TOWN hall chiefs have admitted they need to be “brave” and explicitly target the failing areas in their children’s services in order to improve.

Oldham chief executive Carolyn Wilkins told the borough’s health and wellbeing board that the authority had in the past shied away from grasping the nettle of issues in the department.

At last Tuesday afternoon’s meeting, members agreed to create a Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership Board to further their ambition to make the borough a ‘place where children and young people thrive’.

It will be the third evolution of a specialist board for children services, which began as the Children’s Trust Board, and was then transformed into the Best Start in Life Partnership (BSLP).

Cllr Amanda Chadderton, who holds the portfolio for children’s services, said her attendance at the BSLP had been a ‘waste of two hours’.

“People attend these boards and we all see the same faces and I am unconvinced how much changes, to be frank,” she said.

“We need to be more ambitious in our approach to children. And certainly as a council I don’t think we’ve done well enough in putting children at the top of our agenda over the past six, seven years.

“It gives us an opportunity as a partnership across the town to push the children’s agenda much more into prominence.”

Cllr Chadderton added that the new approach had to be “radically different”, and told members she had suggested the idea of an audit into the plethora of different boards that deal with children in Oldham.

“Everybody knows we are a challenging town and we have a lot of poverty but unless we change early health, early years and children – nothing in the town changes,” she said.

“For me as lead member that’s my ambition over the next 12 months.”

Ed Francis, assistant director of safeguarding and partnerships, told the meeting the BSLP had outlived its usefulness.

He said: “That’s become moribund really and not fit for purpose within the new world and the new drivers at GM and local level.

“This board actually drives forward and ensures delivery against our ambition.

“The reporting link from the Best Start in Life Partnership was quite tenuous, and what we want is a much more robust and accountability link.”

The new board has drafted a strategic framework which aims to bring about a range of outcomes, including where youngsters feel safe, are emotionally and mentally healthy, enjoy growing up in Oldham, and do well at school.

Ms Wilkins told members they could no longer ‘duck’ targeting the areas where children are performing poorest.

She said: “We have to own in Oldham we have ducked targeting our efforts and being explicit in some of that targeting because of the narrative that then follows that.

“We can’t duck that any more, because to be honest if we could deal with the red in some areas we’d be above national average in lots of things.

“So we just have to be brave and take that challenge.”

Ms Wilkins added that it was the ambition of the council’s new leader Sean Fielding for every child in the borough to attend either a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ rated school.

She said: “Are we stretching ourselves enough, or do we use how deprived we are and how big the challenge is as a bit of an excuse – because actually if we’re saying we want to be 75 pc of something, that means it’s ok for a quarter of kids not to do that.

“And I don’t think any of us wants a situation that says we want a quarter of our kids to still be poor, lower aspiration. Actually what we’re saying is that we want it for every child.”

Chair of Oldham’s Clinical Commissioning Group, Majid Hussain added: “There’s a large proportion of people, predominantly where you’ve got poverty who have got not low ambition, but no ambition.

“I feel there’s a lot more we need to do.”

Cllr Paul Jacques said: “It’s about making sure they reach for the stars, there should be no glass ceilings in Oldham.”