Free Breakfast Club support for schools in Stoke-on-Trent

If at least 35% of pupils in your school are recorded as eligible for free school meals, or 50% as Ever 6 Free School Meals, then you may be eligible to receive support through the National School Breakfast Scheme.

It is funded by the Department for Education, and run by Family Action, in partnership with Magic Breakfast. The programme will support over 1770 schools in disadvantaged communities, including Opportunities Areas, to improve access to healthy breakfasts and learning.

Eligible schools will receive a £500 start-up grant to set up their breakfast club, and schools who do not currently have healthy, sustainable breakfasts already in place will receive free breakfasts.

The funding for food is only available until March 2020 – but the Magic Breakfast will work with you to put a longer term, sustainable plan in place. If you want to explore the benefit of removing the hunger barrier to learning for your pupils, please click for an expression of interest form.

Further information on the programme is here and here.


Research School – professional development offer to all schools in Stoke-on-Trent

The Stoke on Trent Research School will be providing a wide range of professional development opportunities throughout 2018-19. Each school/college, within the Opportunity Area, has been allocated a grant to enable engagement with the Research School courses. The funding will be held by the Local Authority and the Research School will maintain records of course attendees.

The Research School aims to lead the way in the use of evidence-based practice and to build and develop a community of teachers who work together collaboratively, critically, creatively and carefully to understand and improve the positive impact that they have on progress and achievement.

Full details of the courses on offer/booking link can be found here:

For any enquires about the Research School courses please contact Russell Spink [Director of the Stoke on Trent Research School]. or 01782 733119

School Governance

Funded training programmes for school governance leadership roles and clerks

The Department for Education is providing funded training programmes to improve the effectiveness of school governance. Due to our status as an Opportunity Area, some schools are prioritised for a higher rate of funding.  There are two programmes available:

Governance leadership development programme (for those in governance leadership roles, such as chairs, vice chairs or committee chairs)

  • This programme aims to develop the skills and effectiveness of governors in maintained schools and academies.
  • Because we are an Opportunity Area, some schools are eligible for a higher rate of funding, with up to £2000 of training available, which is expected to cover most of the cost of participation. You can find out if you are eligible for a higher rate of funding here.

Providers able to operate in Stoke-on-Trent:

Governance clerking development programme (for all school, academy or trust board clerks, including new clerks, who are currently supporting one or more boards).

  • This programme aims to support governance clerks to provide professional quality clerking, ensuring the efficient and effective functioning of governing boards
  • The programme provides sustainable and relevant peer-to-peer support networks, enabling encouragement, support and the sharing of good practice.
  • Each participant is eligible for £350 of funding, which is expected to cover most of the cost of participation.

Providers able to operate in Stoke-on-Trent:


Funding for both programmes is paid directly to the training provider. There is a full list of providers here. We expect that in most cases there will be no, or minimal, cost to individuals or boards to complete these programmes.

If you wish to apply for any of these programmes, please visit the links above for further information.

Please note that places may be limited, and are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you have any questions, get in touch with us at  or

The Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area Team



Updated list of NLEs and SLEs in Stoke-on-Trent

We have pulled together an updated list of all the city’s National Leaders of Education and Specialist Leaders of Education, which can be found here. The list will be regularly reviewed, but please do let us know via if you would like to suggest any changes or additions.

Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area… Co-Chairs update

We’re currently approaching one year in from launching the Opportunity Area in Stoke-on-Trent. It has taken time to establish the Board and to work out how best to distribute the funds, but we are now all set up and it is great to see projects under way. Furthermore, we can now share this blog because our website is up and running, as you have clearly found out, and it is great to be able to keep you up to date.

Identifying the priorities for Stoke on Trent was a collective exercise and we think has produced a distinctive and tailored plan that reflects our ‘place’. Our priority groups are continuing to identify opportunities and interventions that can have the widest and sustainable impact. Funds are being distributed through formal tenders for large projects, small allocations to support a whole range of initiatives and allocations to all schools and colleges for specific targeted activities.

Consistency of pedagogy between stages for early years and across the private, voluntary and independent settings and schools is being considered to support smoother transitions for children entering school. The theme of transition continues from primary to secondary to promote consistent performance. Drop in achievement is often associated with perceived lack of aspiration and a city-wide mentoring network is proposed.

The Essential Life Skills funding has boosted available monies and it is great to see that we can now extend holiday programmes and extra-curricular activities. Impact should extend beyond engagement with learning to reducing anti-social behaviour.

Parental engagement is key to all priorities and we are looking at a number of interventions that will support teachers in managing the complexity of issues associated with the home learning environment.

We’ve just spent a day with other Chairs from Opportunity Areas discussing what has worked, what has been less successful and we have come away buzzing with ideas for what next.

Firstly we would like to engage with Headteachers collectively more frequently. The discussion today was all about how schools will need to have courage to do things differently in order to raise their game. There were questions about whether we can really transform ‘deep-seated difficulties’. Would any schools be prepared to step forward to be at the helm of this transformation? And if so what differences would we see in the short, medium and long term?

A major challenge for all the Opportunity Areas is how we measure impact. Commonly reports are based on activities and numbers of schools and children involved as opposed to impact measures. A further challenge is that we have stressed the need for sustainability and also noted, that the changes we make can only really be evaluated over a longer time frame i.e. over the lifespan of a child’s education. We therefore need to consider what progress indicators we could use to monitor our success or where interventions are not working.

Our final thought is one posed by the Minister Zahawi. Are we reaching the children we need to reach? How do we know? And who are they?

Carol Shanahan and Liz Barnes

Carol and Liz June 2018

Small Grants – update

Small Grants – update

This is to let stakeholders know that the Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area 3k grants pot is now fully subscribed and we can’t accept any further applications.  The fund has been very popular and we have received high quality, innovative and exciting proposals from a range of local organisations, including many schools. We will say a bit more about successful bids shortly.  We will be writing in the next few days to all those who have submitted bids recently to confirm whether or not they have been successful.  Some bids have arrived after all available funds had been allocated.  Where that is the case we will keep bids on file, pending discussions at the OA Partnership Board.


‘Understanding the World’: audit of activity

Staffordshire University recently carried out research for us in relation to improving outcomes for early years. Specifically, this was in connection to ‘Understanding the World’ – which incorporates 3 early learning goals of the early years foundation stage (children’s understanding of people and communities, the world, and technology).

The final report was presented to the the Stoke-On-Trent Opportunity Area Priority 1 sub-group in May and recommendations for future work in sharing and supporting good practice will be considered over the summer.

Download the report: UtW report May 2018_FINAL

Mentoring provision in Stoke-on-Trent: audit of activity

The Stoke-on-Trent Research School recently carried out a short audit of mentoring provision in Stoke-on-Trent schools and colleges.

The aim was to identify types of mentoring provision available, scale of take-up, how individuals are identified, frequency of mentoring interventions, how staff are selected to act as a mentor and how mentoring sessions are recorded and evaluated. The final report was presented to the Priority 2 and Priority 3 sub-group in May and initial recommendations for future work will be considered over the summer.

Download the report: Mentoring Provision in Stoke on Trent