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Exclusive: Remote schools facing 'educational isolation' new report warns

Research suggests rural and coastal schools are isolated by more than just their location

AA new report will warn that remote schools suffer from an educational isolation

Research suggests rural and coastal schools are isolated by more than just their location

Schools are facing an ‘educational isolation’ that goes beyond just being based in remote areas, a new report is set to warn.

Researchers say that coastal and rural schools can also be isolated professionally, economically and culturally meaning they lack the resources they need to improve.

The report warns that geographic remoteness can have a negative impact on teacher recruitment and retention and on parental engagement.

But the authors of the report, Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope and Dr Rowena Passy, want policymakers to think beyond the idea of schools being simply geographically isolated.

Professor Ovenden-Hope describes what many remote schools face as “educational isolation” which is not only geographic but can also be professional, social and economic.

The academic, says it means schools having “less access to the resources they need to achieve the performance expected of them.”

She said: “That includes being able to recruit and retain teachers but also access to other schools for support and professional development, support from universities, local stable employment, or access to funded educational initiatives.”

Prof Ovenden-Hope, from Plymouth Marjon University, says that remote schools in both affluent and deprived areas can face challenges attracting and keeping young teachers.

“Newly qualified teacher turnover is high in rural schools, isolation from social opportunities and access to affordable housing is a real challenge to retaining early career teachers.

“It is difficult if you have geographical isolation, poor transport links, limited employment prospects for partners and long commutes from affluent areas what is there to attract you as a new teacher in a new career.

According to the new report, seen by Tes, the economic disadvantages include  a lack of large-scale employers nearby which means schools are unable to attract the types of funding and support offered in more densely populated areas "that could introduce new learning and motivate pupils."

The report also warns that a high level of seasonal and poorly-paid employment was reported by school leaders in coastal and rural areas.

It says these employment conditions were seen to limit young people’s expectations of work and reduced their motivation to work hard at school.

The new report will also warn that remote schools can face cultural isolation.

Research showed that rural and coastal school leaders said their pupils had limited access to opportunities, such as museums and theatres, and cultural diversity.

Interviewees reported that schools “needed to invest considerable time, money and effort in introducing children to different ethnicities and lifestyles; comparison was drawn with more populated areas that have a diverse population and in which cultural diversity is part of everyday life.”

The report will be published next month.

A copy is also being sent to the House of Lords Regenerating Seaside Towns Committee.

The authors say they have also been invited to present their findings to the Department for Education.  

To read a full investigation into the problems remote schools contend with, see today's edition of Tes magazine, available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. 


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