kids out and they’ve learned something new today too (how to plant a sunflower for the pollinating insects)

The FUN project has a number of networks developing including with Homestart, the Health Visitors, toddler groups and school support staff. These contacts are able to encourage families who are needing some additional support to come along to the FUN activities, before we open up places to a wider audience.

4 May half term sessions are happening the week of 27th May and a summer programme is in development. Lucy McQuillan, FUN Project Coordinator has met up with the wonderful CLOWNS Community Coordinator, Suzanne Richards, whose role includes coordinating activities for families in West Somerset to provide lots of opportunities for children and their families to enjoy spending time together and enrich and support parents.