Recognising Rye’s talents

Sally-Ann Hart, Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye , enjoying Rye's specialities

On the evening of Saturday, March 26 I had a wonderful time at the Mermaid Inn for a gala black-tie fundraising dinner organised by Councillor Rebekah Gilbert, Rye’s home-grown and talented mayor. The food was simply delicious and represented some of the best that the town has to offer, including the most succulent lamb shanks I have ever had the fortune to taste! Not only did Councillor Gilbert treat us to her beautiful singing voice, she also made an excellent auctioneer, coaxing bids from willing participants to raise money for her chosen charities which focus on aiding young people with learning and life skills.

I sat at the table opposite a rather remarkable young man who is doing incredibly well in the art world. A local Rye resident, we had a really insightful chat about his journey into art. Listening to Councillor Gilbert’s singing, talking to this young artist, and eating Rye’s specialities made me think again about how much people in Hastings and Rye have to offer, how much talent many people have – sometimes without realising it – and what an incredible part of the United Kingdom we live in.

It also made me think about why it is so important that everyone has an equal chance to access opportunities and that some people really do face barriers in accessing them, including ones linked to culture, community, aspiration, or attitude.

In Parliament, I have recently been elected as the vice-chair of the Backbench Policy Committee for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), which will tie in well with my chairmanship of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Coastal Communities. In both the DLUHC policy committee and the APPG we will be considering policies, strategies and / or recommendations which will focus on levelling-up. The APPG specifically looks at current issues affecting coastal communities and, through its inquiries, seeks strategies to address them. We are actively engaged in an inquiry on education in coastal communities as studies show that educational attainment in many coastal communities is markedly below the national average. In Hastings and Rye, as with other towns or cities with areas of deprivation, it is unarguable that poverty is the biggest single indicator of low educational attainment and that young people’s aspirations, the goals they set themselves, their motivation, and their inspiration to work towards these goals have a significant influence both on their educational attainment and their future life outcomes.

One of the goals that I set myself on being elected the MP for Hastings and Rye was to bring about an improvement in the expectations and aspirations of our young people – to make them proud of who they are and where they come from. Initial research shows that most young people are aspirational and want to do well in life and most have high hopes for the future; it is often their families and the wider communities which do not give them enough support or provide the environment they need to achieve.

Having consistently lobbied education ministers about improving education and investment into Hastings and Rye schools, I am delighted that not only was East Sussex recently designated as an Education Investment Area (one of 55 areas to receive targeted support to help young people from all backgrounds receive improved standards of education), but Hastings and Rye has also been designated as a Priority Education Investment Area. As a priority area, we will receive tailored support to address our local needs – more intensive investment to tackle wider issues including entrenched barriers that might be limiting school improvement, in addition to the substantial support offered to all Education Investment Areas.

It is clear to me that we have a huge amount of potential and hidden talent in Rye that is yet to be unleashed. I am keen to understand what ministers will be focusing on as regards the ‘entrenched barriers’ which might be limiting school improvement, and I will absolutely be continuing to focus my efforts on developing policy that will help our young people achieve their potential by specifically looking at the barriers to aspiration and attainment.

Image Credits: Chris Lawson .


  1. One of the barriers to aspiration and attainment especially in Rye is ensuring longterm security and affordable housing so that local talent can be nurtured and stay in the area, rather than being forced to move away. Since 70% of local property is currently being bought purely for investment, I look forward to hearing what Sally Ann will be bringing to the locale from the Committee for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to ensure that not just creative young poeple, but middle aged and older folk who support this town with their craative compassion are not left disillusioned and priced out.

  2. Having worked within educational establishments at Degree, HND, ND and City and Guilds level of achievement; for over 30 years. The biggest change I encountered was the loss of teaching staff who were subject qualified. This was because The minister of education ruled that all staff had to have a teaching qualification. The outcome was that all new staff was replaced by staff who were directly from college; who were qualified to teach. The outcome was that the vast majority of these newly qualified teachers had no practical or commercial knowledge whatsoever. The difference was that in earlier years to teach at degree level the lecturer had to have 10 years proven industrial experience. The outcome is obvious, the student is being taught by a teacher who knew their subject. For me in my later years of teaching I worked as a qualified specialist, who provided the technical and practical expertise, that the qualified teacher lacked. The outcome was that that the teacher completed all the paper work and acted as my assistant; whilst I did the teaching! Between us we had students who achieved a high level of learning documented by the number of distinctions and merits achieved. Modern teaching needs to be reviewed to bring back subject qualified teaching staff who have over 10 years proven industrial experience, plus apprentice time served.
    John Wylie

  3. One must agree with Tim, sadly Rye over the past few years has been ruined by greed,thanks to the buy to let brigade,second homes for the weekenders, and the air b and b brigade.Thatcher started the rot selling the council houses,and not replacing them, and the local young talent have to move away, because Rye is now not a welcoming town for them, sadly as I’ve said before in years to come, we will be like Clovelly, a beautiful place, but just like a mausoleum.

    • Couldn’t agree more with John’s comments. More unaffordable housing and second home owners who contribute nothing to our town.
      Interesting or perhaps more depressing is the housing development in Appledore, houses in the £500k + probably a lot more. More opportunities for capitalism.

  4. This firm building in Appledore, I have been told, is the same that is investing in the future of Rye, yes we have seen it million pound plus houses at Rock Channel, sites being bought up all over the town,like the eyesore in winchelsea Road,that has been derelict for years, Rumour has it to get the development in Appledore they are building the village, a new hall. What have they given the local people in Rye,nothing when it comes to affordable housing.


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