A pioneering new school that combines work-based learning with academic study will be built on an existing Chester school campus in a £4m project.
The Chronicle can reveal that Christleton International Studio – despite its name – will be based at the Queen’s Park High School campus, Handbridge , in a separate building that will share the same frontage as the current facility.
An existing modern block – filling the gap between what were originally the detached girls and boys school buildings – will be either replaced or converted into a state-of-the-art place of learning.
The school, for 14-18-year-olds of all abilities, opens this September so students will be educated in a wing of Queen’s Park High School until the new building is complete.
Initially a 120-strong intake, drawn from across Cheshire West and beyond, it will comprise 60 students in Year 10 for the GCSE courses and 60 in Year 12 for the International Baccalaureate programmes but numbers will grow to a maximum 320 students.
Plans for the new building will go out to consultation shortly. The design must be high quality given the school lies within the Queen’s Park conservation area.
Founding principal Kate Ryan, who has worked around the globe including New York, Chicago and New Zealand, aims to prepare students to become global citizens.
She said: “Our studio school is a hub of business, entrepreneurship and academic study which is unparalleled in its capacity for innovation, and commitment to global and professional engagement.
“We offer extended work placements and our students can choose subjects and elective activities which really interest them and there are many opportunities for travel and adventure.”
She added: “Christleton International Studio will have a purpose built world-class facility in the heart of Chester. After studying with us, our students will go into the world with confidence, skills and a broad range of experience. For some this will be work, for others, apprenticeships and for some universities, near and further afield.”
Innovations will include students being able to register on their laptop for self-scheduled lessons, such as extra maths or extension experiments in science. Some lessons will be video recorded and available to watch again online later.
There will be project working with schools around the world which could include live video link-ups. Personal coaches – separate to the teaching staff – will help students achieve targets in their individual action plans. Each term, students will choose three ‘enrichment electives’ from: sport, creativity and community and skills.
Relationships with business, including work placements, will be central as well links to the nearby University of Chester Business School and the BioHub at Alderley Park in Cheshire. A key partner is Bank of America Merrill Lynch based at Chester Business Park.
Tony Lamberton , CEO of Christleton Learning Trust, explained: “Are we preparing children for industry? – no. Are we making children more employable? – absolutely, yes!”
And he offered this reassurance to those concerned about the influence of big business.
“We are not here to steal children’s minds, we are here to enlighten those minds,” he said.
The studio school is a spin-off development resulting from closer working between Christleton High School and Queen’s Park High School that will see both organisations run by Christleton Learning Trust following QPHS’s conversion to an academy from April 1.
The business-focused studio school vision was previously explored by Christleton alone but was shelved because the Department for Education was unable for ‘financial reasons’ to exchange contracts on the former Lloyds bank office within Knights Court on the corner of St Martin’s Way and Weaver Street in Chester city centre .
Queen’s Park High School headteacher Lyndsay Watterson said of the studio school: “It’s exciting for us to be part of something totally innovative.”