Sun, sea sand and struggle

10th June 2005 at 01:00
Leadership college to help seaside schools cope with poverty and high pupil turnover, reports Graeme Paton

The tourists may enjoy the miles of beaches, seafront arcades and the odd bag of fish and chips but for teachers, it seems, working in seaside resort towns is no holiday.

A study for the National College for School Leadership paints a grim picture of the challenges facing schools in traditional resorts such as Skegness and Blackpool.

Some schools have to cope with a 100 per cent turnover of pupils in a year as parents desert the coast each winter. The geographical isolation of many coastal towns adds to recruitment problems and deprivation has created a legacy of underachievement.

The findings follow a report last year for the Department for Education and Skills which found girls living in seaside towns are up to twice as likely to become pregnant in their teens, owing to a "carnival atmosphere" that encouraged a casual approach to sex.

Now the National College is hosting a series of three seminars for 200 coastal schools to encourage more co-operation between headteachers.

The aim is to construct cross-school networks in coastal towns, allowing schools to share lesson plans and resources. It follows the success of a similar project in eight primaries and one secondary school in Skegness two years ago.

The project included employing a series of link advisers and giving pupils improved online access to the school. It helped boost attendance by up to 10 per cent, improved good GCSE passes by 20 per cent and cut the number of schools in special measures.

Peter Beveridge is head of Wainfleet Magdalen primary, near Skegness in Lincolnshire, one of the schools involved. He said: "I've been a head for nearly 20 years but never really had the opportunity to visit other schools and broker such trust between colleagues."

Professor Brent Davies, from Hull university, is leading the seminars in York, Blackpool and Bristol this month.

He said coastal towns had suffered from the growth of low-cost airlines, and reduced demand for UK-based holidays, which had sapped cash from the towns and lowered educational expectations.

Professor Davies said many remaining tourism jobs were seasonal, producing a pupil population that moved in and out of schools during the summer. He said: "The community expresses low expectations as regards paid work and this attitude affects the way education is regarded. Communication between schools can be limited and fragmented. These factors hinder schools'

recruitment and retention of high-quality staff." l graeme.paton@tes.co.uk

For details of the course see www.ncsl.org.ukresearch

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