Plans for ‘earn-as-you-learn’ school

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TEENAGERS could earn as they learn if plans for a new school get the go- ahead.

The Academy at Shotton Hall and East Durham College have teamed up to put together a bid to education chiefs, which could see a new “studio school” built in Peterlee.

The complex would be a Government-funded mainstream school, which would see 14 to 19-year-olds offered academic and work-based qualifications.

If the idea is approved by the Department for Education, the school would specialise in science, technology, engineering and maths and health and social care qualifications, which its leaders say will meet a skills shortage in the area and improve career prospects.

It would be a move away from what they have called traditional secondary schools and sixth forms, and while students will still take exams, including GCSEs and other recognised courses, they will also work with businesses in the area and complete “nine-to-five” work experience placements which would earn them a wage.

In return, the bid leaders say companies can gain enthusiastic staff for a small wage and, in some cases, for free, develop the skills of existing staff who can become coaches and mentors and give workers job satisfaction.

They also believe companies can reduce recruitment costs because it will cut down on advertising, interviewing, trials and probationary period costs.

The school proposal is being backed by several companies in the area and would cater for up to 300 pupils.

If it gets the green light, it would open in 2014, with a site for it still being explored.

Lesley Powell, principal at the Academy at Shotton Hall, said: “A studio school would be a great development for the area giving youngsters access to a broad curriculum and dynamic learning opportunities with local businesses.

“Although we advocate the merits of a traditional academic secondary education, we recognise that for some students, a vocational approach is more beneficial. A studio school would help nurture the entrepreneurial and enterprise skills of young people and help them to be better prepared for higher education, employment or training.”

Suzanne Duncan, principal at East Durham College, said: “The model of a studio school is recognised as one which develops work skills, an enterprise culture and creates high aspirations amongst its learners.

“Everyone studying at a studio school takes part in a large element of real work experience, equipping them with relevant work skills over an extended period of time.

“Young people who may not reach their full potential at a traditional school will flourish in an atmosphere where they are regularly challenged to take more responsibility for their learning that the ‘enquiry based’ model demands and by learning to behave as a professional in the school and workplace environment.”

The school and college, which are being supported by the Studio Schools Trust, say the existing school set-up does not suit all students, leaving some to struggle in an academic-only environment.

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STUDIO schools take their name from the idea of the Renaissance studio, which were popular in Europe from 1400 to 1700 and brought together work and learning.

Students were taught by an experience master in the same workshop where they created their work, with Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo among those to learn their trade in such a set up.

The Studio Schools Trust says its goal is to apply the same idea to the 21st century, offering students to gain qualifications in academic and vocational subjects through work.

It says there is evidence which shows by bringing the two together, students perform better and are more prepared for their working life.

Studio schools are smaller than the majority of secondary schools, with up to 300 pupils, and open all year round and a 9am to 5pm working day, which gives it the feel of a workplace, rather than a school.

In addition to preparing teenagers for employment, it also gives them the option of going on to university and further training.

A studio school is already up and running within Durham Community Business College and is the only one in the North East.

It opened in September 2011 to years 12 and 12 and will start taking years 10 and 11 in September.

County Chief Reporter