'Championing the rights of children'

Out in the cold: the coastal schools neglected by national initiatives

Garry Thu 16 Oct 2014 08:16

Educational establishments at seaside outposts face host of problems, including staff recruitment and retention

At Clacton Coastal academy (CCA), the pupils are proud of their town and their school. They are fed up with The Only Way is Essex and upset by some of the sneering coverage the recent byelection attracted to their town.

Lots of them are ambitious; many want to go to university. Yet the challenges facing children here are great, and the barriers to educational achievement are many. More than half of the pupils at CCA attract the pupil premium, which provides additional funding to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

Children are trying to learn amid poverty, deprivation, high unemployment and poor housing, amid a fluid and unstable population. The level of special educational needs and disability are well above the national average; and, geographically, it feels isolated – the railway line ends at Clacton, then it’s the North Sea.

This is a largely white working class population – a demographic that across the country is now among the most educationally disadvantaged. And they live in the areas being targeted by Ukip.

Clacton-on-Sea shares such features with other fading seaside resorts that have lost much of their tourism – and therefore wealth – to foreign travel. But while schools in London and other deprived urban areas have been successfully turned around thanks to big investment, schools on the coast have been overlooked by national initiatives that have raised standards elsewhere.

The Guardian is shown around CCA by a prefect, Ben, discussing the byelection and Ukip; Ben declares himself a communist and says he wants to be a history professor.

Among the young people we meet, two have had parents who have recently died; another has had a difficult time since his parents split up, but is now back on track; another is homeless after a gas explosion.

They may be dealing with challenging circumstances, but they all have aspirations: one wants to be a vet, another a zookeeper.

Read more... (The Guardian - 15 October)