What is the Dorset Studio School?
Knighton Countryside Management Ltd have been involved with the school from its inception, when Mark was part of the steering group. He has subsequently become Chair of Governors, and Knighton is one of the school’s industry partners. From September, Knighton will be offering traineeships through the Studio School to those interested in a land based career in and around Dorset.
As an industry partner, we support the school in numerous ways. We offer students work experience, and we have donated hundreds of trees as part of a landscaping project round the college run by the students. The Studio School Students were involved in creating bird boxes which were used on the Bournemouth A338 Enhancement Scheme, in a joint project with Knighton and Dorset County Council. Students are given the opportunity to work for the company at weekends and in the holidays should they wish to.
The Dorset Studio School was conceived as a way of offering a number of hitherto missed opportunities to students and employers. Firstly, in an area which relies heavily on its land-based industries, employers were finding it increasingly hard to recruit school leavers with the necessary skills and understanding of working life. Secondly, schools were finding it harder to meet the needs of young people with a passion for working in agriculture, animal care and other land-based industry. Thomas Hardye School and Kingston Maurward College combined forces with local employers in order to address these gaps. The Dorset Studio School welcomed its first students in September 2014.
The Studio School movement applies the Renaissance concept of working and learning to modern education. Craftsmen, artists and inventors learnt, practiced and then taught their trades within a studio setting. Applying this in the 21th century enables students to progress in academic and vocational subjects through the experience of real work. State funded, Studio Skills all teach the National Curriculum, and students will have access to all progression routes when leaving, whether straight to the job market or on to higher education. What makes the Studio Schools different is their place within industries: each school has a particular specialism, allowing students to choose an education in a specific field without compromising the need for all round excellence. There is now a network of Studio Schools across the United Kingdom, and many of them work with large corporations such as major retailers and healthcare trusts.
The Dorset Studio School is different. It complements and is supported by excellent local education provision, enabling them to reach yet more students. Its purpose, from the day students enter the school, is to give them an outstanding foundation for their chosen land-based career. They will be working for small businesses. They may progress as apprentices or to degree courses. Local businesses such as Knighton become industry partners, supporters, and mentors for the individual students.
Project based learning is key. Core subjects are delivered through real, land based or animal care projects. The school is situated on the Kingston Maurward Campus, a stone’s throw away from their Animal Care and Equestrian Centre. Students have access to the Agricultural, Horticultural and Countryside Facilities. When students can learn maths by pricing up projects, calculating supplies and working out timescales, the maths suddenly becomes relevant. If plans need to be pitched and reports written, the need for better levels of literacy is more clearly understood. Carrying out the plans in reality underlines the need for accuracy in planning. These are proper projects, seen through to their conclusion, and they introduce students to the reality of day to day life in the industry.
Project based learning goes hand in hand with a longer school day and year round working. Work experience is not an ‘add-on’, but is an integral part of the day. Students are developing knowledge and understanding across a range of academic, technical and practical skills that will give them a flying start in their future employment. For their future employers, the benefits are boundless.
The Dorset Studio caters for students of all abilities. The only entry requirement is a wish to work within the land based sector. The school can offer opportunities to high flying students seeking careers in such fields as veterinary medicine, and they also have the skills themselves to teach future ground workers and labourers. Choosing the Dorset Studio School does not mean walking away from high standards, it means walking towards excellent education tailored to specific passions and interests.