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Canadian research project brings back important educational findings to schools in Peterborough and UK

Mr Howard Nelson, Chief Finance and Operating Officer at Peterborough Keys Academies Trust (PKAT) has returned from Canada with The Churchill Trust after investigating how small, rural schools can become sustainable.

The Churchill Trust, * a UK charity that supports citizens to follow their passion for change, through learning from the world and bringing that knowledge back to the UK, Mr Nelson spent time in rural Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia meeting prominent educational leaders.

Mr Nelson said: “I spent four weeks in rural Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia to investigate how small, rural schools can become sustainable and through my research and meetings I have invaluable knowledge to impart to schools in Peterborough and throughout the UK.”

He visited Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia in March 2024 to look at how these areas sustain and improve the viability of rural schools. Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia were interesting choices for his visit, as both provinces have unique approaches to sustaining and improving the viability of rural schools.

Saskatchewan, located in the prairie region of Canada, faces unique challenges and opportunities in rural education. The province has a significant number of small, rural communities, and ensuring the sustainability and quality of education in these areas is a priority. The rural regions in Nova Scotia often experience challenges associated with transportation, access to resources, and distance from central education hubs. Nova Scotia has many small, close-knit communities, where schools often serve as central hubs for education, social activities, and community gatherings.

“Meeting with educators, school leaders, first nation leaders, and provincial ministers provided a well-rounded perspective on the various strategies and tactics implemented in these regions.

My aim is to share the learnings with UK educators and schools on his return, the first being the five schools within the Peterborough Keys Academies Trust,” said Mr Nelson.

He noted many things from his learnings including how technology has a key role in sustaining rural schools and how distributed learning is going to be increasingly important, together with community engagement and collaboration, and being positive innovators for change.

Howard Nelson, who is a Fellow of The Churchill Trust said: “My current thinking is that the notion that rural schools poised for success will prioritize the cultivation of 21st-century skills among their students and communities. Without exception, the people I met in Nova Scotia have had a dedication to make things better and positively improving the lives of others. I am reminded of Churchill’s quote, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” 

He added: “The Churchill Fellowship has been one of the most worthwhile and interesting things I have done, and this is in no small part to the time people took to meet me and show me their work. The best bit was meeting so many fascinating people and learning things that I didn’t expect. I feel privileged to have met many fascinating people and talked to them about their work. I hope to share my findings about rural education to the UK in the next few months and hope this will help make rural schools thrive and prosper. Huge thanks to Churchill Fellowship and all those who have supported me in so many ways”.


Together the community of Churchill Fellows use their international learning to lead the change they wish to see across every area of UK life. The Fellowship was founded by public donation in 1965 as the living legacy of Sir Winston Churchill for the nation.*