Trust closes Studio School

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The new buildings of the Studio School

In March of this year Rye News carried details of proposals to restructure the finances of the Rye Academy Trust, which includes Rye Primary School and the Studio School as well as Rye College.
The Studio School has consistently run at a financial loss to the Trust with its inability to attract pupils in the numbers predicted at its opening and today, as the next phase of the restructuring programme, the Trust have confirmed that, following the phased running down of staff and students over the last year, the Studio School will finally close at the end of the current school year.
The Trust have actually called this ‘provisional’ and subject to a ‘listening period’, but as there are intended to be no students there at all in September, and no places have been offered, there can be no doubt that it will be closed.
The Trust has issued the following statement:
“The Trustees of Rye Academy Trust (the Trustees) have confirmed their intention to close Rye Studio School at the end of August 2018.
The Trustees had hoped to be able to broaden the educational offer of the Studio School, however, this is not financially viable. Trustees have received in principle approval by ministers at the Department for Education supporting the closure of the school.
As a part of a national initiative promoting the creation of studio schools, the School was set up in 2013 to provide a vocational curriculum, focusing on the arts, for students aged between 14 and 19 years with a published admission number of 300.

Harley Gentry and other students interview Michael Gove during the former Education Secretary’s visit to Rye Studio School in 2014

Unfortunately, since its inception, the school has been unable to recruit more than 50% of the students required. Due to these low student numbers the school has not developed in the way originally planned and no students were admitted in September 2017 or recruited for September 2018. Following discussions between the Department for Education and Trustees, both parties believe that the school is not financially viable long-term in its current form.
The school only has students in Year 11 and Year 13. Those in Year 13 will leave as usual at the end of the academic year whilst those in Year 11 have been supported through CIAG (Careers Information, Advice and Guidance) to select alternative further education provision.
Emily Hardes struts her stuff at the School’s fashion show in 2015

As a result of the reduced numbers at the school, the Trust has rationalised the staffing structure over the last few years.
With no students having been recruited for entry in September 2017 or 2018 the remaining staff will be consulted, in conjunction with their union representatives, on redeployment or redundancy. Following this process there will no longer be any employees retained to work solely at the Studio School.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have agreed, in principle, to the closure of Rye Studio School following a request from Rye Academy Trust. A number of options have been explored but ministers have decided that the school, which has not admitted any new pupils for September 2017 or 2018, should close by the end of August 2018.”
Barry Blakelock, the Head Teacher of the school said: “It is with great regret that the school finds itself in this position. Despite all the efforts of Trustees and dedicated staff, who have all done an excellent job, the school has never been fully utilised.”
This provisional decision is subject to a four-week listening period, after which a final decision will be made by the Department for Education in conjunction with the Trust.
During the listening period, which runs until 5pm on July 5, parents, staff and interested persons are invited to submit their views on the proposed closure of the School to the Trust by emailing office@ryeacademytrust.org using “Rye Studio School” as the subject line or writing to the Lead Executive at the Rye Academy Trust, The Grove, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7NQ.”
[Editor’s note : While this confirms earlier proposals, it still leaves unanswered questions:
What has happened about the proposed merger with the Aquinas Trust? Are negotiations still ongoing and is this still a possibility?
In view of staff seconded from the Aquinas Trust still being in post we must assume that the merger is still on, but we have had no word from the Trust for some time and this week’s planned interview with the new Trust CEO, which might have shed light on this, was cancelled. It is hoped that another date can be arranged shortly.
In our article in March, the former CEO had been talking about a much needed major refurbishment of the existing College buildings, funded by the DfE and which was expected to be confirmed in May and due to start in September.
Recent news, received after this article had been published, confirms that funds for the refurbishment have been received – see ‘Cash Boost for Academy Trust
 

Photo: Rye News library

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