131.Many seaside towns are facing considerable challenges across all levels of the education and skills system. Such challenges, we were told repeatedly, were affecting educational outcomes, and thereby disadvantaging young people and acting as a barrier to growth.
132.We were informed that low educational attainment was a persistent problem in many seaside communities. Several areas highlighted that their educational outcomes fell below the national average, including Great Yarmouth Borough Council,125 Allerdale Borough Council,126 Brighton and Hove City Council127 and Blackpool Council.128 Dorset County Council, in a far from untypical example of the educational challenges facing seaside towns, explained that:
“Weymouth and Portland have one of the lowest rates for social mobility in England. The Progress 8 scores for the secondary schools in the borough place them all below the government’s floor standard (i.e.-0.5). All Weymouth schools rated below average recently - All Saints School -0.6. Wey Valley School -0.68. Budmouth College -0.87. The Atlantic Academy Portland) -0.94. In addition, Ofsted inspections this year have rated both Budmouth College and All Saints school as Inadequate. Wey Valley has a Requires Improvement rating, whilst Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy was put into Special Measures before being taken over by Atlantic Academy.”129
133.We were directed to performance data showing that pupils in seaside towns and communities were underperforming. Professor Tanya Overden-Hope emphasised a 2016 report by Century Forum which suggested that, “at Key Stage 2, less disadvantaged, non-isolated schools that are outside coastal areas have 3 percentage points higher Level 5 attainment rates . . . than those in coastal areas.”130 Professor Overden Hope also cited research from SchoolDash, which stated that “2015 GCSE results showed that pupils in coastal schools were on average achieving 3% lower results than inland schools, based on the benchmark five A*-C GCSEs including English and maths.”131 Furness Economic Development Forum highlighted Ofsted’s 2013 20-year review of access and achievement, which identified that:
“Since 1993 the distribution of under achievement has shifted from deprived inner city areas to deprived coastal towns and rural areas. Of the 111 secondary schools in England serving above average proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals, with the lowest performance at GCSE for these pupils, 23% are in coastal communities including Barrow.”132
134.In seeking to understand and explain the trend of low educational attainment in coastal areas, a range of specific challenges for education provision, common to coastal communities, was identified. Many witnesses emphasised the limited accessibility to educational institutions for young people in seaside towns. Cornwall Council told us that:
“Beyond the age of 11, Cornwall’s young people often have to travel long distances to learn and access a broad range of academic and vocational opportunities. This is a real challenge for students in secondary and further education who live in coastal villages, and who may have to travel 3 or more hours per day to and from their place of education.” 133
135.Challenges around accessibility were also a common theme in the evidence provided relating to Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). The Open University (OU) told us that: “There has been a 27% decline in the number of people in coastal constituencies accessing HE since 2011/12” and that the “higher education access gap between coastal constituencies and non-coastal constituencies has widened from 5% to 14%.” The OU suggested that part-time higher education, including flexible forms of learning, such as online distance learning, could play a crucial role in allowing people from seaside towns and coastal communities to access higher education.134
136.Professor Ian Fribbance, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the Open University, elaborated: “there is never going to be a bricks-and-mortar offering of higher education in every coastal town”135 and so the Government must look at ways to support more flexible learning, particularly as part of its review of Post-18 Education and Funding. Professor Fribbance also made the suggestion that areas must look at ways of facilitating partnerships between the HE and FE sectors and local businesses and industry, to support greater access to education, and bring improvements to the employment prospects of students.136This view was echoed elsewhere in the evidence.
137.Steven Frampton, President of the Association of Colleges, stressed that while the opportunity to encourage entrepreneurship amongst FE learners was important, it was being limited:
“The tragedy is that 10 years of cuts and frozen funding in the FE sector has meant the very things you are talking about, the entrepreneurial programmes that are there and can be delivered, have unfortunately been reduced in the college sector. It is the thing we would most like to get back.”
“I can speak from my own experience. I changed the college timetable to a two-period day between 10 am and 4 pm. On their half days, I gave students the opportunity to work with businesses and set up their own businesses: 83 of them are young entrepreneurs. But the financial resources to enable that to happen just are not there. Businesses were wonderfully supportive, but you still need to employ staff to deliver that part of the curriculum. We find that we have been reduced in our opportunities to do that because we have to concentrate on the core.”137
138.A common thread in the evidence around the difficulties in accessing educational institutions was the resultant low aspiration amongst young people. Lincolnshire County Council argued that the time and expense it took young people to access FE and sixth form colleges had an impact on aspiration. The Council stated: “For some this means undertaking long or complex journeys to get there and back, whilst for others it means compromising on the course topics they take. This dampens young people’s aspirations and curtails their opportunities.”138
139.Many witnesses also connected the lack of employment opportunities in coastal areas with low aspiration levels. Blackpool Council observed that: “The nature of jobs available locally tends to supress the understanding that education is important to accessing career-orientated jobs.”139 There was broad agreement that low aspiration levels were contributing to reduced social mobility and low work expectations, something that East Lindsey District Council labelled as an “aspirational ceiling” in coastal areas.140
140.A number of submissions were from areas that had been selected to participate in the Opportunity Areas Programme, which has been initiated by the Department for Education. The programme focused on how the schools system could improve social mobility, looking particularly at ways to raise progress and attainment. Blackpool, North Yorkshire Coast and Hastings have all been designated as opportunity areas. While there was broad support for the aims of the programme, those areas involved all expressed concern that the duration of the project—which is set at three years—may limit its long-term impact. Blackpool Council have called for the programme to be extended to 2030 stating that:
“…the lifespan of these projects are limited—with the Opportunity Area in particular being limited to 3 years. The learning from the Areas should be used to extend the duration of the existing programmes, and to introduce them into further locations. One of the main benefits of the Opportunity Area is the ability to use it as leverage, “tilting” other funding towards achieving its objectives, and this will be difficult to sustain.”141
141.Similarly, North Yorkshire County Council stated that it felt that evidence of improvements at Key Stage 2 in its area demonstrated that the North Yorkshire Coast Opportunity Area programme was starting to have an impact, but Scarborough Borough Council warned that there was a danger that “…these interventions are relatively short term but are expected to tackle issues that have developed over generations”, and asked “What will happen after 2020?”142
142.We agree with this concern over future arrangements and recommend that the Government sets out its plans for evaluation of the impact of the Opportunity Area programme and accordingly brings forward proposals setting out how the programme will evolve after 2020, in relation to the long-term needs of seaside towns.
143.It was argued that there has been an historic lack of targeted investment and improvement programmes for education in seaside towns and communities. Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope asserted that while in the last decade there had been an intense focus on raising achievement in inner city schools, both in support and funding through the London and City Challenges - which had been successful in raising educational outcomes - coastal communities had not yet benefitted from similar schemes.
“There is clearly a challenge for equity in education in coastal communities. This is best understood by considering how urban communities with high level of disadvantage, such as London, have achieved improved educational outcomes for children and young people from similar economic backgrounds.
London, and other urban settings, experienced a transformational shift in educational outcomes between 2003 and 2016 (Hayes and Gul 2017). The role of the Department for Education’s London Challenge in supporting the rise of London as an education superpower, succeeding despite high levels of deprivation, cannot be underestimated. Other factors also played a role in London’s sustained success in terms of educational outcomes, such as the relationship between local and national government; the growth of academies and school accountability; school-to-school support in close proximity; investment in facilities; and changes in teacher training.”143
144.The most prominent concern, however, that was raised about education in coastal communities centred on the recruitment and retention of teachers. Many areas remarked upon the local difficulties associated with staff recruitment in coastal schools, which were attributed to factors such as geographical isolation, poor transport links, low wages and limited opportunities for professional development.
145.Importantly, we were also made aware that there were national challenges in teacher recruitment and retention, which were having an impact on coastal communities, in addition to the local characteristics noted above. Teach First stated that: “It is estimated that England needs to increase its teacher supply by about 12% by 2024 as pupil numbers boom, and there are already shortages today.”144 Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, explained that retention was a significant problem:
“You lose around 30% of teachers after five years and about 52% of teachers after 10 years. We have the youngest teaching workforce in Europe. That is not a good thing; it is a bad thing. Think about the kinds of people you would want teaching your own children. As for the people who are leaving, the TES calculates that by 2024 we are going to need—wait for it—47,000 more teachers.”145
146.Tackling the challenges that we identify above—access to further and higher education provision, low aspiration amongst pupils, a lack of targeted investment programmes for rural and coastal regions, and difficulties in recruiting and retaining teaching staff—is a very considerable task, requiring a range of interventions. There is no single transformative policy which could remedy what are, in some cases, entrenched problems.
147.Limited access to education, in particular to FE and HE institutions, is severely curtailing opportunities and denting aspirations for young people in some coastal areas.
148.We agree with Professor Fribbance’s assertion above that there is never going to be “a bricks-and-mortar offering” of higher education in every coastal town. Greater scope for flexible access both to further and higher education, such as online, part-time and distance learning, must therefore be part of the solution, and we recommend that the Government produces ambitious proposals for how it can best support and encourage flexible access as part of its review of Post-18 Education and Funding.
A note by Baroness Bakewell
Britain has one of the most glorious coastlines in the world: some 7,700 miles of it. For centuries, traders and fishing communities have prospered here. Our coasts can provide tranquillity, pleasure and renewal of the spirit. The seaside – with its proximity to our tides and shores, our inlets and estuaries, our cliffs and beaches - is a vast, free asset. It would be folly to neglect it and not bring it again into the forefront of social and economic life. Here’s one suggestion how.
Young people in seaside resorts love their homes; but they are not always well served when it comes to education. Young families enjoy the seaside; they come in droves for weekends and holidays. Conflate the two! Make it easier to attract teachers and their families to live and work by the seaside.
This would then raise teaching standards and attainment in seaside schools many of which are not good enough. We hear over and over about how hard it is to attract quality professionals, and how the need for them holds back many well-meaning initiatives. So, begin at the beginning with teachers, children and their schools.
Explain to teacher recruits that they are pioneering a social experiment to make schools the focus of entire communities with newly arriving, talented teachers firing up institutions that reach out to every corner of the community.
We love our coastline; we wish our resorts were happier places. Many of us would like to retire there in the hope of finding thriving and stable communities shaping their own and their children’s futures.
149.As alluded to above, we were made aware of the scope for improving access and opportunity through the formation of innovative partnership models. For instance, Professor Fribbance told us:
“if we could have a regime where the OU, for example, was working in partnership with the local colleges, which in turn were working with the local businesses that they knew well, that really would facilitate the kinds of things you are talking about: more apprenticeships, more access to local apprenticeships entrepreneurial skills, routes through to higher education, those kinds of things. We would support that partnership model.”146
150.We were struck by the example of the Scarborough University Technical College (UTC) which we visited. This institution, an industry-orientated school for pupils aged 14–18, is funded by the Government and is sponsored by a number of companies as well as by higher education providers. The flexibility to partner with local businesses and industry, and with HE institutions, has seemingly been invaluable, and we commend such an approach.
A note by Lord Bassam of Brighton
A major development in the Scarborough area had been the University Technical College (UTC), which opened in 2016. The UTC offers students aged 14-18 technically oriented courses of study (around 60 per cent academic / 40 per cent practical), combining National Curriculum requirements such as GCSEs and A Levels with technical and vocational elements. It was sponsored by a number of partners including McCain, Unison, Flamingo Land, GCHQ and the University of Hull. On the neighbouring site the Coventry University Scarborough Campus which also opened in 2016 offers a range of courses, with intake every six weeks and the opportunity for condensed learning, which Council representatives suggested offered flexibility, particularly to those employed in seasonal work and adult learners with family and work commitments.
During our visit, we asked whether the development of the UTC and Coventry University Scarborough Campus had helped to stem the migration of young people from the area. Council representatives stated that they believed the UTC had given young people in the area more of a reason to stay and that student numbers had increased from 20 in its first year, to 240 in 2018. The role of the UTC in meeting local skills needs was also highlighted, for example, in relation to the potash mine, which was expected to generate up to 4,000 jobs.
Source: Scarborough Visit Note, Appendix 5
151.There are, however, examples where universities have placed campuses into coastal areas, and it has not worked so well.148 As such, research and analysis need to be undertaken to identify best practice in this area. It would be unrealistic, and probably unwanted, to expect central Government to identify and establish the sort of partnering models being used in Scarborough; it requires understanding and innovation at a local level. It would be for the Government, however, to conduct, or commission, research to look at what has worked well, and what less well, and why, and then to disseminate the analysis.
152.We recommend that the Government enables the facilitation of partnership working between the FE and HE sectors, and local business and industry, in coastal and other isolated areas. The Careers and Enterprise Company and Founders4Schools are examples of best practice in this area. This best practice should be disseminated, and consideration given to launching a coastal-specific initiative, locally administered, aimed at encouraging and nurturing partnerships between schools, further education and higher education providers, and employers, in order to create a ‘talent pipeline’ able to serve local industries.
153.As alluded to above, and in the previous chapter, the inadequacy of transport connectivity weighs heavily on our seaside towns, and is frequently a barrier to educational access in coastal areas. As Lincolnshire County Council put it to us:
“One coastal barrier would be removed if those travelling to post-16 education or training were entitled to subsidised bus fares. Indeed, it is hard to understand the rationale for the current situation, where those up to age 16 can travel free while those aged 17 or 18 cannot.”149
154.The cost of post-16 transport is an impediment to accessing educational opportunities in certain coastal areas. We recommend that the Government funds relevant local authorities to provide full public transport costs for post-16 students in coastal communities.
155.The recruitment and retention of teachers in coastal areas, as referred to above, is a pressing concern, as it is nationally. Recruiting, retaining and professionally developing teachers will be imperative if educational outcomes in coastal areas are to be improved. We recognise that there are many factors at play and that there are no easy solutions. There are strong reasons, however, why seaside towns are, and ought to be, attractive places for teachers to work and live, for instance, lower housing costs compared to many urban environments.150 Indeed, we heard informally from teachers that seaside towns were an attractive place to live and work. Nevertheless, further incentives are required to create a healthy teacher labour market, with a strong emphasis on professional development and retention, whilst recognising that an element of staff turnover is healthy.
156.We recommend that the Government undertakes a bespoke review to examine what can be done, including consideration of a major marketing campaign, to attract teachers to seaside towns and communities and to incentivise healthy levels of retention.
157.We note the historic lack of targeted investment and improvement programmes for education in seaside towns and communities, in contrast with the focus on urban areas in recent years. We recognise that resources are not limitless, but in wishing to be ambitious for our seaside communities, we conclude that there is a strong case for targeted intervention.
158.We recommend that the Government launches a targeted investment and improvement programme for both primary and secondary schools in coastal communities.
A note by Lord Knight of Weymouth
Seaside towns are communities with a proud and successful past. They are struggling in the modern economy. The Fourth Industrial Age primarily values people with the ability to outcompete machines. This requires the application of higher-level skills and thinking across academic disciplines.
The future of seaside towns requires educational success. Sadly, their current performance, as measured in school results, is normally below the national average. Few have higher education institutions within their communities, and most suffer from a vicious circle that drives down aspiration.
For individuals, success in school is realised by getting a place at university. Few seaside towns have universities or even graduate entry jobs, and so this talent leaves home. Once settled in cities, where the knowledge economy is thriving, the seaside’s best home-grown talent is unlikely to return. This in turn makes it hard for public sector employers to attract professional teachers and medics to these towns, because they can’t offer what graduate professionals want for themselves and their families.
The committee’s visit to Blackpool showed us a town that has strong primary schools, great further education and tangible efforts to bring sector-specific off-shoots of universities. However, the secondary schools are not performing well, despite investment from the Government’s Opportunity Area scheme. There appeared to be an absence of a co-ordinated leadership of this phase. These schools are also struggling to recruit the teachers they need to succeed.
Blackpool is not alone. It showed signs of being more successful than some other seaside communities, with a relatively resilient visitor economy. The extent and diversity of the hospitality sector offers career prospects that young people can aspire to. With a better range of apprenticeships, especially at the higher levels, there would be the possibility of progressing in the industry to degree level. This pathway needs to be urgently developed in Blackpool and nationwide.
But the wider lesson should not be missed.
There may be schemes that can be devised to attract public sector professionals to these places. There is a great quality of life to be had. Our meeting with Teach First teachers from south coast towns told us that these locations offered easy access on to the housing ladder for young teachers, and a more settled future than their friends in unaffordable places like London. A co-ordinated attempt to sell the benefits of living and working in seaside towns could certainly help drive improvement in education.
But co-ordination is the challenge. The future economy needs a connected vision for education from cradle to grave.
Disadvantaged families need support with pre-school parenting, high quality early years education, and a pathway into more structured learning. Later statutory schooling then needs to align more strongly to the local economy and build an aspiration to a successful future without having to move away. This in turn needs pathways into both higher-level apprenticeships and access to university, including part time, without leaving home. This requires employers to have a much closer relationship with the range of local education providers so that they can develop a talent pipeline that guarantees their future success as businesses. Finally, this should be tangible within the adult learning infrastructure, as well as a more relevant statutory school curriculum, so that locals can re-train and start new businesses.
A strong place-based education vision can deliver regeneration through education. That vision needs to be for a whole education ecosystem that serves the economic future of the town. This needs leadership and complete alignment between the Local Enterprise Partnership and a local education partnership.
This is the coastal challenge.
159.In many coastal areas, poor educational performance is often combined with weak labour markets, characterised by low-skilled, low-paid employment; a number of areas referred to a skills-shortage in the local labour force. The evidence highlighted a number of (often interconnected) problems associated with skills and employment.
160.The National Coastal Tourism Academy called seasonality “the most significant challenge facing many coastal communities.”151 We heard how the seasonal nature of tourism often results in a high proportion of temporary and short-term employment, and low-skill, low-wage local economies.
161.The outward migration of young people was also identified as a contributing factor to creating low-skill local economies. Merlin Entertainments explained that while they employed many young people while they were at college and university: “We find that once they have completed their education many move away taking their newly developed skills and knowhow away with them. Blackpool fails to retain the benefit from this investment in young people’s skills.”152
162.It was also suggested that an effect of the low levels of skills amongst local residents in these areas was that that industry and businesses were deterred from investing as there was little incentive for employers offering professional or technical careers to choose seaside towns as areas in which to base and expand their businesses.
163.A range of questions and concerns were raised about the effectiveness or appropriateness of national skills initiatives for seaside towns. It was put to us that some initiatives lacked the flexibility to cater for coastal areas, particularly those with high levels of seasonal employment patterns. When we visited Skegness, we heard about some of the challenges of implementing the apprenticeship scheme in coastal communities. Concerns were raised about the loss of locally-led training for hospitality and tourism, particularly that which had been offered by Butlins in-house, due to the requirement in the apprenticeship scheme to use providers that were on the register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP). Apprenticeships are meant to run over 12 months which, we were told, posed difficulties for coastal businesses (a high proportion of which were SMEs) that tended only to be able to offer seasonal work.
164.We acknowledge this concern and recommend that the Government reviews as a matter of urgency how well the apprenticeship scheme functions in areas, and sectors, with high levels of seasonal employment, including the provision of flexible and general education and training programmes, and introduces appropriate adjustments to the scheme.
165.It is vital to recognise that for young people in seasonal employment, the periods when they are not in employment should be seen as an opportunity for training and the development of skills to expand their employment prospects. For example, if a person works for six months of the year in seasonal employment, it seems reasonable to us that their employer should fund a month and a half’s training (the same ratio of work to off-the-job training as applies to an apprenticeship) and paid holiday. That leaves a period of time unaccounted for, which might usefully be filled with training or off-season work.
166.Where successes in improving employment and skills in seaside towns were reported, the initiatives often involved partnership working between businesses, education bodies and local authorities. For example, both Alex Flach, Construction Director at Whitbread and Kate Nicholls of UKHospitality, provided examples of how they worked closely with schools and sixth form colleges to fill training and graduate vacancies in their organisations.153
167.A number of organisations also suggested that, despite the importance of the hospitality sector to the local economy of many seaside towns, there was a sense that hospitality was undervalued as a career option by younger people. Bournemouth Borough Council told us that: “The poor image within the UK of careers in hospitality and tourism is adding to the difficulties surrounding recruitment from within the UK market.”154
168.Kate Nicholls of UKHospitality stated that: “There is discouragement: we hear about careers advisers telling people not to go into hospitality and not being able to give a good overview of the jobs that we provide.” Ms Nicholls further added:
“… the industry has been quite fragmented and has not had national strategies to put in place for careers and progression. It is more individual to companies. That is why the tourism sector deal you heard about earlier is so critical. For the first time, it is putting together a national campaign for recruitment, retention and skills, and it really needs the backing of government. There is a lot that the industry could do itself, but for government to recognise that this is the third largest employer in the country and the fourth largest industrial sector would be a huge step forward in addressing some of those perceptions.”155
169.Enhancing the status and potential of pursuing a career in the hospitality industry is important to the regeneration of many seaside towns. The outcome of the negotiations over the Tourism Sector Deal will, we agree, be of critical importance, and the Government must make efforts to promote and champion the hospitality industry. Its status and attractiveness must be dramatically bolstered.
170.The economies of many seaside towns are suffering from skills shortages. We recommend that the Government urgently examines the causes of the skills shortages in coastal towns. In doing so, the Government should encourage and support local skills strategies to enable successful and sustainable partnerships to flourish between industry, local educational institutions and the third sector.
A note by the Bishop of Lincoln
One of the most striking features of our visit to the seaside town of Skegness was the success of the Butlin’s resort as an all-year, all-weather attraction. When we visited in October 2018 we were told that it was hosting around four thousand guests. We heard that Butlin’s plays a key role in supporting local employment and skills training, and an important ambition for the company was to offer more people work across 52 weeks of the year. It was led by a charismatic and entrepreneurial resort manager.
One challenge that was revealed (and this was echoed in the evidence provided by other organisations in the hospitality industry) was the difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff. Chris had attracted some high-quality recruits from the locality but many of his staff were from beyond the UK, mainly from the EU.
We were told that it was much more difficult to recruit and retain local people for several reasons.
First, and this was reinforced by the evidence provided by UKHospitality, there was a cultural issue regarding the place of the hospitality industry in the mind-set of local people.
Butlin’s, Whitbread PLC and Stonegate highlighted to us that there were in fact great career opportunities in the hospitality sector for a young person (or indeed, an older person) with energy and ambition. We were told, for example, that there were a number of opportunities within Butlin’s for employees to pursue managerial roles. But, from the evidence we garnered, this kind of work, which often initially involves low pay and long hours, was not attractive to some of the young people of the area.
Secondly, this cultural mid-set, which is common to most seaside towns, was reinforced in the case of Skegness by the absence of easily accessible and flexible further education (FE) opportunities for training in the hospitality sector. The nearest FE institutions were in Lincoln (42 miles away) or Boston (19 miles away), accessible only on poorly configured roads, with few options regarding buses and trains. This stood in stark contrast to the what we saw on our visit to Scarborough, where a UTC and a university campus had been built in middle of the town.
Finally, concerns over the impact of the apprenticeship scheme in coastal areas were also raised. We were told that the requirements of the apprenticeship scheme for using nationally approved training providers, took away the opportunity for locally-led training. In addition, apprenticeships are meant to run over 12 months which we were told posed difficulties for coastal businesses (a high proportion of which were SMEs) that tend only to be able to offer seasonal work.
147 See Note on visit to Scarborough, Appendix 5
148 One example being the University of Brighton campus at Hastings. In 2004, the University Centre Hastings opened, managed by the University of Brighton, as a joint venture between the university, and other local education organisations In September 2009 University Centre Hastings was incorporated into the University of Brighton. In 2016 the University of Brighton announced that the campus would be closing. The decisions came after a year-long review of the campus which was deemed unsustainable by the university’s management.
150 We do acknowledge, however, the arguments advanced in written evidence from Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope (RST0032) that both high and low house prices in coastal communities present problems for recruitment and retention.