Tackling Geographical Disadvantage

Establishing a working group on rural and coastal educational inequality

Commentators and policymakers engaged in the social mobility debate too often consider socio-economic background in isolation from place and the influence of geography. Factors such as distance from large employers and universities can have a substantial impact on students’ aspirations and progression routes, combined with the issue of regional variations in the performance of schools. The Bridge Group will be working closely with colleagues to raise awareness and increase understanding of the impact of place upon educational outcomes in order to promote social equality.

Establishing a working group on rural and coastal educational inequality

There are a number of strands to our work on geographical disadvantage. In the first instance we have established a working group which gathers together influential leaders and thinkers in this particular area of educational justice in order to initiate system-wide change.

Purpose of the working group

  • Represent the needs and interests of rural and coastal students on a national level.
  • Establish an evidence-based approach and translate research into practical solutions.
  • Explore the importance of data and how best to identify disadvantaged students in order to engage them.
  • Establish and share best practice in engaging and supporting students in rural and coastal areas.
  • Agree policy recommendations to share with government and stakeholders to advance the progress of talented young people in rural and coastal communities.

Output from the working group

  • An annual report which will include a number of policy recommendations.
  • An annual event will be organised to gather sectors together to share findings and explore solutions.
  • Regular engagement with leading commentators on education and social mobility to raise awareness of rural and coastal disadvantage.

Organisation of the working group

  • It will be led by the Chair of Trustees of the Bridge Group, Dr Tessa Stone.
  • Our participants represent the school, university, employer, and charity sectors and are passionate about improving educational and employment outcomes for geographically isolated people.
  • The group holds quarterly meetings.
  • The group’s recommendations to promote geographical equality will be published on our website and widely shared.

The views of our participants

Some of the participants of the working group share their thoughts on its potential to address geographical inequality:

  •  “The University is delighted to be involved in the work of Bridge Group. Our two organisations have a shared interest in the issues of social mobility and geographical disadvantage, and working together to tackle these challenges is an exciting prospect.” (Prof Peter Strike, Vice Chancellor, University of Cumbria)
  • Wadham College works with students from a variety of backgrounds and environments, but we have particular difficulty with maintaining relationships in more rural settings. We hope that involvement in this working group can help us to ensure that our Access programmes cater for all students, regardless of geographic location.” (Emily Cannon, Access and Outreach Officer, Wadham College, University of Oxford)
  • The Future Leaders Trust’s mission is to give children equal opportunities in life, regardless of background, by developing a network of exceptional school leaders. Ever more of our school leaders work in areas of geographical disadvantage and by contributing to this group we aim to give them and their pupils a voice, to improve understanding of the challenges they face and to share the effective strategies our leaders have developed to address them.” (Katy Theobald, Strategy, Performance, and Impact Manager, Future Leaders Trust)
  • Cambridge is located in a region with some of the highest levels of disadvantage and HE under-representation in the country. Coastal and rural challenges are acute in East Anglia and the University is leading on an NCOP bid involving all HEIs in the region to tackle these challenges head on. Cambridge is a global university but we also recognise our local responsibility and the importance of improving access to HE from rural and coastal communities.” (Tom Levinson, Head of Widening Participation, University of Cambridge)
  • I am interested in this group because, as a Principal who serves a rural and coastal community, my ambition is to ensure the best pathways for all our students for whom tertiary education is not necessarily part of their family culture.” (Head, Brockhill School, Kent)

Contact us

If you would like to find out more about this group and how to participate in it, please contact:

Dr Sarah Dauncey: sarah.dauncey@the-bridgegroup.org.uk