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Marjon University Cornwall supports new Rural Teaching Partnership

Released: 11.03.21

Marjon University Cornwall is advising on the development of a new Rural Teaching Partnership. This is a new initiative led by The Church of England, education charity Teach First and the Chartered College of Teaching, aiming to improve the education of pupils in rural communities.

The partnership is to run in ten pilot regions across England, one of which is Truro. It will see trainee teachers, trained by Teach First, start two-year placements with Church of England rural primary schools in September 2021.

By coming together, the organisations hope to tackle teacher recruitment challenges currently faced by schools in persistently disadvantaged rural areas. There is much evidence showing that rural school leaders face greater difficulties with staff recruitment and retention compared to urban schools.

Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope, Provost of Marjon University Cornwall, is advising the partnership on the specific challenges of teaching in rural areas caused by educational isolation and how to prepare trainee teachers to be confident in dealing with these.  She has herself lived and worked in Cornwall for 30 years and is an experienced teacher, teacher educator and one of the UK’s leading researchers on rural, coastal and small schools.

Professor Ovenden-Hope said: “The attainment of persistently disadvantaged pupils in rural schools is consistently lower than similarly disadvantaged children in urban schools. My research explores the causes of this inequity and seeks to address it. Working with the Rural Teaching Partnership is a fantastic opportunity to develop a curriculum for teacher training that offers context specific development for teaching in rural schools.”

In 2019 Professor Ovenden-Hope published a report with Dr Rowena Passy called ‘Educational Isolation: a challenge for schools in England’, which has transformed understanding of the way resources and support must be targeted for the specific needs of rural, coastal and small schools. Ofsted, education charities, Multi Academy Trusts and the Department for Education have all worked with Professor Ovenden-Hope to improve their practices in working with rural schools.

With more than half of its 4,644 schools situated in rural areas, the Church of England is the majority provider of rural schools nationally.

In its 2018 publication, Embracing Change, the Church of England highlighted the challenge for rural schools, where delivery of education services is typically more expensive per child than in urban areas, but emphasised its commitment to these schools as part of a diverse national education provision. The report highlighted the need to recruit excellent teachers and leaders, and to find new ways of working collaboratively, aims which the new scheme will help to progress.

Andy Wolfe, Deputy Chief Education Officer for the Church of England, added: “We’re delighted to be pioneering the Rural Teaching Partnership across rural schools in Cornwall and embedding fantastic new teachers in wider school leadership networks for their support and development.”

Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham and Lead Bishop for Education, said: “Children in rural communities deserve excellent teachers, and this partnership is about helping to ensure the best outcomes for children in every community.”

Katie Fitzsimmons, Director of Education, Truro Diocese Board of Education said: “Teaching in our small and rural schools is an incredible privilege, as well as having its own challenges.  This programme provides specific support which addresses this, both in terms of teaching practice and personal development, to the benefit of children across the country.  In Cornwall, we are blessed with precious small schools and I hope that this programme will enable us to share the skills and joys of teaching in them with a new generation of teachers.”

Rural primary schools in Cornwall interested in participating in the RTP are invited to contact Nicola Coupe at for more information.

More information:

Read the Church of England’s Report – Rural Schools: Embracing Change (2018)

Read Ovenden-Hope and Passy (2019) Educational Isolation: a challenge for schools in England

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