Leaders of a general FE college that sponsored a local school have seen it forced to close just two years after opening having failed to attract enough pupils.
Stockport Technical School, a 14 to 19 free school that opened in September 2013 and currently has 98 learners, offers vocational courses in engineering, construction and motor vehicle engineering through Stockport College, alongside traditional GCSEs.
It was heralded as the first technical school of its kind in the country when it launched and was described as “innovative” by principal Philippa Ollerhead (pictured above right) and “groundbreaking” by chair of governors Wayne Jones (pictured above left).
But no new students will join the school from September, and those currently attending will complete their courses and work placements until September 2016 when the school will shut its doors for good.
Ms Ollerhead blamed problems with the school’s accommodation, which left it operating out of an office block in Stockport town centre, for the recruitment problems.
“We found it difficult to attract sufficient learners as we have been located in a temporary office building — this did not support our ability to market and recruit new learners,” she said.
“The Education Funding Agency purchased the former Hillcrest Grammar School site on behalf of the school in August 2014, but unfortunately on analysis it became apparent that the building was not financially viable to run with the number of students the school was estimating at full capacity.”
She added: “Advice I would give to any other principals or head teachers in a similar position would be to ensure that a permanent building was identified and secured before opening.”
Despite the setback, Ms Ollerhead remained positive about what she had hoped to achieve.
“There is clearly a demand from employers for the ‘young apprenticeship’ model of education which the school provides,” she said.
“Stockport Technical School has successfully engaged with large, leading engineering employers in Stockport to secure 20 apprenticeship places.”
Although Stockport College is not a direct recruiter of 14 and 15-year-old learners, it is hoped the college will be able to continue offering similar vocational options through its links programmes with other schools.
A Stockport College spokesperson said: “Stockport College has been a sponsor of Stockport Technical School since its inception.
“We opened our doors to Stockport Technical School pupils and staff to provide access to workshops and facilities suitable for science, technology, engineering and maths.
“While it’s not in our remit to take ownership of delivering provision directly, we will work with Stockport Technical School, as we do with other schools, to offer an appropriate 14 to16 programme.”
The school is also supported by Stockport employers Man Diesel & Turbo Ltd, Jacobs Engineering, Thales Worldwide, Stepping Hill Hospital and Balluff Sensors, as well as the University of Manchester.