The Isle of Wight councillor for Whippingham and Osborne, Cllr Julia Baker-Smith, has, this week, received answers from government in reply to a number of questions she put forward through the shadow minister for education, Mike Kane MP.
Studio School: “Much-needed vocational style education”
Cllr Baker-Smith said:
“I met with the Labour Shadow Minister last month to discuss my concerns about the proposed closure of the Studio School.
“The school provides much-needed vocational style education to children from across the Island but particularly from East Cowes, one of the most deprived areas on the Island.
“Mike Kane agreed to put forward a number of questions to Parliamentary Questions on my behalf.”
Lack of funding due to under-capacity
In response to Cllr Baker-Smith’s questions, the Department for Education indicates the main consideration is a lack of funding due to under-capacity at the school.
Anne Milton MP, Minister of State for Skills and Apprenticeships responded:
“The department and the academy trust responsible for the Isle of Wight Studio School – the Inspire Academy Trust – both agree that the school is not viable.
“The school was established to be a provision for 14 to 19 year olds (years 10 to 13); however, pupil numbers are currently at only 40% of capacity, providing education for 14 to 16 year olds only (years 10 and 11).
“Ormiston Academies Trust [who run Cowes Enterprise College] submitted a bid for emergency school improvement funding, to support to the current year 10 and 11 cohorts until 2019. Ormiston later withdrew this application, as they were not able to demonstrate that their support would be sustainable long-term.”
The minister went on to say,
“On 28 February 2018, Inspire Academy Trust informed the Regional Schools Commissioner of its proposal to close the Isle of Wight Studio School. Prior to making an in principle decision for closure, the department explored alternative options for the future of the school. The Regional Schools Commissioner and the Inspire Academy Trust spoke to potential alternative trusts about sponsoring the studio school.
“However, the long-term viability of the school presented challenges to finding a trust willing to proceed.
“The department is considering responses to the listening period, which ended on 22 May. A final decision on the closure of the school will be made in light of these, and to ensure that the educational provision on the island is of the highest quality and provides genuine value.”
Studio School latest casualty to under-funding
Cllr Baker Smith said,
“There seems to be an unwillingness from the Conservative Government to support the school with any additional funding or indeed to stray in any way from the multi-academy trust model they are wedded to in order to find an alternative provider.
“The listening period appears to have been nothing but a tick box exercise when in reality, the academies model, which is based on a privately-agreed contract between central government and the trust, can write the public out of any sense of real accountability when things go wrong.
“Once again Island children are having their education disrupted by a financially unstable system. It has long been known that there are too many school places available for the number of children on the Island, and as a result schools are under-funded and their viability is under threat.
“The latest education casualty is the Studio School. This generation of children have already been through too much disruption since the disastrous change from the three tier system. We have a duty of care to ensure we give children on the Island the best education possible, it is about time the conservative administration stepped up to the plate and ensured this.”