Manchester Creative Studio will close this summer

A struggling studio school with low pupil numbers and “significant financial challenges” will close this summer, it has been confirmed.

Manchester Creative Studio in Ancoats, which specialises in the digital and creative industries and currently teaches around 40 pupils, will close at the end of the academic year, becoming the 18th studio school to close down since the project began.

The closure will go ahead despite an injection of over £400,000 in emergency government funding.

Opened in 2014 by former charity boss Raja Miah, and focusing on vocational education, the 14-to-19 institution has faced a turbulent few years. It received a financial notice to improve in June 2016 after misjudging pupil numbers, and announced it would be rebrokered to a new sponsor in January last year.

A consultation on the school’s future started in December, and pupils have today been informed of the planned closure.

The school entered special measures last year after it was rated ‘inadequate’ in every category by Ofsted in March. Inspectors criticised “serious and widespread failures” in safeguarding, poor leadership, inadequate attendance and behaviour, poor teaching and low pupil achievement. They also noted the school was in the lowest one per cent nationally for pupils’ progress in maths and English in 2016.

The Laurus Trust, who stepped in to help the school after the Ofsted inspection, was praised in October for leaving “no stone unturned in their quest to improve provision”.

The school was one of 29 schools “in danger of imminent failure” that received emergency government funding last year, with three grants totalling £403,875 channelled to the nearby Cheadle Hulme High School – part of the Laurus Trust –  to support it. However, the school’s leaders ultimately decided it was “not realistic or viable” to keep it open.

Martin Shevill, the chair of the school’s trustees, said the board agreed with the Department for Education that “it is right for the school to close” as the long-term help that it needs “is not realistic or viable”.

The school, which employs 14 staff, did not take on new pupils last September, and Shevill said all pupils will finish their GCSEs or level three qualifications before the school closes.

“All concerned will continue to ensure that the students who are at the school get the best possible education for the remainder of their studies,” he said.

A decision over the future of the school’s buildings and assets has not yet been made.

Despite significant government investment, many studio schools have struggled to attract enough pupils to be financially viable. Just 34 will be left open when Manchester Creative School closes this summer.

The school’s sister institution, the Collective Spirit free school in Oldham, closed last summer after being placed in special measures. Both free schools were founded by Miah, who won an MBE for his social integration work in 2004.

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