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Seaside haven

TES Friday magazine this week reminds us that the seaside is not all sunshine, kiss-me-quick hats and party conferences. It can be a bleak, unhappy shore for society's flotsam and jetsam, as alienating as any inner city.

Jackie Cox, headteacher of Northdown primary school in Margate, Kent, calls them "the itinerant poor". Families on the run from debt and violence daily turn up at her school. In the playground, Kentish accents mingle with Geordie and Glaswegian ones. The children of Kosovan refugees seem stable and well-loved compared with the rest.

Northdown primary welcomes them all to its safe haven, an Aladdin's cae of learning and aspirations for something better.

For committed staff such as Alison Hatch, a primary teacher of the year finalist in next month's national teaching awards, the extra Government support promised to match additional Government pressure would be welcome on two fronts. First, in recognition that, with a 44 per cent mobility rate (the Government says 30 per cent is "high"), schools such as Northdown are effectively special schools which need special funding. Second, a policy for parents' centres to give support of the kind that overstretched teachers cannot continue to provide piecemeal, and alone.

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