Does living by the sea affect a child’s education?

Poole, the Dorset town on the south coast of England, offers beautiful beaches and a natural harbour. But Ofsted have found pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds have the worst educational outcomes in the country.

Ofsted have published inspection results of Poole Borough Council’s arrangements for improving the performance in its schools. The aim of these inspections is to consider the effect the local authority has on improving education, so that all children and young people achieve well and to their full potential.

The local authority plans how schools can improve. However, Ofsted have identified there to be weak leadership and lack of challenge in the Poole local authority with “no clear strategy for improvement.”

Dr Tanya Ovenden-Hope, Director of Education, the Cornwall College Group, has researched the difference that locality makes to the lives of learners. Her research, “Coastal academies: Changing school cultures in disadvantaged coastal regions in England”,  highlights the importance of school leadership in making a school successful:

“In 2013 Ofsted identified a link between student performance and ‘deprived coastal towns’, with a realisation that these areas have ‘felt little impact from national initiatives designed to drive up the standards for the poorest children’.

Having started researching the link between socio-economically disadvantaged coastal regions and educational attainment in 2010, a study in 2013/14 of six secondary ‘coastal academies’ in the North and South of England identified some clear educational challenges and strategies for improvement that were specific to their coastal location. All of the schools were in coastal areas with high levels of poverty, and in which there are multi-generational limited employment prospects, with poor experiences of education that had developed in places into an ‘anti-education’ culture, as education was perceived to have little positive impact on their own life chances. While these might mirror the conditions surrounding inner-city schools, the remote coastal location of these academies brought additional challenges of:

• Educational isolation

• Staff recruitment

• Engaging students and their families with education

• Local primaries failing to bring the majority of students to the expected standard at the end of Key Stage 2

Changing school culture was key for all of the coastal academies, moving the school from a culture of low aspiration into one of engaging students with their learning, fostering high expectations for both teachers and students and achieving higher levels of attainment.

The most successful schools in changing school culture were notable for the ‘vision’ of the school leaders’ for changing young people’s lives and focused on improving the quality of teaching and learning once acceptable student behaviour had been established.”

Notes to journalists: Dr Tanya Ovenden-Hope PFHEA, Director of Education, The Cornwall College Group. Adjunct Professor, Cape Breton University, Canada. Visiting Research Fellow,Plymouth University.


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