Rye Studio School to convert to sixth form

Rye Studio School to convert to sixth form

A one-time ‘Outstanding’ studio school for 14 to 19 year olds has announced it will convert to become a sixth form centre after its performance slumped.

Rye Studio School wrote to parents informing them of the change last week. It will become the 16th institution of its kind to either close outright or stop delivering provision from 14 since the model’s conception in 2010.

The school in east Sussex was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in 2015 but slumped to ‘requires improvement’ in January due to poor academic standards.

Pupils currently on courses will be allowed to complete them, but no new year 10s or year 12s will be admitted in 2017-18.

From September 2018, the studio school will re-design as a 16-to-19 sixth form centre and will be called Studio 6.

Tim Hulme, chief executive of Rye Academy Trust, said the decision was down to financial pressures hitting the trust as a whole.

He said the trust is “at breaking point” and the only way some schools are going to manage “this significant cut in real terms” is through a “re-organisation”.

“The trust is a relatively small one and cannot sustain the current level of operating costs against a backdrop of cuts to pupil funding,” Hulme said.

The trust operates three schools which are “struggling to function adequately on a day-to-day basis, and, in addition, we are severely hampered in our ability to recruit and retain staff.”

He added that he was “totally committed” to all learners and that Studio 6 “will offer several vocational pathways alongside the popular creative courses”.

Pupils who have applied and been accepted to join the studio school in the next academic year will be “escorted to other local colleges who offer sixth form provision”.

Rye Studio School’s conversion decision makes it the 16th institution of its kind to either close or stop delivering provision at age 14.

It follows plans to close the Future Tech Studio School in Warrington earlier this month, which cited low pupil numbers as the reason for the decision – a common problem for the studio school model.

The two recent announcements mean just 34 studio schools will remain open.

Studio schools are an alternative to mainstream education for 14 to 19-year-olds, similar to university technical colleges (UTC) but with smaller cohorts of up to just 300 pupils.

Schools Week analysis of Ofsted data last March showed that of the 31 studio schools that had been visited, 21 were less than half full and only one reached the 300-pupil mark.

David Nicoll, the Studio Schools Trust’s chief executive, previously told Schools Week the schools have had difficulties recruiting because the model is not seen as “traditional”.

Recruitment at 14 has proved to be a tough ask, with Michael Gove, a key ministerial architect of the UTC model, recently admitting the experiment had failed.

The former education secretary wrote in his column in The Times in February that “the evidence has accumulated and the verdict is clear” on the 14-to-19 institutions.

He said: “Twice as many UTCs are inadequate as outstanding, according to Ofsted. UTC pupils have lower GCSE scores, make less progress academically and acquire fewer qualifications than their contemporaries in comprehensives.”

Gove admitted that student recruitment was a major problem for them, and “other schools have seen them as destinations for underperforming children”.