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Educational Isolation: A challenge for schools in England

Aerial photo of a patchwork of fields in rural England

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Educational isolation is complex, grounded in location, situated in access to resources and results in reduced agency for schools.

'Educational Isolation: a challenge for schools in England' aims to provide an understanding of this complexity through a considered definition of ‘educational isolation’ and to support schools in accessing resources for school improvement through recommendations for policy makers, funding agencies/organisations and stakeholders.


Part of the complexity is that educational isolation is experienced by schools in different ways

This fluidity makes definition difficult, and the one presented in the report is purposefully broad to encompass the many combinations of challenges of location and consequential limited access to specific resources.


The reports are authored by Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope of Plymouth Marjon University and Dr Rowena Passy of The University of Plymouth.

What others say

What is so heartening about this work is that it is systematic. The stress on the complexity of the problem is what makes it stand out.
Dr Elizabeth Sidwell CBE, National Schools Commissioner 2011-2013.

This illuminating report indicates the reasons why isolation of schools is prevalent in rural and coastal communities, which can be tackled with a modicum of common sense and a national commitment to all schools.
Professor Sonia Blandford, Founder and CEO Achievement for All.

This is a very important and timely report with important messages for all parts of the education sector. This is particularly the case where there has been a tendency for a London/urban centric view to dominate policy making... It is extremely timely as DfE have very recently published its Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy. It therefore now has an ideal opportunity to consider the findings of this report as it shapes its implementation plans... As a member of the R&R advisory group supporting the DfE strategy I am particularly struck by the challenges thrown up for teacher recruitment, retention and development by the Education Isolation report.
Professor Sam Twiselton OBE.

Large but Local

Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope and Dr Rowena Passy share interim findings from Year 1 and Year 2 of a three year qualitive research project (2019 – 2022) in this report. The project offers a case study of a new large multi-academy trust that created a Hub model to mitigate the effects of educational isolation on it schools.

Locality Matters: understanding the challenge of how to support educationally isolated schools

This is the final report by Professor Ovenden-Hope and Dr. Rowena Passy that offers insights into the efficacy of a Hub model, introduced by a new multi-academy trust (MAT), for supporting 20 educationally isolated schools in accessing resources. The three year research project explored the experiences of the Hub model from all of the MAT’s school leaders’ perspectives and that of the trusts’ executive leadership.

The key finding is that locality matters.

Bringing school leaders together in local Hubs of schools to established trusted and supportive relationships works for enhanced collaboration and the sharing of resources. Interestingly, school leaders felt less isolated when working in local of Hub with other school leaders that understood their leadership challenges. They were able to express more openly their needs for support and to offer support in return. This benefitted the MAT, with school leaders developing confidence to share resources that had worked at the local Hub level  with the MAT level where appropriate.

Schools are complex and educationally isolated schools experience the additional complexity of place-based challenges. After three years the Hub model was embedding within the MAT and emerging issues in the context for the constitution of Hubs, and the clarity and capacity in the role of the Hub lead, were identified. This said, the Hub model mitigated some of the thorny outcomes of the place-based challenges for educationally isolated schools and is a promising model for more equitable school access to resources.