About us

Transformation from school student to young creative professional.

Walsall Studio School is a specialist studio school with a bespoke curriculum and pedagogy designed to engage, enable and extend students to catch up (where required), step up and then reach for greatness within a 4-year transformational journey from school student (at the start of Y10) to young creative professional (at the end of sixth form study).

Students at the end of KS5 achieve the highest possible grades and progress to some of the best universities, conservatoires and drama schools in the country and directly into work in both local and flagship national employers including the BBC and IBM.

Walsall Studio School is one of the top-performing 14-19 academies in the country (headline KS5 APS average grades and progress VA for all KS5 performance measures).

Like white water rafting enthusiasts, staff at Walsall Studio School have become adept at navigating turbulent waters as they take students (from their individual starting points) on an accelerated journey into their future at university and in employment.

The work of the studio school is best encapsulated by leaders’ commitment to social mobility; the school has an excellent track record in enabling disadvantaged and vulnerable students to engage with education and the community around them. As a result of the tenacious dedication of well-qualified, experienced and highly skilled staff in the school, students take positive strides forward; making a positive contribution to their families, local community and wider society.

The Five Recognisable Characteristics of Walsall Studio School

The school’s ethos and culture are embedded within the DNA of all aspects of school life;
(1) Transformation (attitudes, behaviours, futures)
(2) Personalised approach (teaching and coaching)
(3) Academic Rigour and Vocational Excellence
(4) Support and Wellbeing
(5) Making a positive contribution to community.

In recognising that young people are not always surrounded by positive role models the studio school orchestrates a culture of perform and applause from both peers and significant adults (teachers, coaches and industry professionals). Every opportunity is given for students to perform, demonstrate and present their work for critique and applause. This praise, recognition and reward is a key aspect of the school’s strategy to engage, enable and extend students’ progress and attainment.

Walsall Studio School opened in September 2013 following the successful application of the Vine Trust and Queen Mary’s Grammar School. This partnership working has further developed into the formation of The Mercian Trust, a nationally significant MAT of 5 founding academies (2 selective Grammar schools, 2 mainstream comprehensive secondary schools and Walsall Studio School). The trust continues to grow with more schools are joining the trust this year.

In response to the very significant need for Alternative Provision places in Walsall, Leaders have led the application and pre-opening phases of a new AP Free School. The Ladder (AP) Free School became the trust’s 6th school when it opened in January 2019. Leading this innovation has enabled governors and leaders of Walsall Studio School to better explain and illustrate the differences between our mainstream studio school and the alternative provision free school.

Walsall Studio School was selected by the DFE to deliver the L3 Core Maths pilot in 2015 and has continued to successfully increase numbers of students (in particular girls) achieving advanced level maths qualifications by the age of 18. Designated a Lead School for TSST Maths in 2016 the school has been instrumental in training teachers with a second specialism in maths. This has enabled the school to ‘grow its own’ maths teachers at a time of considerable national challenge in teacher recruitment and retention.

What is a Studio School?

Walsall studio school is a lead school in the national studio schools movement and Dan Parkes, Executive Principal, is the Chair and Director of the Network. On behalf of the Studio Schools Network the principal meets regularly with the DFE to influence policy.

Walsall Studio School is shaping the studio schools’ movement nationally as an important part of England’s education landscape working to achieve the ambitions of the government’s social mobility plan Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential.

Every studio school is different and serves its own local community and regional economy, however, they celebrate shared culture and characteristics:

Academic, Technical and Vocational Excellence – high quality teaching that has ‘real currency’ for students when they are interviewed by employers or universities (as well as educational experiences that provide students with a competitive advantage over other students with the same qualifications)

Employability and Enterprise Skills – use of the CREATE framework to support, challenge and measure the development of students’ development of the fundamental transferable skills for life and work

Personalised Curriculum and a Coaching Culture – personal coaches who predominantly work with students 1:1 including the development of bespoke individual learning plans that tailor learning experiences to the unique needs of the individual

Experiential Learning – practical, enquiry-based education and curriculum projects that embed learning within the context of the real world

Real Work – work with employers and commissioned live projects

Small Schools – around 300 students where students build strong relationships with their peers, staff and visiting professionals who work with the school

Students of all abilities – fully inclusive (with high expectations that all children will reach their full potential) and comply with the national Schools Admissions Code.

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