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The principle behind Studio Schools is ‘learning by doing’. Pupils learn through specific projects that also help prepare them early on for their future working lives. Two basic problems motivated the initiative to establish a new type of school: 1) many students do not want to go to school, and even go to some extremes to avoid doing so; 2) students who successfully gain a school leaving certificate are often unable to gain a place in further education or employment. Therefore, a survey was conducted aimed at finding out what would be needed to make teenagers fight for their right to go to school. The responses showed that most teenagers viewed the purely cognitive skills that are primarily taught at traditional schools as secondary. In contrast, they viewed goals such as confidence, resilience, sense, motivation, practical work and a good preparation for their working lives as far more important.
These ideas led to the founding of Studio Schools. The organisation’s initiators have committed themselves to two primary goals: promoting the desire of students to go to school, and enabling their pupils to gain a good footing in their working lives. Studio Schools have a maximum of 300 students and small class sizes. Most of the day is devoted to practical activities. The pupils work closely together with regional companies, and many of their projects have become so successful that they have even earned the pupils money. The pupils have coaches who accompany their personal learning pathways, and the school’s timetable reflects that of the world of work.
The main topics of learning are communication, the use of technology, transforming the community, understanding the world, healthy lifestyles, and creative, entrepreneurial conduct. Nevertheless, the students also study traditional subjects to prepare them for academic careers.
Two years after the foundation of the first School Studio, the initiators discovered that young people who had previously been classed among the worst pupils were now in the top 25 per cent. Therefore, their idea – learning by working and working by learning – seems to primarily address students who have problems with traditional teaching methods based on listening and memorising material. The Studio School Trust provides support to other schools that want to transform into a Studio School.