Fenland and East Cambridgeshire Opportunity Area

Newsletter 27 January 2020

Message from our Chair

This is the first newsletter of the year so it comes with our very best (if slightly belated) wishes for the New Year and our thanks for supporting the Opportunity Area programme throughout 2019. In the foreword to the delivery plan, which was published nearly two years ago, I said this: “The plan is a working document and we want the debate to continue.” We are grateful for the constructive feedback we receive as this helps us monitor how well the programme is going and plan for the future.


On 7 November, we were delighted to see so many colleagues at the Phonics Conference. Many of you commented on the helpful presentation given by Kirsty Godfrey HMI on the new Ofsted Inspection Framework, and particularly on conducting a deep dive into reading. Ruth Miskin also shared her considerable experience and passion for ensuring that every child learns to read fluently and develops a love of reading. “Read a lot and start early” – this was a key message. The workshops, too, presented very good opportunities to share successes. Thank you to the speakers, those who led the workshops and everyone who attended for contributing to the professional debate which followed.

In relation to Opportunity Area team news, we are pleased to welcome Sara Basuc who has been appointed as the Inclusion Project Lead, leading on the programme's Priority 2 projects following Tiffany Middleton’s appointment as Programme Manager.

Please feel free to get in touch with the team about any aspects of the programme on

With best wishes,

Tricia Pritchard


In this newsletter:



OA Curriculum and Ofsted Conference: overcoming barriers and raising aspirations 

As part of the Fenland and East Cambridgeshire Opportunity Area’s ongoing commitment to help support attainment, progress and improvement in schools across the area, we will be hosting a conference on Wednesday 11 March 2020 (venue TBC).

The conference will be open to headteachers, curriculum leads and governors and will focus on curriculum planning (how to start thinking about developing or enhancing your existing whole-school curriculum, and practical advice on how to implement and embed it within school) and Ofsted (what should you be considering pre-visit and what next steps can you take post-visit). Delegates will also have the opportunity to attend two workshops from a choice of six. 

Confirmed keynote speakers include Nigel Battey, School Improvement Adviser and Alex Bedford, Trust Primary Adviser. We will also have a speaker from Ofsted.

Further details will follow shortly, but this opportunity will be available to all schools within the Fenland and East Cambridgeshire area. Please save the date in your diary!

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Feedback from the Phonics Conference

Many thanks to those of you who attended our recent Phonics Conference for your contribution to a fantastic day! Thank you also to our keynote speakers, workshop speakers and exhibitors who all helped contribute to a fascinating programme of discussion.

We have been very pleased to hear positive feedback from attendees who valued the opportunity to hear from inspiring speakers and take the time to consider their own school’s phonics practice. One attendee commented "Today has given me lots to think about! It will help greatly with our review of our current practice."

We will be using learnings from this event to help shape our planning for the upcoming Opportunity Area School Conference so we do hope that you will be able to join us for this.

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Headteacher Cluster Meetings 

Many thanks to those of you who welcomed us to your recent Headteacher Cluster meetings. We enjoyed meeting with you and it was great to hear your feedback on the programme. If your school was not represented at one of these meetings but you would like to discuss the OA programme and any general queries you may have about it, please contact

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SEMH Support Offer 

To support your school’s access to the locally led Mental Health Champion Forums, we are pleased to offer a £1,200 grant to fund cover costs to release your Mental Health Lead to attend these sessions. This £1,200 grant includes funding for up to six days of cover costs (up to £180 per day) and up to £120 of travel costs incurred. Please see the document linked below for further information. 

Through accessing the Mental Health Champion Forums, schools receive support in further developing inclusive practice to improve outcomes for vulnerable pupils. The aim is for all schools to become increasingly confident and effective in delivering inclusive practice particularly in relation to SEMH for all pupils, building up the knowledge and capacity to support schools across the county. We are working in partnership with the NHS Emotional Health and Wellbeing Team who will be delivering the Mental Health Champion Forums.

In order to sign up for this OA SEMH Support Offer please complete and return this document to at your earliest convenience. The deadline for completed forms is Friday 31 January 2020, when the Support Offer closes. 

SEMH Support – Drop In

here will be a member of the OA Inclusion Team available from 1:00–2:00pm before each Mental Health Champion Forum to provide support. This will be a drop in session so this time can be utilised to support you with anything surrounding SEMH, embedding STEPs in your school or other related areas you may want support with. Please note, we are unable to discuss individual children during this time. If you would like additional support for your school from an Outreach Support Worker (either a call or school visit) please contact

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Mentor Training

The Opportunity Area continues to offer its fully funded teacher-to-teacher mentoring programme for all qualified teachers.

As part of this programme you will receive four training days (lunch, travel costs and teacher cover costs included) and ongoing support to deliver one high-impact mentoring session per month to a trainee teacher, RQT or NQT within your school. Upon completion, you will receive a Certificate of Completion, presented at a regional cohort Celebration Event, and have continued access to a network of teacher mentors in your area. Applications are re-opened for schools that have not yet signed up. The application window will remain open until Friday 14 February but with only 15 places remaining we strongly encourage you to apply here
as soon as possible. For more information, please click here.

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Nursery World OA Showcase

Some of the Opportunity Area-funded projects for Early Years settings have been highlighted in an article recently published in the Nursery World magazine. It is so exciting to have the good work taking place in the area showcased on this national platform so please do share this (available here) with your networks.

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SEND Support for Parents

Pinpoint and the SEND Information Advice Support Service (SENDIASS) are both continuing to provide support sessions for parents of children with SEND this term. We encourage you to share this poster with parents to inform them of the offer.

latest details of Pinpoint’s upcoming Tii Hubs and Opportunity Workshops can be viewed here. Details of SENDIASS’ upcoming sessions can be found here for Fenland and here for East Cambridgeshire.

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Chatteris' Young People Have Their Say

Chloe Stewart, CCC's Lead Youth Worker for Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, has been working in partnership with the Connections Bus Project supporting sessions in Chatteris for ten weeks. The sessions were due to come to an end in December 2019 however the young people voiced their concerns and expressed their need for the project to continue. Chloe encouraged the young people to show they were serious about the matter by writing a letter and making a video to be sent to the Parish Council, which they did. 

After realising how vital the bus really was for the young people, Chloe arranged to attend a meeting with the Parish Council. On the day of the meeting 22 young people turned up! Chloe and her team held a planning session with the young people minutes before the meeting, and the council were amazed to see the support from so many young people.

During the meeting the young people addressed the importance to them of having youth group services for teenagers in Chatteris, as they are often bored and feel this is when then would then be tempted to get involved in anti-social behaviour and drug use. The Parish Council later responded:

"Thank you for attending last night and for your patience in waiting to address the Council.

The good news is that the Council were very impressed by your presentation and by the young people who accompanied you and would like the Connections Bus to open again in Chatteris with immediate effect. The Council agreed to fund the bus until the end of 2020 with a review of the service due in October/November time.”

This is a fantastic achievement for the young people of Chatteris and just goes to show the impact they can have.

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Emotional Health and Wellbeing Service 'Next Steps' Event

The Emotional Health and Wellbeing Service is running a number of small events at schools across East Cambridgeshire, which aim to introduce the Emotional Health and Wellbeing Service and share recent changes to its service offer. More information and links to register for the events can be found here.

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Discover Creative Careers Week Launch

We were pleased to attend the recent launch of a suite of job profile films made by young people as part of the national ‘Discover Creative Careers Week’ at Soham Village College. Secondary school students and their parents were invited to hear from local professionals about their experiences of working in creative industries.

The ‘Discover Creative Careers Week’ is just one aspect of the ‘Creative and Cultural Futures’ programme being partially funded by the Opportunity Area. This cultural enrichment programme, being delivered by the Norfolk and Norwich Festival Trust and partners for secondary schools in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire throughout 2019–2020, provides opportunities for young people to learn about careers in the creative industries as well gain increased access to cultural experiences. During the week students from five secondary schools took part in meaningful work encounters at a local cultural venue, taking part in activities and learning about career opportunities.

If you would like to find out more about how your school can take part in the ‘Creative and Cultural Futures’ programme, please contact

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Outdoor Education Provision

The community charity Groundwork East is offering schools in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire free expert advice and support on outdoor provision. As many OA schools are currently looking at their outdoor provision and have this on their development plans we wanted to share this offer of free support in our newsletter.

Your school could access a range of support from Groundwork’s Environmental Education Officers, Landscape Architects, Practical Improvement Team or even fundraisers, to really help you to transform your outdoor education offering to your pupils. It doesn’t matter if it’s something you’re just starting to think about, or if it’s a project you have already started, you can still receive free of charge help and support to enable you to make further progress. For more information, and to take a look at case studies from schools who have previously benefited please do take a look at the charity’s website here.

To register your interest, please complete this short form.

This project is made possible thanks to funding from the John Laing Charitable Trust. The Charitable Trust are particularly interested this year in the charity working with schools in Opportunity Areas. Please note however that funding is allocated on a first come, first served basis.

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