About the author…

Rachel Kitley, principal of Cowes Enterprise College

All aboard: How coastal schools can keep their maritime afloat

By Rachel Kitley, principal of Cowes Enterprise College

  4 August, 2022

This article was originally written by Rachel Kitley for School’s Week Opinion, published on 3 August 2022.

Rachel Kitley Schools Week

“Schools wanted to join a sailing adventure with a scheme aimed at raising aspirations and attainment.”

When Cowes Enterprise College set sail with its Maritime Futures Curriculum in 2019, few of us would have anticipated quite how successful it would become.

In the beginning the idea was simple – to weave the Isle of Wight’s maritime heritage into everything we do as a school. It was a conscious decision to maintain traditional curriculum subjects, taking opportunities to deliver core learning through the golden thread of maritime where it fitted. Now, up to 10% of lessons in Key Stage 3 are linked to this theme. This has, for example, helped us turn a potentially dry topic, coastal management, into the highlight of the geography year, with students heading out on boats to evaluate local examples of this.

Through this approach – and a series of visits for students to businesses on the island – we are hoping to inspire the next wave of maritime professionals and shipbuilders, keeping these vital industries alive.

Key to this is showing our children that there are careers for everyone in the sector, from naval architects to riggers and marine archaeologists to oceanographers.

Thankfully, this is a voyage which has been supported by an enthusiastic and willing crew, including the Department for Transport, our sponsor Ormiston Academies Trust, the Careers Enterprise Company, Edge Foundation, and the businesses on the Isle of Wight who have been so generous with their time and energies.

We are hoping to inspire the next wave of maritime professionals and shipbuilders, keeping these vital industries alive

It is testament to absolutely everyone’s efforts that the scheme was awarded a Maritime UK Future Skills Award earlier this year.

Yet Maritime Futures doesn’t just aim to give students a powerful sense of their past and present. It is also designed to connect them to an important part of the country’s future. That’s why it has been encouraging to see the government’s growing support for the sector. The new Shipbuilding Skills Task Force – which I am delighted to be a part of on behalf of the school – is looking to develop an ambitious strategy to support the future of the sector, and Cowes is equally committed to championing this.

So many coastal towns have tangible links back to our rich maritime heritage. That’s why we’re excited to roll-out our model to schools and areas across the UK.

We have limited funded spaces available, through which we can organise a visit to Cowes Enterprise College to see the approach in action, provide an industry expert to help schools develop local links with maritime employers in their context, and be on hand to coach and support the senior leadership team, curriculum writers and teachers in implementing the approach.

If you want to embark on your own maritime adventure and raise aspirations and attainment, please do email [email protected].

Moreover, if you’re a school based in an area famed for a certain vocation, I would encourage you to explore how this could be embedded into your curriculum. Our Maritime Futures Curriculum shows the power of reinvigorating local links and creating tangible bonds not just with your area’s past, but the present-day businesses who are keeping these traditions alive.

It seems to me that ‘levelling up’ can be supported through championing and bolstering industries which underpin so many of our communities. This is particularly true of coastal areas, which have undeniably suffered in recent decades.

As well as inspiring students, we hope our curriculum will help to tackle educational inequalities in coastal regions, where disadvantaged students do worse than their inner-city peers, and provide long-term economic prosperity.

That’s why we’re so determined to share our learnings with schools across the country. We are already in talks with schools in Norfolk, Suffolk, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and aspire to work with an ever-growing number of schools across the next two years.

More so, we are working alongside Pearson BTEC to develop and implement a Maritime BTEC Level 1/2 Tech Award to help ensure there is a viable pathway for young people who want to chart a course into these industries.


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About the author…

Rachel Kitley, principal of Cowes Enterprise College