Isle of Wight studio school on the brink of closure

Isle of Wight studio school on the brink of closure

Another studio school that has severely struggled with recruitment has agreed to close “in principle”.

Plans to shut the Isle of Wight Studio School in August 2019 were announced today, but the final decision will be subject to a four-week consultation.

The school said in a statement that the decision has come about because “too few students choosing to study at the studio school in years 12 and 13, which has meant that the school has not developed in the way originally planned”.

As it is no longer financially viable, ministers at the Department of Education have agreed its termination in principle and once this listening period concludes, they will decide to close it in conjunction with the Inspire Academy Trust which operates the school.

Studio schools are an alternative to mainstream education for 14- to 19-year-olds, taking on cohorts of up to 300 pupils.

They provide a work-related curriculum with pupils receiving vocational and academic qualifications, as well as work experience, and like the similarly troubled university technical colleges, are seen by many in FE as unwelcome competition.

Unfortunately the school has not been able to recruit sufficient students

The Isle of Wight Studio School only opened in September 2014 and is yet to have a visit from Ofsted. Latest data on the school shows it only had 146 students on roll against a capacity of 300.

If it does shut, it will become the 19th studio school to close since the project began.

“The IoW Studio School has provided an excellent learning experience for many children on the Island, however unfortunately the school has not been able to recruit sufficient students to its sixth-form, and it is a sad reality that such a small school cannot continue long-term,” said the finance officer of the Inspire Academy Trust, Richard Bryant.

“Student recruitment is a problem which has affected many studio schools across the country.”

If it does close, students intending to start in September 2018 will be able to continue at their existing school or explore a transfer to another school.

“We are very focused on honouring our commitment to pupils who are currently studying at the school, and the department’s decision to keep the school open until summer 2019 ensures that the 120 pupils currently in year 10 and year 11 will all be able to complete their GCSEs here as planned,” Mr Bryant said.

A Department for Education spokesperson added: “We have agreed, in principle, to the closure of Isle of Wight Studio School following a request from the Inspire Academy Trust.  A number of options have been explored but ministers have decided that the school, which is operating at 40-per-cent capacity, should close in August 2019.”

Richard White, the school’s head said it was with “great regret” that the school finds itself in this position.

“Despite all the efforts of its governing body and dedicated staff, who have all done an excellent job, the school’s sixth-form has never been fully utilised,” he added.

“This is because our students have progressed at 16 to further study or apprenticeships elsewhere – and our view has always been to support the decision which is in the best interests of our pupils.”

During the listening period, which starts today and runs until 5pm on May 22, interested persons should submit their comments to the DfE through this email address: DFE.IOWSS@education.gov.uk.