Rye’s Studio School is an important part of a nationwide experiment, said Michael Gove, Education Secretary, when he opened the school on June 13. It “bridges the divide between the worlds of school and employment by giving students the tools and encouragement to succeed. It places into the hands of young people themselves the control of their own careers and their own lives.”
The invited audience included civic dignitaries, educationalists and supporters of the project. Also present were many of the students demonstrating their skills in design displays and workshops – they were undoubtedly the stars of the show.
Studio schools are a new concept allowing students to work within specialist industries to gain vital skills and experience as well as gaining academic achievements. This was one of only 30 planned nationwide when Jo Townshend was appointed principal in 2012. The building, constructed largely from prefabricated components, seems ideally suited to accommodate the wide range of activities. The enthusiasm and commitment of the students made a strong and vibrant impression on all who attended the opening.
Townshend, a former assistant principal at Rye College, outlined the range of courses on offer to students. Core subjects such as maths, computer science, English language and literature were combined with performing arts, photography, music, art and creative media, to GCSE standard generally. The quality of staff and visiting teaching professionals, and the emphasis on project-based learning gave a special edge, she said, to this learning experience opportunity.
After the official opening, the school’s guests toured the building and saw live workshops and displays designed to demonstrate the value which students receive from this type of learning, their skills and self-confidence increasing with knowledge and experience.
The school, which specialises in preparing young people for work within the creative industries, is controlled by the Rye Academy Trust, which also runs Rye College. Academies are independent of local councils and report directly to central government, while the primary school is still the responsibility of the local education authority.
The Studio School opening was attended by Jacqui Lait, chair of the Rye Academy Trust, Amber Rudd, the local Conservative MP, Bernardine Fiddimore, the Mayor of Rye and others involved in the launch and construction of the school.
Lait, a former Rye and Hastings MP and former shadow Conservative minister, paid tribute to Ann Cockerham, a Rye Academy Trust director and Rye College principal, for her guiding vision in setting up the school. She said the building process had been challenging, for example an unregistered gas main across the site had been uncovered during construction, but the project had nevertheless been completed within budget and on time.