College principal’s ‘regret’ at studio school closures over low pupil numbers

The principal of a Midland college behind two studio schools struggling with low pupil numbers has told of her regret at having to shut them down.

Midland Academies Trust, which is sponsored by North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, is set to shut Midland Studio Colleges in Hinckley and Nuneaton next summer with just 157 pupils out of a combined capacity of 600 making them economically unviable.

Marion Plant OBE, college principal and trust chief executive (pictured above), told FE Week: “The first thing to say is that is it hugely sad and personally am deeply regretful that, what was a very innovative project and development, hasn’t worked.

“What I am proud of is the huge amount of success that has come out of both studio schools, because a lot of the young people have progressed to apprenticeships and gone on to working with local companies.”

The Hinckley school opened just three years ago and the Nuneaton branch followed a year later.

But trust board chair Tim Render said “lower than forecast” pupil numbers meant the trust was unable to achieve a “high standard” of education.

The trust has started the process of finding places for pupils from the losing studio schools at its other four schools — The Nuneaton Academy, Hartshill School, The George Eliot School and The William Bradford Academy.

Ms Plant was adamant there would be no further school closures, that the decision would not affect the college, and said: “It is just two small schools which, for different reasons, have under-recruited and are not viable in the longer term.”

She added: “It’s about us having put everything into trying to address the situation around student recruitment, including investing heavily in a very professional marketing and recruitment campaign.”

The year 11 and 13 pupils can stay at the closing studio schools until the end of the academic year and the year 10 and 12 students will be given the option to continue their studies at either The George Eliot School, or The William Bradford Academy from January 2016.

Ms Plant said the schools had been appreciated by employers who saw them as connecting education and work.

She said: “While I am expressing regret — and I am deeply regretful that the students’, parents, and carers are so upset at the decision — I think what we have learned on a positive sense is the studio school model of learning is a really effective model.”

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