Best Practice

Driving improvement in coastal schools: A case study

Raising aspirations, teaching students how to think, and a focus on staff development have proven key to raising outcomes for pupils at the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, which serves coastal communities in the South of England. Stuart Gardner explains


Coastal schools in England have long been a challenge for many in the education sector. The socio-economic disadvantages in these once thriving seaside communities poses a unique challenge, to not only turn local schools around, but also to sustain and continue levels of improvement.

Many coastal schools are in the “stuck schools” bracket, which was proposed by Ofsted earlier this year (2020).

A “stuck school”, according to Ofsted, is one that has received consistently weak inspection outcomes – failing to achieve a “good” rating during a 13-year period up to August 2019. They are often those characterised by hard-to-fix, long-term performance problems.

While not all schools in coastal areas struggle, many are tasked with common and persistent problems that are difficult to overcome, a number of which are caused by issues inherent in their communities (Ambition Institute, 2015).

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