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Chester studio school's £4m new building gets the green light

Cheshire West and Chester Council planning committee unanimously back planning application

Computer generated images of what Christleton International Studio will look like in the centre of the Queen's Park High School frontage, sandwiched between the original buildings

Plans have been approved for a £4m new school building to house Christleton International Studio on the same campus as Queen’s Park High School in Handbridge .

The studio will be built in the centre of the high school frontage on the footprint of a 1960s block which will be partly demolished and remodelled.

Plans were unanimously approved by Cheshire West and Chester Council planning committee on Tuesday.

A common room within the proposed the Christleton International Studio in Handbridge.

Principal Kate Ryan said: “This is fantastic news. We are excited to grow in our building which has been designed specifically for our students and our style of learning. The unanimous decision for the build reflects the support for CIS in the Chester community.”

The studio opened last September but within a vacant wing of Queen’s Park High as a temporary measure.

Both schools are managed as separate entities but come under the umbrella of Christleton Learning Trust, along with Christleton High Schoo l.

Kate Ryan, founding principal of Christleton International Studio, based on the Queen's Park High School campus in Handbridge.

The ‘open and spacious’ three-storey new building will accommodate 320 students, aged 14-19, who will move into the specially-designed centre during the 2018 autumn term.

The studio is for all abilities and draws students from across Cheshire, Wirral and North Wales. It is run in partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and other multinationals based in and around Chester.

It is not a typical school in the traditional sense with, for example, different types of working spaces.

In addition to classrooms, there will be hubs, co-learning and lecture spaces plus specialist art facilities, science labs, staff and student support areas as well as a dining room to be shared with QPHS.

A view of the proposed the Christleton International Studio on the Queen's Park High School campus in Handbridge

And there is a longer school day from 8.30am until 4.30pm, with doors open from 7.30am.

There are GCSE courses for 14-16-year-olds and the International Baccalaureate Career Programme aimed at 16-19 year-olds, which is an internationally accepted qualification as an alternative to A-Levels and providing entry into higher education.

Ms Ryan added: “CIS provides a high quality, rounded education and all students are supported to reach his or her potential. Through our IB curriculum, our students not only have a secure educational foundation, but also prepare them to be leaders in a rapidly changing world.”

Learning spaces within the proposed the Christleton International Studio in Handbridge.

However, questions have been raised about the sustainability of the studio by free school critic David Plunkett, a retired county council education officer, who discovered there were just 85 students enrolled for the initial intake instead of the predicted 120.

Mr Plunkett, from Curzon Park , said: “This expenditure of £4million is staggering for such a small number of pupils and does not bode well for the success of the school and whether they have judged their market correctly at all. All research such as that by IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) points to studio schools not filling up.”

CIS currently has applications open for September 2018 for Year 10 and Year 12.