A site for residents of Prince's Ward, SE11, in the London Borough of Lambeth. Check for updates from your Labour Action Team's campaigning, local information, and meetings.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Beaufoy Institute update

Briefing on the Studio School Proposal from Lambeth Council
(Beaufoy Institute)
January 2010

Following some communication between local authority officers and representatives of the studio schools trust, Lambeth arranged a meeting with representatives of the DCSF and OSC on 4th November 2009 to discuss ways forward for Lambeth’s Beaufoy studio school proposals, and our future relationship with the studio school’s host.


From the outset, the documentation produced by the Young Foundation was largely generic and the Local Authority was invited to work out more detailed proposals and models for how a studio school could potentially be delivered. These proposals included curriculum modelling and financial and educational feasibility. A long process of negotiation ensued in an attempt to reach consensus about structural and pedagogical models which would be appropriate. It was extremely difficult to reach this consensus due to the relative inflexibility of the generic studio school model, a lack of proven project-based approaches, some confusion about whether the national curriculum could be disapplied (the current ruling from DCSF is that it can't) and considerable debate about whether the work experience model required by the Young Foundation is in fact deliverable in London (which is largely supported by small and medium-sized businesses rather than large multinationals). In addition, obstacles to progress included:
  • Some potentially exciting initial work which took place around the hospitality and catering area that came to nothing

  • Considerable confusion about the potential relationships and motivations of each of the primary stakeholders.

Educationally, an integrated model was desired with workshops and the De Morgan Foundation’s Museum being fully integrated with the school. Unfortunately, De Morgan were unwilling to countenance this model because of perceived risks to their exhibits and because there was a perception that this would damage the reputation of the Museum. The artisans’ workshops were never properly costed as an integrated facility (either capital or revenue) and remained very much an ‘ambition’. There was no question of any funding coming from the studio school project towards either the Museum or the artisans’ workshops, which left a significant funding gap. If the Museum and workshops were to be co-located rather than integrated the site would present problems since there would be no leisure or car parking space for the school or for the local community.

Finally, the DeMorgan Foundation were unable to provide the funding necessary to enable them to be partners in the studio school proposal. As a result of DeMorgan’s departure from negotiations, Prince Charles decided to withdraw his support for the proposal, as did the Young Foundation, who were the primary sponsors.

Whilst the Young Foundation were the originators of the project they were never seen as sponsors in the sense of an Academy. The role of a sponsor carries significant statutory responsibilities which the Young Foundation had never anticipated would be their role. Accordingly, it would always have been necessary irrespective of the final model to have identified and negotiated with a formal ”sponsor” for the project.

Although there was initial interest from the Aurora hotel group, this initial interest now appears to have come to nothing.

The Studio Schools Trust are fully committed to a totally integrated educational model based on project-based learning. This is largely untried and unproven in the secondary sector so far. There are two field trial studio schools in operation, though these are not stand alone studio schools, but are separately identified provision within the mainstream school.It is difficult to see how the conflicting demands of the above, and the necessity to offer a full range of national curriculum subjects, can be reconciled within one institution and officers have serious doubts about whether this is going to be deliverable in its current form.

Accordingly, Lambeth developed a model which, whilst recognising the desirability of new pedagogical approaches, and in particular experiential, participative and project-based learning, was still rooted in ensuring that the young people attending the school would not be seriously disadvantaged by a restricted curriculum and still had full access to the full national curriculum.

DCSF encouraged us to follow this line and develop something which was specific to Lambeth and met the needs of Lambeth students both in terms of ensuring a broad and balanced curriculum but also in terms of ensuring that young people would be employable at the end of it.

We were told initially that we had the freedom to develop local provision to local needs. We were told that the studio schools were a pilot therefore we had the opportunity to tailor our provision in any way that our professional educationalists felt fit. The Studio School Trust/Young Foundation admitted that they were not educationalists but that the educational input to their curriculum model came from consultants.

Lambeth invested a considerable amount of work in attempting to get a best fit between our freedom to innovate and restrictions which increasingly were placed upon us by the Studio Schools Trust. As time went on, our freedom to innovate and design something which was specific to Lambeth became increasingly subsumed into a desire by the Studio Schools Trust to have a clearly identified corporate brand, and indeed a commercially produced curriculum model which the Studio Schools Trust wished to market.

Given the choice of substantially adjusting our curriculum model into one in which we have limited educational confidence or blindly following the model presented to us by the Studio Schools Trust we elected to follow our educational principles and experience. This now appears to be unacceptable to the Studio Schools Trust.

The Studio Schools Trust sees themselves as very strong ’gatekeepers’ to this project. Since they interpreted the feasibility study stage as a competitive process they refused on a number of occasions to give Lambeth the contact details of other authorities who were engaged in the development of pilot studio schools. We have therefore not been allowed to see how timetables differ. However, this was supposed to have been a feasibility stage to demonstrate how a timetable model would fit with space allocations, outline designs and the financial viability of the model. We are confident that we demonstrated this.

Very late in the process, the Studio Schools Trust indicated that they would not be supportive of our model as it stands and that they would not support this model when it was submitted to the Department.

We recognise this has been a source of disagreement for much of the project but was finally only crystallised for us in October. We were then faced with the option of sticking to our original model which we were convinced was correct, or reinventing our model in line with the demands of the Studio School Trust whilst recognising that the matter would likely remain unresolved and would simply re-emerge at a later stage.


Our decision to explore alternatives to the studio school proposal by the Studio School Trust does not reduce our commitment to delivering a high quality and innovative educational institution on the Beaufoy Site.

Academy sponsors

We are exploring with potential sponsors an Academy-based model which will be innovative, exciting and transformational yet based in sound pedagogical and educational philosophies which are already proven to be successful elsewhere.

Our decision to look for an alternative to the studio school model is based upon our extensive understanding of the educational demands and employability needs in London and on our specific understanding of the needs and desires of Lambeth parents, carers and their children.

Whilst we found the model as advocated by the young foundation, and latterly the studio school trust, to be an interesting alternative to more traditional approaches, we were increasingly unconvinced of its relevance to the Lambeth community and of its deliverability on the Beaufoy site. Whilst we believe that there is ample opportunity for the studio schools trust to demonstrate in its pilots elsewhere that their model can work, ultimately we were unwilling to take such a gamble with the futures of Lambeth children.

All of the parameters and criteria outlined in our detailed feasibility study to DCSF remain unchanged; however we are now free to negotiate directly with potential sponsors rather than having to negotiate everything via the Studio Schools Trust.

Our initial discussions with potential sponsors have indicated that they are fully supportive of our educational aims and that the Beaufoy Vocational Academy (working title) will deliver:

  • Innovation and an innovative approach to education·
  • A focus on vocational diplomas and vocational education·
  • A transformational pedagogical model of highly personalised learning based on stage, not age·
  • Unique (in London) opportunities for a different educational model·
  • A school with extremely strong links both practically and philosophically to the local community·
  • A school which will work well and closely with other local schools where relevant·
  • A school which will work across borough boundaries to deliver unique opportunities for its pupils

Funding, whether for the studio school or for the Academy has always been, and remains, an issue since there have been no guarantees of full funding of the school. We are still seeking reassurance from the Department that the school development will be fully funded.

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