Research by Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope, from Marjon's Faculty of Education, Enterprise and culture, on both coastal schools and teacher retention is featured in the latest 'State of the Nation' report (28 November, 2017) to parliament by the Social Mobility Commission.
This is the sixth 'State of the Nation' report, which explores what the government, employers, professions, schools, universities, parents and charities can do to promote and improve social mobility within the UK.
The report highlights how a growing geographical divide is leading to social mobility coldspots, particularly in remote rural or coastal areas, where poor educational outcomes, poor connectivity by transport and restricted opportunities are leading to only 14% of young people progressing onto University, compared to 27% in other areas.
The impact of the quality and retention of teachers in these areas, as examined by Professor Ovenden-Hope in her research project with Dr Rowena Passy, 'The Challenge of School Improvement in Coastal Regions in England', is cited in the report. It includes findings on how lack of 'churn' or movement of the teaching workforce in coastal schools and restricted employment options for family members of teachers potentially moving to coastal areas, can impact on retention and recruitment. The limited numbers of schools in close proximity can also result in to lack of school to school support for new educational approaches and ideas.
The SMC report (2017) also references 'RETAIN: teacher retention programme', an intervention study designed, developed and led by Professor Ovenden-Hope in partnership with Professor Sonia Blandford and Professor Tim Cain, funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and piloted in Cornwall. RETAIN provided structured professional development for early carter teachers in primary schools working with the most disadvantaged children. RETAIN provided teachers with the skills, knowledge and understanding to transform their practice and develop their confidence as professionals who want to stay in teaching. All the teachers who completed the RETAIN programme have remained in teaching and taken on leadership responsibilities.
Professor Ovenden-Hope also provided professional development for school leaders in Cornwall, facilitating them in finding their own solutions in increasingly challenging circumstances of being Schools in coastal regions. The SMC Report (2017) highlights how coastal schools in Cornwall have been
connected, using the Kernow Teaching School Alliance (KTSA) as an example. KTSA recruit teachers to work in a range of Cornish schools, which in turn has led to a higher number of teacher trainee applicants and ensuring the right fit for teachers, school and community.
Professor Ovenden-Hope comments, "It's fantastic that the findings of our research are being used to inform such an important and transformative report and to help influence recommendations that will go some way in addressing educational achievement, teacher recruitment and retention and social mobility in coastal and rural areas.
The report highlights the importance of having a region-specific strategy for training and developing the teaching workforce. This strategy should also consider local teacher training institutions, as well as appropriate incentives, for promoting teaching as a profession in hard to reach areas.
The report also recommends the launch of a national government fund to enable schools in rural and coastal areas to partner with schools to boost attainment. Educational isolation is a huge challenge for schools and any initiative to reduce the impact of isolation is good news."
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