CHILDREN'S education in Oldham is getting better but still lags behind the national average, according to town hall bosses. 

Education chiefs within the council say their "number one" priority is what happens in the classroom – improving reading, writing and learning in schools.

A report presented to the performance and value for money committee this week revealed that the achievement gap for disadvantaged pupils has narrowed.

Last year pupils in primary school education improved their reading, writing and maths at a better than average rate.

And A'level results are also getting better.

But the report admits that most standards remain below the national average levels that are "expected".

Andrew Sutherland, Oldham’s director of education and early years, told members that they have recorded year on year improvement.

“The challenge for us is that we still remain below national average at performance and that’s why early years is indeed the number one priority for the opportunity area,” he said.

“We were making progress and that’s stalled a bit in 2018, but we are drilling into that.”

The progress made in primary school achievements was ‘significant’, he added, which was important because infant school pupils were not meeting the national average targets.

Mr Sutherland said: “So what’s happening across our primary schools is some really good practice in literacy, in numeracy and we’re actually picking up the pace quite significantly. So we’re really pleased with the level of progress that’s happening there

“It is a generally strong picture, albeit we had a couple of schools that we’re disappointed in and we’re doing some strong interventions with.

“We’re absolutely clear in terms of what the areas of priority are, and number one is what happens in the classroom.

“It’s about teaching, learning and assessments and research is unequivocal that if you really want to make big improvements in schools then it’s what happens in classes, day in, day out that makes a big difference.

“So we’re putting our support into all of that.”

Good leadership, especially from the middle level leaders in the school right up to the headteacher was crucial, he added.

Councillors heard that the GCSE results from last year hadn’t been where the council had "anticipated", which had resulted in a ‘post mortem’ with headteachers from the borough.

The achievement gap in Oldham remains consistently higher than both the north west, and the England average, despite shrinking in 2017-18.

“When one looks at our key stage four data the main area of underperformance still lies with our white, working class boys and we’re putting some specific interventions in relation to all of that,” Mr Sutherland added.

“And issues around inclusion and SEND that are high priorities for us as well.

“We have set challenging targets, because what our target is fundamentally is to improve faster than the national average by a minimum of one pc per annum.

“Particularly for those disadvantaged children and young people.”