Agenparl English Scienza e Tecnologia

Report warns of isolation for coastal and rural schools

(agenparl) -plymouth (uk) mar 12 febbraio 2019

12 February 2019

Policy makers, funding agencies, organisations and stakeholders should review their practices and funding mechanisms to support schools that are educationally isolated, a new report suggests.

Educational Isolation: A Challenge
For Schools In England
is based on nine years of research, and work with
schools facing challenges caused by their location, carried out by researchers
linked to the Plymouth Institute of Education.

It defines the concept of educational isolation and examines what it
means in practice to isolated schools, arguing that it is complex,
grounded in location and access to resources, and results in reduced
agency for schools.

The aim of the report is to provide an understanding of this complexity and
recommend a series of measures to support isolated schools in their challenges
in relation to school improvement.

Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope, Professor of Education at Plymouth Marjon
University and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth, said:

“The challenges of schools’ geographical
location, socioeconomic conditions and/or cultural opportunities and diversity
in the community were identified by rural and coastal school leaders in our
research to a much greater extent than by those in urban schools. Schools
reported that the high cost of travel and long journeys to their geographically
remote location had a negative effect on teacher recruitment and retention.
Teacher recruitment and retention is an issue of great concern and recognising
and supporting the needs of educationally isolated schools may help with this
workforce challenge.”

In the report, rural and coastal school leaders indicate high levels of
seasonal and poorly-paid employment in coastal and rural areas, and that these
employment conditions were seen to limit young people’s expectations from
employment and reduce their motivation to work hard at school. Leaders also report
their isolation from large-scale, innovative employers who would provide
practical support for work in schools.

Dr Rowena Passy, Senior Research Fellow in Post Primary Educational
Development, added:

“The absence of sound employment prospects,
particularly when combined with austerity measures, was seen to have a
devastating effect on socioeconomically deprived and isolated communities,
including the schools within them.”

Cultural isolation in rural and coastal schools is identified in the
report, with school leaders stating that they invest considerable time, money
and effort in introducing children to different ethnicities and lifestyles;
drawing comparison with more populated areas that have a diverse population in
which cultural diversity is part of everyday life.

The report recognises that part of the complexity of educational
isolation is that it is experienced by schools in different ways and therefore
presents a definition that is purposefully broad to encompass the many
combinations of challenges of location and limited access to educational
resources. It recognises that these challenges may not result in educational
isolation if schools have access to the necessary resources for school improvement.
Urban inner-city schools can have high levels of socioeconomic disadvantage,
but the research shows that they generally have greater access to resources
that support school improvement. A geographically remote location can limit
school access to resources for improvement, compounding issues of socioeconomic

The report states that the key resources for educationally isolated
schools that are limited by the challenges of location are a high quality
school workforce, school support and externally funded interventions. Coastal
and rural school leaders identified greater difficulties with all types of
staff recruitment and retention than urban schools. Rural and coastal schools
indicated higher levels of isolation in terms of teacher continuing
professional or leadership development. School leaders from urban schools
demonstrated greater connectivity to national funding streams than those in
rural and coastal schools. The absence of national funding streams in rural and
coastal locations was seen to exacerbate disparities in school funding.

Professor Ovenden-Hope added:

“We have seen school leaders of educationally
isolated schools work tirelessly to find solutions to accessing resources that
have been limited by the schools’ location. These school leaders have created
opportunities for their students where it is possible to do so.”

Dr Passy concluded:

“Our recommendations in this report are
therefore to policy makers, funding agencies, organisations and stakeholders
and are intended to support schools in accessing resources for school


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