Rye school not taking on new students due to funding crisis

Rye Studio School
Rye Studio School

A school which offers courses in the creative and business industries is not accepting any more new students because of a funding crisis.

Yesterday (Thursday, March 9), Rye Academy Trust met with students and staff at Rye Studio School to announce that the school will not be taking any year 10 and year 12 students for the next academic year, starting in September.

Tim Hulme

Tim Hulme

In addition, Rye Studio School is withdrawing its Foundation Diploma course at the end of this academic year.

However, the trust has stressed that the school is not closing and will remain open.

Caledon Bartholomew, a year 11 student at Rye Studio School, said: “The school helps students pursue careers in the creative and business industries and has had some of the best results for A-levels in the county.

“It prides itself on having smaller classes to enrich students’ knowledge so they can achieve their best possible potential.

The trust is a relatively small one and cannot sustain the current level of operating costs against a backdrop of cuts to pupil funding. It is already struggling to maintain services and is cutting some activities

Tim Hulme, CEO of Rye Academy Trust

“Yesterday we were given the news our school was not going to be accepting any college students anymore due to funding problems.

“This is a major issue since a lot of current students wanted to stay on for college and also people from Rye and the surrounding area wanted to attend.

“This is a major problem not only for the students but the teachers and staff as well. Students have developed great relationships with their teachers and that is what helps the school thrive.”

Tim Hulme, chief executive officer of Rye Academy Trust, said the trust was facing financial pressures.

There were losses of around £750,000 in 2015/16 and £1m for 2016/17 if left unchecked.

On top of this, there is a claw-back of £574,000 to the Education Funding Agency (EFA), due to not recruiting sufficient student numbers during the school’s first two years of operation.

Mr Hulme added Rye Studio School was inspected in December 2016 and received a ‘requiring improvement’ judgement by Ofsted.

He said the Institute for Fiscal Studies says spending per pupil is to fall 6.5%, with sixth-forms facing a continued squeeze on budgets.

Rye Academy Trust received notice this week that pupil funding for primary, Key stage 3 and Key stage 4 is to be reduced.

This will have a net loss of £90,000 for 2017-18, Mr Hulme added.

Rye Academy Trust covers Rye College, Rye Studio and Rye Primary Schools.

Mr Hulme said: “It is disappointing that while schools face a severe funding crisis, £240m is being spent on expanding grammars.

“The trust is a relatively small one and cannot sustain the current level of operating costs against a backdrop of cuts to pupil funding. It is already struggling to maintain services and is cutting some activities.

“We are now at breaking point and the only way some schools are going to manage this significant cut in real terms is through a re-organisation to ensure we establish a sustainable future and a strong set of schools for the community of Rye for the next 100 years.

“I fear that the hard work of school staff is concealing the extent of the financial difficulties, so teachers strive harder, support staff plug gaps and leaders try to sleep at night while trying to solve a problem that is not of their making.

“Our three schools are struggling to function adequately on a day-to-day basis, and, in addition, we are severely hampered in our ability to recruit and retain staff. This has a direct impact on how we work with reasonable teacher-pupil ratios and to buy basic equipment.

“I am totally committed to all our learners. We are looking to have a year of consolidation for the studio with view to re-design it for 2018-19. Studio 6 will offer several vocational pathways alongside the popular creative courses.”

Groups of students affected by the studio school changes will be escorted to other local colleges, which offer sixth form provision, the trust said.

A personal letter from Mr Hulme is being sent to the chief executives of Sussex Coast College, Bexhill 6th Form, Sussex Downs College and Hadlow College – Ashford Campus with a personal request to offer affected students places on their courses.

Individual information, advice and guidance interviews will be provided for every student, the trust added.

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