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.
|The key areas for improvement [These could be in a box]
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.
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.
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.
Broadening Horizons – many young people are not participating in extra-curricular activities, and aren’t experiencing meaningful encounters with the world of work.
Attendance – in 2017, Hastings’ primaries had the highest persistent non-attendance in the country.
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 20 projects in partnership with dozens of organisations serving all schools and colleges and 12,000 children in Hastings.