The Bath Studio School, which opened in 2014, has announced it is intending to close in 2020, leaving many young people uncertain over the future of their education.
The Wellsway Multi Academy Trust (WMAT), which runs the school, has asked permission from the Secretary of State for Education to close the school, and have received ‘in principle’ approval.
A five-week listening period will now start, where those affected can comment on the plans.
If, at the end of the listening period the closure is given formal approval, the school will shut in 2020, with no new admissions from September 2019.
The decision was announced via email to parents on Monday evening, with the Wellsway Multi Academy Trust citing a “lack of demand” as the reason for its closure.
It’s the second school in south west Bath to close in 6 months, after Bath Community Academy shut its doors at the end of the summer term.
Many parents in the south west of the city and in the surrounding villages now face an even more significant challenge in finding school places for their children.
Reacting to the news, Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, said: “This is a massive let-down for many children and parents in Bath. This free school has just not delivered.
“It is the result of a Conservative party folly on education which has entirely fragmented our education system, removed accountability and failed to deliver proper results. Local authorities need clear responsibility for local schools.”
Bath Studio School was opened in September 2014, and emphasised its “state of the art recording studios and facilities, small class sizes, industry links and sense of community”.
However the school was rated “requires improvement” in its first ever Ofsted report in June 2017.
The education watchdog criticised senior leaders, governors and the trust for not doing enough to tackle the areas requiring improvement.
It has also faced leadership difficulties recently, with its former head teacher Colin Cattanach absent from the school for five months.
Lib Dem Education spokesperson, Councillor Alison Millar, said: “This news is another blow to families in South West Bath, coming hard on the heels of the closure of Bath Community Academy earlier this year.
“The Conservatives’ model of education based on the whims of market forces clearly isn’t working in our area. There is no accountability to local parents or to the Council and it seems a school can be opened and closed without any reference to where places are needed or what types of education families prefer.
“I am also concerned by the way some of these Trusts operate. Education is too important to be driven by funding overinflated executive salaries.”
Many children living in the south west area of Bath currently attend the Bath Studio School. Councillor Tim Ball, who represents Twerton ward, commented: “A lot of children who would otherwise have naturally attended Bath Community Academy were directed to the Studio School.
“Now this is closing as well, they are being left without a mainstream, local secondary school. Parents and pupils will now be facing an anxious period of uncertainty.”
Councillor Steve Hedges, who represents Odd Down ward, added: “The Lib Dems have been campaigning for the return of a good secondary school to South West Bath.
“We need a school which will meet local needs for our children and stop them having to travel half-way across the city every day. The Council owns the former BCA site; the Council should be able to provide the school we need.”
In a letter to parents at the school, Lisa Mannall, the Regional Schools Commisioner for the South West, said: “I understand that this may be an unsettling time for you and your children but I would like to assure you that my priority, and that of DfE Ministers, is to ensure that all children in Bath have access to high quality education in a school with a sustainable future.”
Parents at the school had been asked to keep the news confidential until a special assembly had been held this morning, Tuesday 22nd October, to explain the situation to pupils.
Aspire Academy, a special school for children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH), which shares a site with the Bath Studio School, will remain as part of WMAT 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.
Councillor Joe Rayment (Twerton), deputy leader of the B&NES Labour Group, told us: “This proposed closure, the second for a secondary school in a small part of Bath, is an outrage.
“This decision will once again be made behind closed doors because of the utterly failed academy system, but I and the Labour Party will be fighting tooth and nail to prevent this closure.
“Children who transferred to Bath Studio School from Bath Community Academy are being utterly betrayed, other pupils are being betrayed, parents are being betrayed and communities are being betrayed.
“This school is a great resource with facilities which are unmatched elsewhere in the city. This proposal for closure must be thrown out immediately.”
The Bath Studio School has capacity for 300 students, and currently educates 126. There haven’t been more than 140 students in any one of its five academic years of existence.
Commenting on the decision in principle to close, 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.”
Professor Dr Kate Reynolds, the chair of the Wellsway Multi Academy Trust told parents that the Trust remains ‘completely committed’ to the students, and will ‘work hard to support their current education and future ambitions’.
To make your views known regarding the closure plans, emails are invited to: email@example.com