DfE rubber-stamps closure of troubled studio school

The troubled Isle of Wight Studio School will close next summer, the Department for Education has confirmed.

Closure was proposed in April, when Inspire Academy Trust, which runs the school, announced that ministers had approved the plans to wind it up in 2019 “in principle”. This was followed by a four-week consultation.

The school will shut because of low pupil numbers. Currently, it is at 40 per cent of capacity and only has pupils in years 10 and 11, having been unable to attract sufficient sixth-form students.

Studio schools are an alternative to mainstream education for 14- to 19-year-olds, taking cohorts of up to 300. They provide a work-related curriculum where pupils receive vocational and academic qualifications, as well as work experience.

Like university technical colleges, which also recruit at 14, many have been forced to close due to recruitment issues. Twenty-six studio schools have closed or announced plans to close since the scheme was introduced in 2010.

A recent Schools Week investigation found that the government had spent more than £23 million on studio schools that have either closed or never opened.

The Isle of Wight Studio School only opened in September 2014 and has never been visited by Ofsted. The school will stay open until next summer to allow the current year 10 pupils to complete their GCSEs, but no new pupils will be taken on this September.

A spokesperson for the Inspire Academy Trust said it was a “sad reality” that such a small school “cannot continue long-term”.

“It is with regret we announce the final plans for the closure of the studio school, and we would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those who have supported it on the island,” they continued.

“We have been humbled by the strong support shown by parents and students, which is a testament to the dedication and expertise of all the staff.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said “a number of options” had been explored before the final decision to close.

“We have considered feedback from the local community and concluded that closure represents the best option for pupils on the Isle of Wight to ensure they get an excellent education.”