In 2016, Hastings was ranked 282 out of 324 on the Social Mobility Index, which compares the chances that a child from a disadvantaged background will succeed in education and work. From early education up to post-16, outcomes for disadvantaged children and young people in Hastings are well below the national average.

In 2017, as part of a nationwide drive to improve areas facing similar challenges, the Department of Education invested up to £6m to set up The Hastings Opportunity Area. This is a 3 year programme tasked with identifying key areas for improvements, and then working with local businesses, schools, nurseries and colleges to give every young person the chance to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.

Maths – in 2016 only 59% of primary leavers reached the expected standard, 10% behind the national average, and all secondary schools made less progress than the national standard.

 

Working with the Sussex Maths hub, support has been provided to participating schools to upskill teaching staff with the implementation of teaching maths for mastery.

Literacy – primary school pupils make less progress than their peers across England. In 2016 the percentage of those meeting the expected standard in reading at KS2 was 57% compared to the national average of 66%, with only 65% of secondary students achieving Grade C GCSE or above, compared to 75% nationally.

£250,000 was made available to Hastings schools which is funding a wide range of projects tailored to each schools needed. The National Literacy Trust has been commissioned to run ‘Get Hastings Reading’, a ten year hub injecting a broad range of literacy campaigns in the town. Training for teaching staff in early years has also been provided to upskill practitioners.  

Mental Health – Hastings has high rates for the incidence of depression and prevalence of severe mental illness; emergency admissions due to mental health or self-harm, working age people claiming Employment Support Allowance due to mental health problems.

Award winning drop in centre i-Rock has received funding to extend its opening hours and increase the services they provide through hiring an additional staff member. Open for Parents have received funding to extend their wellbeing offer to parents. An in school key worker service has been set up for 9 – 14 year olds, and Mental Health First Aid training has been made available to senior leaders at all schools and colleges.

Broadening Horizons – many young people are not participating in extra-curricular activities, and aren’t experiencing meaningful encounters with the world of work.

Since 2018, £350,000 has been spent on free enrichment activities in Hastings schools and Colleges with a further £400,000 being distributed from September 19 onwards. Additionally, £230,000 has been distributed to fund community activities reaching over 1,500 children & young people since 2018, with a further £250,000 released in Summer 2019.

Working with local businesses, an annual Hastings wide careers day for year tens was set up in 2018 accessed free by over 400 students, along with several careers based school trips and investment in the Careers Enterprise Company who offer sustained support to all schools and colleges.

Attendance – in 2017, Hastings’ primaries had the highest persistent non-attendance in the country. and was amongst the worst performing for secondary.

In 2019, the Hastings Attendance Charter was launched offering all schools and colleges in the area the opportunity to work together with a unified approach to improve attendance. This is accompanied by an attendance fund of over £450,000 for schools and a marketing campaign promoting the benefits of attendance to children, young people and parents.

Teaching – recruiting the best talent in teaching, and then retaining staff who would otherwise move elsewhere is proving a key challenge.

“While clearly Hastings is facing severe challenges, particularly for those children from disadvantaged backgrounds, we now have a unique opportunity to turn these fortunes around. The town has extraordinary schools, colleges, teachers and a network of existing community services in place. Our ethos has been to work collaboratively with schools, local organisations and individuals to develop a unified and shared approach, so that we can move forward together and effect long lasting change. By 20/21, our objective is for Hastings to be an exciting place to teach and learn with pupils in the top half for Maths & Literacy, mental health services de-stigmatize and embedded in all schools, attendance significantly improved and all pupils doing extra curricular activities and learning about the world of work.

Richard Meddings, Chair of Hastings Opportunity Area Board

The programme is currently working on over 35 projects in partnership with dozens of organisations serving all schools and colleges and 12,000 children in Hastings.