Wellsway Multi Academy Trust (WMAT/Trust) regretfully announced today that, following its request, the Secretary of State for Education has granted a ‘decision in principle’ to close The Bath Studio School (TBSS) by mutual consent.
The listening period runs from 23 October to 27 November 2018.
TBSS opened in September 2014 and was the first studio school to open in the West of England area.
Despite considerable effort, the school – which has a creative and digital specialism - has never been able to recruit enough students to make sure it is viable. Although the school’s capacity is for 300 students, aged from 14-19, it currently educates just 126 students and has never recruited more than 140 in any one of its five academic years of existence.
As a result of this lack of demand in the local educational environment, TBSS has struggled to meet its costs and has required considerable subsidy and financial support from WMAT, a position that is not sustainable going forward.
The Trust has reviewed several options to keep TBSS open but none are likely to be achievable and, very reluctantly, WMAT has made the request for closure.
If the request is given formal approval, TBSS will close with effect from the end of the school year 2019/2020, thereby allowing all current students to complete the courses and qualifications they have enrolled on.
No further students will be admitted to the school from September 2019.
During this period WMAT will work individually with students to support their on-going education and transition and will also be available to talk to their parents/carers. WMAT will also provide advisory support for TBSS staff, and will look to the possibility of their redeployment to another Trust school.
Aspire Academy, a special school for children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH), which shares a site with TBSS, will remain within the Trust and plans are already underway to expand the school to provide more places for children with these needs.
Alongside this expansion, WMAT is planning to work with the local authority to further develop special school provision on the site to meet the growing need for more special school places in Bath & North East Somerset.
Commenting on the decision in principle, Andrea Arlidge, the Chief Executive of WMAT, said:
“We have made this request to the DfE with a heavy heart and considerable sadness. Our decision to seek the closure of TBSS does not reflect on the commitment and dedication of its staff and we will continue to do our utmost to support our current pupils through to the completion of their courses. We will also seek to respond quickly to parent concerns.
“Ultimately, there is simply not enough demand in the Bath area for the type of education that TBSS provides. As a consequence, the school is not meeting its costs, has had to be heavily subsidised by the WMAT and is not financially viable.
“We remain excited by the potential of Aspire and are working to expand this SEMH school given the growing need for the education and environment it provides.”
A Department for Education spokesman said:
“At the request of Wellsway Academy Trust, we have agreed, in-principle, to the closure of Bath Studio School, which we will consider before any final decision is made on its future.
“We will continue to work with the trust and local authority to support pupils at the school and minimise disruption to their education.”