New Studio Schools to bridge gap between schools and the world of work

With the introduction of Studio schools across the country offering a new approach to learning. What will these changes mean?

12 Studio schools are approved to open from 2012, they join six Studio Schools that are already open. More are expected to follow in the coming years. Studio Schools offer academic and vocational qualifications, but teach them in a practical and project-based way. Study is combined with paid work placements with local and national employers that are involved in the school. Learning in this way encourages students to develop skills like punctuality, good communication, reliability and team working, whilst gaining a strong grounding in English, Maths and Science. These new schools, which are set up with the backing of local businesses and employers, are part of the Government’s drive to ensure the education system responds to demands from employers for the skills they need to grow and prosper.

Employers say that ensuring that young people have these important skills should be a top education priority for the Government. Schools Minister Lord Hill said: “Studio Schools bring education and the world of work together and offer the more practical approach to learning which some children need.  Pupils can choose to go to Studio Schools at age 14, and they differ from other schools in the way they deliver qualifications to ensure that young people are developing the skills that local employers are looking for. All subjects are taught through projects, often designed with employers. For example, a local hospital might commission pupils to create a campaign that addresses a local health issue. In developing this project, pupils will make links to curriculum subjects, from maths, to science, and marketing, for example. This supports pupils’ engagement by relating all their learning to the world of work.

They typically operate longer days and outside standard school terms – giving pupils a good understanding of a working day, and the importance of good attendance and punctuality in business. Along with their studies pupils carry out work placements for four hours a week, with employers who work with the school.

After age 16 this increases to two days a week and pupils are paid for this work. Each pupil has a ‘personal coach’, which seeks to replicate the role of a supportive line manager in the workplace. Coaches also help students get the most out of the curriculum and their work placements. For many pupils and their parents, the opportunity to combine studying for qualifications with developing skills that will give them the edge in the competitive jobs market will be very attractive. For other students, the opportunity to gain qualifications through this new approach will mean they are more engaged and perform better than in a more conventional school.

This wave of 12 Studio Schools has input from hundreds of local and national employers. Some schools will be located alongside existing maintained schools or Academies, and others will be separate Academies. Employers increasingly tell us that they are struggling to find the skills they are looking for in school leavers. So much so, that in the most recent CBI Employer Survey (May 2010), more than two thirds of employers (70 per cent) wanted to see the new Government make the employability skills of young people its top education priority.

David Frost CBE, Chair of the Studio Schools Trust and former Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, commented “I am delighted that the Government has approved another 12 Studio Schools, and that interest is continuing to grow as we increase our network of Studio Schools across the UK. “Studio Schools will play a vital role in equipping young people with the skills and experience that they need to succeed in a competitive jobs market, through combining mainstream qualifications with real experience of the world of work. Many employers are keen to help develop and shape their workforce for the future, and Studio Schools will allow them to be involved at every step of the way, from helping to design the school curriculum to providing paid work placements for students. Students are able to develop the skills and knowledge that employers are looking for.’

The Studio Schools approved in Essex today are: Ockendon Studio School, Thurrock Parkside Studio School, and Hillingdon Tendring Studio School, The groups will now work to make their schools a reality. This includes undertaking a statutory consultation where required in their local area and taking steps to recruit their school’s Principal Designate. There is no fixed capital allocation for each Studio School project. Ministers took into account the value for money of estimated or potential cost of each application when deciding which ones to approve.

Posted by Clare Kersey


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