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The Corporation

Posted: 06/03/13

Studio school plans move step closer

West Nottinghamshire College’s plans to open a studio school have moved a step closer.

College bosses present their ambitious proposals to officials from the Department for Education tomorrow (Thursday 7 March) as part of the formal application process.

Studio schools are a new type of state school aimed at 14 to 19-year-olds who benefit from practical learning.  Developed in partnership with employers, education agencies and the Government, they offer academic and vocational qualifications taught in a project-based way.

Meanwhile, students aged 16 to 18 benefit from paid work experience with local and national employers, who are involved in the school and in shaping its curriculum.

The proposed Vision Studio School – which would be located in Mansfield and be the first of its type in Nottinghamshire – would cater for up to 300 students of all abilities.

Specialising in engineering, transportation, health and care occupations, it would teach core GCSE subjects along with A levels and vocational qualifications.  The school would operate a 9am-5pm ‘working day’ to mirror that of many work places.

Principal and chief executive Asha Khemka OBE said: “We believe many young people would benefit from the practical learning style and employer-focussed curriculum provided by the studio school.

“Not everyone thrives in mainstream education. The studio school is about providing a high-quality, viable alternative for students who learn better ‘by doing’.

“Equipping students with opportunities for work-based training and mentoring will increase their confidence, develop their employability skills and prepare them for the jobs market.”

The college is working with the Studio Schools Trust to bring its plans to fruition. It expects to learn whether it has reached the next stage of the application process by May.

If the plans are eventually approved, the school will open in September 2014 in a location to be determined.

One of the unique features of a studio school is its close links with employer partners.

A local businessman and the region’s leading business organisation are just some that are backing the college’s proposals.

Malcolm Hall, managing director of multi award-winning Mansfield firm Hall-Fast Industrial Supplies and a governor at West Notts College, said:

“I believe there’s a need for a studio school in Mansfield and I think a significant number of young people would benefit from it.

“Every young person has the right to aspire to succeed – but mainstream school isn’t for everybody. 

“The education system, in my view, typically judges people on whether they’re good at subjects such as English and maths. 

“I disagree with that.  It’s why I’m passionate about helping young people.

“A studio school would embrace the fact that some people are more creative than they are academic and would help bridge the gap between further education, higher education and employment. 

“Given the right direction, young people with creativity are those who can generate wealth and growth, and be the potential driving force for the area. 

“But this creativity must be spotted early on and teachers must be able to identify those who need the support to go down an alternative educational route.

“The main things employers want are people with a willingness to learn, a good attitude and a strong work ethic.  However, we need to raise young people’s aspirations and provide them with the right characteristics and employability skills from an earlier age. 

“This is why a studio school’s close links with employers are important.

“Growing up, a studio school would have helped me tremendously.  Because I wasn’t particularly academic I became lost in the ‘normal’ education system and written off to a certain extent.

“A studio school recognises that some people are more ‘hands on’ and plays to their individual strengths.”

Ian Greenaway, president of the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, said:

“West Nottinghamshire College should be applauded for taking the lead on the new studio schools initiative. As one of our leading providers of further education, it is perfectly placed to deliver these ambitious proposals.

“I meet with lots of businesspeople throughout the year, both in my working life as the managing director of a manufacturing SME and in my capacity as Chamber president, and one of the main messages that always comes back is the perception that many of our young adults simply aren’t prepared for the world of work.

“With youth unemployment remaining one of the key challenges facing the UK and its economy, it’s clear that more needs to be done to improve the chances and career prospects of the so-called NEET (not in education, employment or training) generation.

“Studio schools are an excellent initiative which will go some way to address this issue. I’m a firm believer that not all children are academic and will respond to the way they are being taught in different ways.

"Some children thrive in a traditional classroom environment but there are many that would benefit from more practical learning, and this is where studio schools can make a real difference.

“We need to raise the aspirations – as well as manage the expectations – of all young people and teaching them in a work-like environment will help to equip them with a stronger understanding of the sorts of skills and attributes that potential employers will be looking for.”