Bradford Opportunity Area

Bradford Opportunity Area

What is the Bradford Opportunity Area

The Bradford Opportunity Area (BOA) Programme was launched by the government in 2017 with an aim to understand and tackle the various challenges and barriers children and young people faced in the district. The Bradford Opportunity Area has been implementing a wide range of interventions, based on evidence and best practice, to help change the life course of these children and young people for the better.  Now in its 5th year of delivery the BOA prgramme continues to work with schools and partners to improve social mobility across the Bradford district.

Our aim is for all children and young people to go as far as their talents and potential can take them, creating strong foundations for positive change.

To achieve this we’ve identified the following 4 priorities:

  1. Strengthening school leadership and the quality of teaching
  2. Parents and Place: Literacy and Learning 
  3. Invest in children and young people, through targeted programmes, to raise aspirations and help them develop essential skills for life and work
  4. Identify and support young people with health issues that limit their capacity to learn by ensuring cross sector interventions from both health and education professionals improve early identification of and support for health issues that are limiting learning

Since the start of the programme, we have made huge strides against our key priorities:

  • School standards - Of the 50 target schools that were rated Requires Improvement or Inadequate in 2016, 39 have improved by one Ofsted grade (against a target of 25)
  • Employer engagement – We have delivered over 200,000 employer encounters to 11–18-year-olds and on average schools improved in all 8 Gatsby Benchmarks of best practise in careers education.
  • Removing health barriers to learning – Designed and delivered the innovative ‘glasses in classes’ and ‘early identification of autism’ projects, attracted £2.5m of external funding which has allowed ^110 schools to engage with educational research activity


However, in a city the size of Bradford we still have a lot to do. There are still 42 Bradford schools - serving 6,200 disadvantaged children – currently rated RI or inadequate, which is why activity relating to school standards will continue to be our biggest area of spend (40%) in Year 5. We know that time away from school will have exacerbated the attainment gap between the poorest and richest children, with those from disadvantaged backgrounds already twice as likely to leave formal education without GCSEs in English and maths compared to their better-off classmates[1]. Children have been working in cramped housing conditions, with inadequate access to learning technology or stable internet, and with parents less able to support their learning (EEF, 2020, 2021). We will support ^20 number of schools again to provide system leader support, alongside EEF implementation training to build on their strategies developed through past OA interventions with up to £25k available for those schools deemed most in need. Alongside this we will continue to offer 1-2-1 coaching, for ^15 head teachers to create a community of practice and support network for heads especially those ^40 new to post.

While the pandemic has hit everyone hard, it has hit the communities serving disadvantaged pupils hardest. These communities have shown some amazing resilience and the wider roles schools have played in the recovery has been brilliant to witness. All of this has strengthened parental engagement with schools. We want to ensure we build on this and strengthen the ties between schools, early years providers and communities they serve, with a specific focus on communities where parental engagement has sometimes been lacking.  Through effective parental engagement, aimed at making sure parents from all backgrounds have the right support, which is helpful but not prescriptive, with an aim to increase attainment[2]. Therefore, we are funding further parental engagement activity  that we know works and also supporting local EYFS partners to lead a programme of intervention activity and leadership support.

We will also continue our ground breaking work on removing health barriers to learning, by extending the early identification of autism study across more schools in Bradford and continuing to support the 100 schools participating in glasses in classes project. We are also supporting some projects to test CAER’S ideas through scale pilots in 10 schools. Where the results are positive, we will support projects to attract further funding to extend the trials to more schools in Bradford and other areas. These projects will continue to focus on the intersect between health and education (currently we have projects looking at the links between gross and fine motor skills and attainment). We know that there are educational inequalities in Bradford as well as health inequalities like higher rates of obesity, asthma and dental decay which all keep children off school and impact on social mobility.

The pandemic and subsequent onset of multiple lockdowns have negatively impacted upon the long-term mental health of young people, two-thirds of respondents to a survey conducted by the ‘Young Minds’ charity described friendships being affected, hopes for good grades diminishing and the worry about ever securing a job, in addition to numerous accounts of bereavement – as we emerge from the pandemic, it will be those most impacted by inequalities that are most likely to be affected[3] (Young Minds, 2021). We will address this through a holistic rapid recovery package for those disadvantaged pupils most in need and programmes to increase pupil voice across the city. We are also working with the CCG to provide dedicated counselling and therapeutic support to head teachers and teachers many of whom have taken on added pressures over the past year.

While we have made progress against a number of key priorities. This is all against a backdrop of rising poverty and inequality in the city. Compared to pre-covid baselines, fewer families are living comfortably (33% to 20%). More families are ‘just about getting by’ (19% to 27%) or finding it difficult to manage (7% to 11%). By 2019, 14 of Bradford’s 30 wards were in the bottom 10% of the ‘Index of Multiple Deprivation’, an increase from 12 wards in 2015. Bradford is also the UK’s youngest city with more than one-quarter (30.2%) of the District’s population aged less than 20, so the need to support the city’s young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, has never been more present[4].


[1] The Attainment Gap, Education Endowment Foundation (2018) Available at:

[2] R. Montacute (2020) Social Mobility and Covid-19: Implication of the Covid-19 Crisis for Educational Inequality. Sutton Trust.

[3] YoungMinds (2021). Coronavirus: Impact on young people with mental health needs. Survey 4: February 2021. YoungMinds

[4] Bradford Institute for Health Research HG2754.1 From inequality to opportunity: a plan for recovery and growth


For further information, please visit our website for insights from projects working to improve outcomes for children and young people in areas with low social mobility.

For further information please contact:

Kathryn Loftus  - Programme Director  

Email –

Twitter - @BradfordOppArea


Page owned by Kathryn Loftus, last updated on 11/02/2022. This page has been viewed 7,103 times.