Our study of East Leeds emphasises the connections between young people’s communities and their experience of education. Important contrasts emerged between ‘very diverse’ inner-city Harehills and ‘white working class’ Seacroft.
As Teach First targets its work towards the areas where it can have the most impact, understanding what makes local contexts distinctive is key. Leeds compares favourably with the average on many national indicators, but this can mask poorer outcomes in areas such as Seacroft and Harehills, both of which are high on the Index of Multiple Deprivation. Seeking to understand more about young people’s lives, and the stories which lie behind the statistics, we interviewed young people and professionals in youth clubs, primary and secondary schools.
Seacroft, an area of ‘hard-pressed living’ and ‘constrained city-dwellers’, according to the Office for National Statistics, is a white working class area in which “everybody knows everybody”. Teachers and young people suggested some parents and peers discourage engagement in education: “my assumption was always that it was a bit odd to really want to achieve at school” one young person told us. A teacher worried that young people may lack “academically successful role models who they feel they can relate to”. Another teacher suggested that some parents don’t “encourage or like schools… and their children say ‘I hate it here’, ‘I don’t want to come’, and it’s just like a cycle going round.”
In Harehills, a senior leader described a culture very different to Seacroft’s, which takes time for outsiders to understand. According to the Office for National Statistics, Harehills is a diverse area of ‘multicultural metropolitans’: “transitional areas between urban centres and suburbia”. Young people seemed enthusiastic to pursue academic careers; asked who he could rely on, one Year 10 student told us: “Myself, like, me I never give up for what I want to do, I’ll do it.” While there were concerns about crime in the area, it was described as a strong community too: “everybody knows everybody, so a lot of getting on”.
In areas of similar deprivation therefore, educational challenges seemed quite different.
Our study also noted:
- The extensive challenges schools report in addressing pastoral and academic needs of young people, and particularly in managing behaviour.
- The value of Leeds is approach of ‘cluster working’, which ensures coordinated provision of services to young people and families.
- Targeting support using data on local authorities as a whole may miss pockets of need within large local authorities.
Young people and professionals wished for better activities and facilities; greater collaboration between schools, services and families; a mitigation of the effects of inequality and peer pressure and attention to poor behaviour. Our study poses questions for Teach First about how best to support young people facing diverse challenges in urban areas, and questions for other agencies and organisations about how we can work together to meet young people’s needs.
Three studies remain to be published.