Who we are

The OA programme is overseen by the partnership board, bringing together senior leaders from schools, communities, business and central and local government. These individuals bring experience, insight, and ambition for West Somerset and its young people.


Professor Colin Diamond CBE – Independent Chair

West Somerset Opportunity Area has appointed a new leader to take the Government’s flagship social mobility programme into its fourth year, levelling up outcomes for young people and ‘twinning’ with other places were level of deprivation is high and hit hardest by the pandemic.

Professor Colin Diamond CBE takes over as chair of the West Somerset Opportunity Area’s independent Partnership Board from Dr Fiona McMillan who made a significant contribution to the programme’s successes over the first three years, including achieving its Early Years target so more children start school with the skills they need to learn.  Some may already know Professor Colin Diamond, if they have been a long-term stakeholder in Somerset.

Colin has lived in Somerset for over 20 years while working at Birmingham University in the School of Education, where he is Professor of Educational Leadership. He  previously worked for Somerset and North Somerset LAs, London Challenge, the SW Regional Government Office and led the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ recovery programme.

Professor Diamond worked as a teacher before moving into Senior Educational Leadership roles, including for Somerset County Council where he was a Group Manager and then Assistant Director from 1996 to 2000.

Professor Diamond’s appointment comes at a pivotal point in the Opportunity Area programme.  In July, Minister Michelle Donelan announced funding allocations and more information about the £18 million year 4 extension – which will include work across government and £1 million for the 12 Opportunity Areas to ‘twin’ with another place to improve outcomes for thousands more.

Professor Diamond said: “Education has the power to transform the lives of children by giving them the skills, experiences and opportunities to succeed, whatever their background.

“The Opportunity Area is already having impact in levelling up outcomes and has hosted conferences to share some of the most successful projects for professionals in the wider region so even more children start school with the skills they need to learn and thrive. It’s also helped those hardest hit during the pandemic and will continue to support them as we chart our way to recovery.

“We can build on what’s worked to create lasting change for young people here in West Somerset and elsewhere by sharing our experience and knowledge with other places facing similar challenges.”

Partnership Board Members

  • Andrew Hanson: Somerset Education Business Partnership
  • Alison Jeffery: Somerset County Council
  • Chris Booth: Somerset West & Taunton District Council
  • David Ralph: Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Frances Nicholson: Somerset County Council
  • Jim Whittaker: Channel Group
  • Julian Wooster: Somerset County Council
  • Amelia Walker; Somerset County Council
  • Mandy Chilcott: Somerset West & Taunton District Council
  • Mark Nettle: Bridgwater and Taunton College 
  • Naomi Griffith: Onion Collective Community Development
  • Naomi Philp: Executive Head – Moorland Federation
  • Rob Lakin : CEO West Somerset Academy Trust
  • Peter Elliott: CEO Bridgwater College Academy Trust
  • Richard Dorney-Savage: Careers and Enterprise Company
  • TBA: EDF Energy

The meetings are also attended by the Regional Schools Commissioner and by the Department for Education Head of Delivery and Area Lead, who provide advice and support to the partnership board.

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