Oldham has a rich variety of schools and a thriving community with signs of improving performance across many educational indicators. However, like many communities in the North West, Oldham also has pockets of deprivation where young people don’t reach national levels of attainment; economic deprivation and language barriers are causal factors. Supported by the Department for Education-funded ‘Opportunity Area’ programme, Oldham is providing additional support to disadvantaged students with an emphasis on improving early years performance.

  • Oldham’s Schools

Oldham is home to 60,800 children and young people aged 0-17. This is 25.5% of the borough’s population. From 2010 to 2018, Oldham has seen a 10.6% increase in the number of primary school age children, compared to an increase of just 2.7% in secondary age children. A total of 115 schools provide education for the compulsory years – with 88 primary schools, 18 secondary schools, two 16 to 18 establishments, six special schools, and a Pupil Referral Unit. Pre-school education is delivered by a variety of different childcare providers. Both the maintained and private sectors play a role – including nurseries, playgroups and child minders. The local authority also commissions 16 children’s centres to support child development.

Schools by sector JSNA

Pre schools by sector JSNA

  • OFSTED Inspections

Historically, primary schools perform well in Ofsted inspections. There is still a 7% gap with the national average but the local authority is working in close partnership with schools to reach the aspirational target of all schools being rated at least ‘good’ by 2020. Secondary schools are converging on statistical neighbour and national averages for both attainment 8 and progress 8 scores. However, there are behaviour issues, and attainment gaps are worse than national levels for Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and EAL students.

Below, we can see that at primary level, schools in Oldham kept up with or outperformed the national average between 2014 and 2017. However, in 2018, performance dipped (in August 2017, 92% of primary schools achieved a Good or Outstanding rating, securing a rank of 60th out of 152 Local Authorities. By August 2018, this was 82%, and 82nd out of 152). Despite this, Oldham still performed as well as their statistical neighbours in 2018. Secondary results have improved consistently between 2014 and 2018. A tranche of “inadequate” schools moved to “good” between 2015 and 2016, providing a boost to close the gap between Oldham and the national average. Since then, steady progress has continued to be made. In 2018, 75% of secondary schools were rated as good or outstanding nationally. For Oldham, this figure was 67%.


  • Performance

Oldham’s performance is below national average on most measures in 2017. Primary outcomes in Key Stage 1 reflect the low performance in the reception ‘good level of development’ indicator, although Key Stage 2 performance is closer to the national average. Secondary outcomes are similar to primary outcomes. Post-16 attainment, however, is closer to the national average, and Oldham performs better than the national average for best 3 A level scores.

Performance Rank JSNA

  • Early Years

Oldham’s children enter the education system at a lower level of development than most of the rest of the UK. This is influenced by high deprivation levels and above average proportions of children for whom English is not their first language. Child development at age 5 is assessed by the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP). Whilst Oldham’s results have improved consistently over time, they have not yet bridged the gap to statistical neighbours, and remain below national levels. It is important to note that both Oldham and their statistical neighbours have been closing the gap to the national average over time – for Oldham, in 2012/13 there was a difference of 10.6%, which had fallen to 7% by 2016/17.


  • Key Stage 1

Assessment results for Key Stage 1 mirror those at EYFSP. At the Year 1 phonics screening check, Oldham is behind statistical neighbours and the national average. 2016/17 results place Oldham in the bottom quartile of local authorities. A similar pattern is seen in assessments in Year 2, with Oldham in the bottom 15% of local authorities in terms of children reaching the ‘Expected Standard’ for reading, writing, maths and science.

KS1 Standard JSNA

  • Key Stage 2

Prior to 2015/16, as children progressed through the latter stages of primary school in Oldham, they made much greater levels of progress than during Key Stage 1. Oldham’s pupils consistently achieved Key Stage 2 assessment results which were in line with or higher than the national average. The change in curriculum and accountability framework which was first tested in 2015/16 resulted in a negative impact on Oldham’s performance.

For the Expected Standard, we can see that after a relatively disappointing performance in 2015/16, Oldham performed roughly as well as its statistical neighbours in 2016/17. In 2017/18, Oldham once again closed the gap to the national average, as they did in 2016/17 and 2015/16.

For the ‘Higher Standard’, Oldham is below its statistical neighbours and the national average. In achieving the Higher Standard, Oldham was ranked 143rd out of 152 local authorities in England.

KS2 Standard JSNA

  • Key Stage 4

At GCSE level, attainment is below the national average. As can be seen below, overall attainment in Oldham remained broadly in line with that of our statistical neighbours but consistently below the national level.


In 2017, when the new grading was introduced, Oldham and its statistical neighbours outperformed the national average in achieving a grade 4 or above in English and Maths (a grade 4 is the equivalent of a grade C in the old system, and is known as a Standard Pass. A grade 5 is known as a Higher Pass, and does not have a direct comparison to the old system, but would likely be between a B and a C). In achieving a Higher Pass or above in English and Maths, the old trend appears to continue.

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) was introduced in 2010 to encourage the study of English, Mathematics, Science, a modern or ancient foreign language, and either History or Geography. The EBacc has not been a popular option in Oldham schools and fewer students elect for and complete the English Baccalaureate than  students in statistical neighbour authorities or nationally. A similar proportion of students sit English, Science, and Maths GCSEs at the Oldham, Northwest, and England level. However, fewer students in Oldham sit a language GCSE – 34% in Oldham, compared to 45% in the North West, and 48% in England. Similarly, fewer students sit a History or Geography GCSE – 68% in Oldham, compared to 74% in the North West and England.

KS4 9-4 9-5

Attainment 8 measures overall KS4 attainment. Progress 8 measures progress from KS2 to KS4.
Attainment 8 Progress 8 JSNA

  • 16-18 Study

Following GCSEs, young people are able to study a range of academic and vocational qualifications at Level 3 (A levels and vocational equivalents). Looking across these measures, Oldham performs in line with statistical neighbours but below England as a whole. In 2016, the way UCAS scores are calculated was changed. As such, scores from 2016 onwards will be lower than in previous years.


When we look at how many pupils sit A Levels, and their results, Oldham performs on par with its statistical neighbours but still just below the national average. However, from an overall Oldham perspective, outcomes appear better. The graph below shows qualifications achieved by all young people by age 19 (rather than just success by those that remain in a college cohort). Over the last few years, Oldham’s outcomes have improved and are close to the national average. This represents a significant success in retention and achievement within the FE sector and demonstrates the inclusive economy which Oldham has cultivated.

YP Level 3 Qual JSNA

  • Further Resources

1. For further information relating to education data in Oldham, please contact Oldham Council Business Intelligence Service at

2. Data from this page was taken from the document Oldham in Profile 2019, which contains further information about educational achievement in Oldham.

3. The PHE Wider Determinants of Health Profile contains further information on education in Oldham.