I would love to have your support for a cause which you know is close to my heart (I am one of the founders of IntoUniversity). In May, I am going to be cycling 270 miles from our learning centre in Weston-super-Mare to our centre in Clacton-on-Sea. I have had some generous gifts already and I have made a donation myself, so please help me reach my fundraising target.
We have known for a long time that Britain’s coastal communities are in crisis. Anecdotally, the decline in tourism has clearly had a devastating impact on former holiday resorts. In 2017, a report by the Social Market Foundation identified significant deprivation in seaside towns. For example, in 85% of Britain’s coastal local authorities, people earn below the national average. And this inequality has only been getting worse. In 1997, economic output per person was 23% lower in coastal communities than in the rest of the country, and in 2015 the gap had widened to 26%.
We set up IntoUniversity centres in Weston and Clacton in the last year because the need to address educational inequality in these areas could no longer be ignored. Historically thriving seaside holiday towns, both Weston-super-Mare and Clacton-on-Sea face considerable challenges in 2019. Areas around Clacton-on-Sea are some of the most severely deprived in the country: the former seaside resort of Jaywick was assessed as the most deprived neighbourhood in England in 2010 and again in 2015, based on factors including poverty, crime, education and skill levels, unemployment and housing.
In Clacton it is estimated that 33% of children are living in poverty. In Weston-super-Mare’s South ward the figure is the same, and children growing up in these areas therefore face a greater risk of having poor health, being exposed to crime and failing to meet their potential. That’s where IntoUniversity, with our aspiration- and attainment-raising programmes, comes in.
This deprivation, however, is not the full story of coastal communities. The strength of community spirit is powerfully visible in Weston and Clacton. It has been a privilege to work with the many local changemakers who are doing so much to improve the lives of residents. The students we support are fantastically hard-working and motivated to make a difference in their local areas. The challenges faced by coastal towns like Weston and Clacton are distinct from the rest of the country. The solutions that community-based organisations like IntoUniversity are coming up with to tackle these challenges are also unique.