Sun, sea, sand and Strictly – Blackpool may attract fewer tourists than it did in its heyday, but it retains the image of a fun holiday destination. Describing growing up in Blackpool, many young people emphasised this aspect of life in the town, like the Year 6 pupil who told us:
“I think it’s quite nice, because a lot of people like to come to Blackpool because it’s a seaside town; people like to come and visit and it’s quite nice to meet people that are from different places. It’s nice to think they like your beach, because you think of it as yours because you have been here all your life.”
Behind the fairytale image seen by holidaymakers however, the town faces significant challenges. Fifteen of the 162 most deprived neighbourhoods in England are in Blackpool. Ofsted have strongly criticised education in the town. Health and crime indicators are significantly worse than national averages.
As Teach First targets its work towards those areas where it can have the most impact, understanding what makes local contexts distinctive is key. We interviewed young people from deprived backgrounds, teachers and professionals in primary and secondary schools, a youth club and a careers centre. We asked them to tell us about growing up in Blackpool and sought to understand more about young people’s lives, and the stories which lie behind the statistics.
Key findings from our study include:
- Young people seek a good family life and personal security – believing in the importance of resilience, a work ethic and career success, they hold themselves responsible for their success.
- Young people are positive about many aspects of the town, but some are exposed to violence, alcohol and drug use from an early age.
- For some young people, life at home is challenging; positive engagement with families is one of the biggest challenges schools face.
- Schools and teachers are dedicated to caring for students; fewer teachers described themselves as having such a powerful role in promoting student achievement, they need more support to achieve the best for young people.
- Blackpool’s context constrains the expectations of young people, and the opportunities they have.
People in Blackpool highlighted four wishes: reduced exposure to harm for young people, a better physical environment, improved work prospects and a joined-up pastoral approach. We found sources of optimism in young people’s enthusiasm for the town and the dedicated professionals we met working there. Our study poses questions for Teach First about how best to support young people in coastal communities, and questions for other agencies and organisations about how we can work together to meet young people’s needs.
Our research will continue studying four other areas of the country.
Download the full report here.