Helen O'Connor and Michael Britland drinking tea
Helen O' Connor and Michael Britland
Regional Director, South East and South Coast/ Careers Programme Lead

Do we like to live beside the seaside?

Seaside communities are still suffering from deprivation, and achieving equality in education is more challenging in coastal regions.

We’re seeing an increased focus on reversing the decline of our seaside towns1. Most of us like to visit the coast for a day trip or holiday, but the reality of living beside the sea is a struggle for many, especially the young. On average those living beside the sea earn £1,600 a year less2 than their land-loving counterparts. And educational achievement is polarised between the rich and poor, with a 30.9% gap in GCSE results for children in Kent, according to a recent Sutton Trust report3.

Surely young people in these communities are compelled to leave home to make a reasonable living elsewhere?

Stemming the flow from the sea

Participation in higher education is low in many coastal areas (just 19% in Portsmouth4), but we know moving to bigger, ‘brighter’ locations such as London or Manchester is appealing to some young high achievers. Their return home is less likely, unless they can afford to ‘settle down’ for a better quality of life, or even wait until retirement; putting their feet up in a room with a view. Those that stay are too often left to rely on seasonal work, whose availability changes like the tide. An ageing population in these locations provides constant demand for care work, but it does little to support the infrastructure needed for a thriving local employment market; one that encourages the young to stay, to learn and to achieve their hopes and dreams in the communities that raised them. 

The Isle of Wight is a case in point. A popular holiday resort but challenged in improving educational outcomes. There have been welcome recent improvements, but historically outcomes have been well behind, for both rich and poor5. Teach First has been working here since 2015, working in partnership with Hampshire County Council and the Regional School’s Commissioner’s office. Together our question is: how can we turn the tide on coastal deprivation and generational under-achievement?

Attracting new teachers to coastal towns

Teach First exists to build a fair education for all. We’re increasingly partnering with schools in coastal towns, reflecting the shift in need, away from big cities. On the Island we attract and train new teachers, but we’re also delivering a range of school leadership and careers focused programmes. These are key, as we try and mitigate the lack of employment opportunities. Where possible we want to encourage young people to achieve their aspirations in their home communities.  

Living and working on an island can be limiting. The sea itself can be an obstacle, a body of water that represents a real and metaphorical barrier. As a percentage, there are more people in low skilled, low paid jobs than the national average on the Island. Only 27.9% of the workforce work in either a professional or associate professional & technical occupation, compared to 35.8% nationally. Human health and social work activities are the largest single sector of employment, employing 9,000 people, or 18% of the workforce (compared to 13.2% nationally).  

The issue for educators includes how to drive forward a vision for their school, one that focuses on the biggest challenges, such as how to improve outcomes for vulnerable students, specifically those who are looked after, on free school meals and those with special educational needs. Obviously, this is a pressing concern nationally, but the somewhat unique factors outlined above exacerbate the issues in coastal communities. Teach First seeks to bridge these gaps through two of our leadership programmes; the Careers Leader programme and Leading Together.

Training school leaders for enhanced careers provision

Careers Leaders is a Careers and Enterprise Company recognised programme for secondary schools. Through a combination of face-to-face training and online learning with careers sector experts, school leaders are provided with the tools to plan long term careers provision for students. And each of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks of excellence are fully integrated.  

The programme allows leaders from different schools, working at different stages of their careers education journey, to work together, sharing good practice, problems and solutions. This provides much needed experience to design and run a whole school careers programme that covers multiple curriculum areas and members of the school community. Of the four Bournemouth schools that were in the 2018 cohort, three have met all eight Gatsby Benchmarks.

A careers leader from Oak Academy said, "In the past the school was doing some things well, but these were islands of good practice - we weren't focused on a whole-schooled approach. In large part, that's because we didn't have the clearest idea of what outstanding careers provision looks like until completing the Careers Leader programme."

Building strong leadership 

Leading Together is a free, two-year programme that builds a strong leadership team in schools tackling the biggest challenges. The leadership team is supported by an experienced school leader through a series of modules, helping them to grow their knowledge and expertise together. Support is bespoke to the school, and they’re also plugged into a network of schools nationally to learn and collaborate with their peers. 

On the south coast, Teach First and Hampshire County Council have worked alongside each other to initiate Leading Together with six primary schools that are currently rated Requires Improvement on the Isle of Wight. Our partnership extends to seconding two Hampshire school improvement experts to lead the Teach First programme on the island.  

It is working beside colleagues as experts, to see what works, which may reverse the tide. This is not just about talking but doing, together. Context is important. We are learning from initiatives such as the London Challenge, but using local expertise and partnerships to adapt to the needs of coastal communities.

None of us have the answer on our own, but by working together we hope to bring new opportunity for those who live and work beside the seaside, beside the sea.









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