Improving opportunities for learning and development in remote rural communities

This is an example from a rural Highland High School which has a roll of just over 100.

The school is allocated Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) based on only 2 pupils registered for free school meals.  Local community insiders believe that many families do not apply for school meals as a result of what they see as the perception of others in a small community.
Nonetheless, the School’s head teacher and the local youth worker, employed by High life Highland (a charitable company established by Highland Council as an “arms-length organisation”) saw the potential to make good use of the PEF, adopting a targeted approach  while avoiding stigmatising or separating individuals. The focus is on  benefiting both educational outcomes and social wellbeing; this involves looking at attainment scores, transport issues, food and nutrition and other factors affecting wellbeing.

The school has several well-established afterschool activities one day a week, run by High Life Highland. From 5 p.m. there is football followed  by youth clubs, both for 1st to 2nd years and for senior pupils. Transport home relies heavily on parental co-operation as there is no public transport out of the area after 6 pm. The average journey home per pupil is 8 miles, some living even more remotely with a mile or so to travel on unpaved, unlit roads.
The potential for introducing a study club run by youth services for all pupils between the end of the school day and 17:00 was identified, with the offer including a free snack and transport home for young people attending this and staying on for the youth club activity.

Since this activity has started the two young people whose circumstances attract PEF to the school have attended both the study club and the after school youth club; they are from a very remote rural area and would not normally have been able to access these sessions. There has been a positive impact on their social, emotional and educational wellbeing and also for other young people at risk of having their life-chances restricted who are staying behind to access this group. This includes senior pupils also taking part in an extra opportunity for study and carrying on to the youth clubs.

As at early April,  the initiative had delivered 520.5 hours of extra learning, and 45% of the school roll were engaging in extra youth work activities (up from 25%).