THE moment you step into the new Creative and Media Studio School at Rawthorpe, you realise that this is no ordinary school.
In fact, it does not feel like a school at all.
It feels like the teenagers have taken over this section of the Netherhall Learning Campus and turned it into the Fame Academy.
There is a tangible energy about the place, coupled with a lack of formal classrooms and desks. Instead there are relaxed learning areas, a social room and a conference room equipped with high tech equipment, laptops, creative tools, business furniture and drink-making facilities.
The sound of pop music drifts down the corridor, where the walls are painted in bold colours and overflowing with examples of artistic talent.
A giant moody photograph – professionally photographed and lit – of a rock band comprised entirely of students adorns one wall. Numerous shots of young models sporting T-shirts with the word ‘Ping’ are haphazardly stuck on another.
The T-shirts are a fully-fledged business venture for 15-year-old student Vesmira Krkic.
Mannequins displaying cutting edge fashion designs are dotted around in between tables full of jewellery, designed and made by students to sell at the launch of their charity.
Despite its slightly anarchic look, the Creative and Media Studio School is highly organised and blazing a trail of futuristic learning.
It is one of only two studio schools in the country, the world even, and has become a place of pilgrimage for forward-thinking educationalists interested in finding out more about this radical model of learning.
Four more are currently being piloted and the Government has just announced that 12 more will be set up next year “to bridge the gap between school and work.”
Three years ago, the school applied to take part in a pre-pilot scheme. It involved an alternative way of learning and linking business with education, while at the same time achieving high academic standards.
The Netherhall Learning Campus (formerly Rawthorpe) and a school in Barnfield, near Luton, were selected to be the guinea pigs for the first-ever studio schools.
The basis of this new philosophy can be summed up in one word: CREATE.
Application of Skills
At Rawthorpe, students and businesses often work side by side on commercial projects. Two small creative companies are actually based in the studio school and pupils gain work experience and placements with these as well as external companies.
One of the enterprises, 14 to 19, a youth marketing agency run by Graham Sykes, benefits by being able to provide clients with up-to-date market research by canvassing the opinions of the pupils.
According to school director Sarah Huntington, this is a win-win situation and something which will form an integral part of the new school.
She said: “It is a mutually beneficial arrangement, our young people are being introduced to business and work methods at aged 14, not 19. Eventually more businesses will be located within the new school, running enterprises and working together with the school.”
In its first year the Studio School, located in six former classrooms on the Netherhall campus, started with some links with local businesses and just 21 students working towards a Creative and Media Diploma
Last year was the school’s first full year as a stand-alone studio school and this year it has 56 students aged 14 to 19 from all over Kirklees.
In 13 months’ time, the school will be catapulted into the big time. Next month work starts on its new £3.8m building, which has a further £500,000 budget for technology. Scheduled to open in 2013, the new school will cater for up to 300 students. Any Kirklees pupil can apply for Years 10 or 12 if they have a particular interest in the media, graphics, textiles, fashion, art, acting, performing arts, music or business.
Sarah, 37, said: “It is all about passion. The students take responsibility and ownership of their own learning, and, as a result, it means much more to them.
“The focus is on project-based learning with real life work, rather than theoretical activities. For example, students may organise a concert and work with real budgets and deadlines.
“When they leave here they may go on to university, a job or an apprenticeship, but they will all have worked with a lot of technology and be equipped with business acumen.”
This year, the 15-year-olds kicked off with a two-week Dragon’s Den-type project where students had to pitch an idea and then work on creating it with a £500 (imaginary) budget. The business judges said that many of the ideas could be marketable enterprises.
Sarah added: “This school is for high achieving and passionate business, media and creative kids who enjoy an alternative way of learning.
“It is not about taking the best kids. When they leave here, they’ll be ready for work in the 21st century and will know how the world works.”
STUDIO Schools have been set up by the Government to bridge a yawning gap.
They wanted a new system to equip young people with the practical skills to succeed in today’s world.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Studio Schools pioneer a bold new approach to learning which includes teaching through enterprise projects and real work.
“This approach ensures students’ learning in is rooted in the real world and helps them to develop the skills they need to flourish in life.”
They cater for 14-19 year olds of all abilities. They are small schools for 300 students; and with year-round opening and a 9-5 working day, they feel more like a workplace than a school.
Studio Schools will offer a range of academic and vocational qualifications including GCSEs in English, Maths and Science, as well as paid work placements linked directly to employment opportunities in the local area.
The Rawthorpe Studio School is financed by Kirklees Council.
A Government grant of £4.3m will fund the new build, scheduled to start in January.
Once the new building is up and running, businesses will be based at the school and the intention is for the students to form businesses which will generate income.
IT’S a new kind of freedom.
And it’s one the students really appreciate.
The Creative and Media Studio School in Rawthorpe has gone down well so far with the teenagers who are studying there.
Vesmira Krkic 15, has so far been able to design a T-shirt range which is currently being marketed.
“I have got more freedom to study how I want. I can do it as I want, as long as I learn the things I need to learn.”
Jade Walsh, 16, said: “There are businesses involved with the school and I get work experience.
“I have been involved in conferences to promote the school.
“You have your independence, you are not being spoon fed all the time. After this year I want to stay on and do criminology.”
Jessica Ainley, 15, said: “It gives you the opportunity to do different things, like the fashion show.
“We get to work with businesses and it seems more real.”
The young students have also launched the Studio School’s Children’s Charity was formed to help young people with chronic and debilitating illnesses.
So far the students have raised £700 towards a personalised helmet for five-month-old Logan Crotty who suffers from Flat Head Syndrome.
It has also been announced that there will be closer formal links between the Studio School and the University of Huddersfield.
Following meetings between University staff and the school’s Director of Development Graham Pearse, all Year 13 students will have direct access to the University. Full details will be announced later.
The school will man an information stand near the Next shop in the Kingsgate Centre all day on Saturday, January 7.
The Studio School’s next open day will be held from 12pm to 7pm on Wednesday, January 11.