Studio School Consultation period begins

The Plymouth Studio School was one of only four across the country to be given the go ahead by the Department of Education today. Studio schools are now an established feature in the UK’s education landscape with nearly 50 either open or approved to open across the UK for students of all abilities aged 14-19. Working in partnership with local employers the Plymouth Studio School will offer a range of academic, vocational and professional qualifications in line with the national curriculum to address the growing gap between what young people require to succeed in life and the skills and knowledge the current education system provides. In particular the Plymouth Studio School will pioneer a bold new approach to learning which includes teaching through enterprise projects and real work. This approach ensures students’ learning is rooted in the real world and helps them to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to flourish in life.

The Plymouth Studio School, which will be intentionally small and focussed, will foster a close-knit learning community specialising in sport, hospitality and tourism and leisure. The new school will be located on the University of St Mark & St John’s campus at Derriford. Once fully operational the Plymouth Studio School, which is a partnership between City College Plymouth, the University of St Mark & St John and businesses in the City, will have some 300 students, aged between 14 and 19, studying on a range of academic and vocational qualifications. The main difference with mainstream schools is that all subjects are taught through projects designed with employers and that they combine classroom teaching with work placements. At first, students will carry out work experience for four hours a week increasing to two days per week, often paid, when they turn 16.

Phil Davies, Principal of City College Plymouth and the lead sponsor of the new school, said of the news: “Our vision is to create a vibrant place of learning, staffed by a team of excellent learning and personal coaches that will equip each individual student with the skills and confidence they need to achieve their full potential. The School will open in September 2015 with 100 students – 60 students in year 10 and 40 in year 12.

“The School will provide another real educational alternative for local students and their parents: a unique curriculum offer in Plymouth which will provide a genuine opportunity to give students an education that will take them confidently into the workplace or on to higher education. By the very nature of its design the Plymouth Studio School will improve links to local communities and offer a dynamic learning environment for students and staff where learning is rigorous and creative, with real world application. As a result students will gain qualifications that have real currency in the working world.”

Councillor Tudor Evans, Leader of Plymouth City Council, commented: “Plymouth City Council have made clear their commitment to more jobs and more homes in the City. We are proud of our diverse and high performing range of educational opportunities for young people and we recognise the skills they will need to take their place in a city that is growing economically. The Studio School brings a new opportunity to the table for young people and its links to City College Plymouth and the University of St Mark & St John will add to the City’s richness. With three higher education institutions and an excellent FE college no-one could say that Plymouth is not a fantastic city for education and future employment options.”

The specialist nature of the Plymouth Studio School will lead to careers within the lifestyle services and visitor economy, a critical sector of Plymouth’s and the UK’s economy and accounting for almost one in five jobs in the UK. The visitor economy in Plymouth contributes significantly to the City’s wealth, supporting over 8,000 jobs with significant further growth projected 2013-2031. Many local and national organisations have lent their support to the development, including Plymouth Argyle Football Club, Plymouth Raiders, Plymouth Albion Rugby Football Club, Plymouth City Council, Destination Plymouth, the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Marine Aquarium, the National Trust, Plymouth Pavilions, the Duke of Cornwall Hotel, Boringdon Hall Hotel, the Copthorne Hotel, the Holiday Inn and the Akkeron Group. All of these organisations feel that the studio school model, with the lifestyle services and the visitor economy as its focus, will be a great asset to the development of skills and recruitment in this area, providing a specialist education in a sector experiencing growth in our region.

Professor Cara Aitchison, Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Mark & St John, commented: “We are delighted to be part of this exciting new partnership designed to support education, employability and the sustainability of inward investment to the region in the sport, tourism and hospitality sectors. The new School will be housed in a purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility on the University of St Mark & St John campus with access to some of the best sporting and other education and training facilities in the South West.”

Professor Aitchison, who also is Chair of the UK Government’s panel that assesses the quality and funding of university research in Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism as part of the Research Excellence Framework, commented that City College Plymouth and her University and colleagues had undertaken extensive and detailed research to inform the preparation and development of the Plymouth Studio School’s vision.

She said: “The initiative has been based on employer need, listening and responding to our employers’ views, studying the Studio School experience nationwide and taking on-board feedback from prospective parents and students to inform our development of this proposal. We will create a curriculum that combines a strong mix of academic, vocational and sector-specific professional qualifications to maximise future progression opportunities, structured around core project based learning and work experience; a combined curriculum which is unavailable elsewhere in the City.”