The studio opened its doors in September within a vacant wing of the high school as a temporary measure.
Both schools are managed as separate entities but come under the umbrella of Christleton Learning Trust along with Christleton High School.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency has just submitted plans for a brand new building for the studio school on the footprint of a 1960s block in the centre of the QPHS frontage between what were originally the detached girls’ and boys’ school buildings.
That block would be partly demolished but with the frame and floors retained around which the new building – with two storeys to the front and three storeys to the rear – would be remodelled and reclad.
The studio, for 14-19-year-olds of all abilities, 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 will house a maximum 330 students when full.
A document accompanying the plans states: “Together they are committed to providing an educational experience that will equip young people from all backgrounds and abilities for future work anywhere in the world.”
The studio is not a typical school in the traditional sense with, for example, different types of working spaces.
In addition to classrooms, there are intended to 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. 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.
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.”
But Kate Ryan, principal of Christleton International Studio, responded: “We recruited 85 students from a number discussed with the DfE of 90-120 students. We sent 140 offers out and some students did not take their offer as they chose other courses, their GCSE results were lower than expected or that they had settled into their previous schools and were no longer looking for a move. As of today we have 82 students with students choosing to move from other schools mid term also.
“Some of our students have decided that they were better suited to an A-Level curriculum or a vocational course at college and we have supported students to ensure that they are on the right courses for them which will afford them the best of opportunities in the future.
“We will grow to 200 next year, 280 the year after and then reach capacity in Year 4. We only opened with Year 10 and Year 12 and opening in temporary accommodation restricted our numbers in our opening year. The interest in next year has been really pleasing with 79 offers already sent out and we are only in November.
"We continue to offer student information sessions three evenings a week to prospective families. I think we can be confident to say that there is demand for a small, personalised education which has efficient use of technology at its core.”
Ms Ryan added: “We are thrilled our permanent home for our school is moving forward and that there has been such a positive response to the reuse of another building from the local community. With so many exciting things already happening, we are all looking forward to a space to grow and flourish in the coming years.”