In an article in SecEd, “Combatting the coastal school challenges”, Heath Monk, CEO of The Future Leaders Trust, highlights the challenges coastal schools face and a study by Dr Tanya Ovenden-Hope, Coastal Academies: Changing school cultures in disadvantaged coastal regions in England, Ovenden-Hope & Passy, July 2015:
“Many coastal areas in England face unique challenges after decades of economic decline. With waning industry, limited transport infrastructure, low-paid work and few skilled employment opportunities, coastal populations have fewer choices than people in other areas.”
“The challenges coastal schools face come down to isolation – geographical, economic and cultural. Schools can’t update the rail network or build motorways, but they can show students that there is a way forward.
“They can’t create jobs in the local area, but they can help students meet employers from further afield. Successful headteachers make their schools sites of access which combat the isolation experienced by the whole community.”
In 2013, Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw spoke of the problems facing “unlucky children” “born in the wrong area” and the need for incentives to encourage the “best” teachers to move to the areas of greatest need – an issue at the heart of the new National Teaching Service.
However, parachuting the “best” teachers into areas of need, such as coastal communities, does not address a fundamental dilemma for those showing pupils “the way forward”.
If schools are encouraged to raise the “aspirations” of the most academically able students to go to university and then move away for better employment prospects and a better life elsewhere, where does that leave those communities?
If the only hope for young people – the lifeblood and future of their community – is to move away [link on ‘graduate flight patterns’ added November 2016] , those communities will enter a spiral of increasing decline, deprivation and hopelessness and eventually die.
Education is a key part of regeneration, enabling students to go beyond their place of birth and schooling and to bring back the knowledge and skills that they have acquired to contribute to the regeneration of their communities, ensuring that they don’t wither and die but can once again be vibrant and thriving places.
Those communities need to be able to offer prospects for their young people, whether they go down the academic/university route or pursue vocational education and training, so that some of them at least can return to, or remain with, their home communities and build their future.
Schools “can’t create jobs in the local area” or “update the rail network or build motorways” but they are the incentives that are so badly needed.
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