Da Vinci’s going down– inventive education idea runs its course and North Herts studio schools will shut next year

The former Grammar School site in Letchworth became a Da Vinci school in September 2014

The former Grammar School site in Letchworth became a Da Vinci school in September 2014 - Credit: Archant

Two mould-breaking secondary schools which aimed to offer something different to North Herts teenagers are to be wound up at the end of the coming academic year.

Mark Lewis

Mark Lewis - Credit: Archant

The two Da Vinci studio schools, both branded with the name of one of the most creative figures in history, offer science and engineering courses at Monkswood Way in Stevenage and courses providing training in ‘backstage’ creative careers in Letchworth town centre.

Students are able to join the school at the age of 14 for their traditional ‘GCSE years’ and continue through sixth form, and the idea was praised by industry figures including entrepreneur Peter Jones when they were first estabished in 2014.

But although the innovative set-up was widely praised it’s understood that both sites were operating below capacity and the idea of a school change at 14 hadn’t caught on with parents and potential students.

After deciding something had to be done, Hart Schools Trust chiefs – who run both schools –grasped the nettle and worked with the Department of Education to make sure the same range and quality of courses would be on offer.

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Staff, students and parents have been told this week that no new Year 10 students will be taken on this September.

North Herts College will be absorbing the Da Vinci offer at its sites in Letchworth, Hitchin and Stevenage while any students completing A-level science or maths courses will do so at Thomas Alleyne in Stevenage.

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Both schools will be wound up next summer, once current Year 11 students have completed their courses.

Mark Lewis, managing director of the Hart Schools Trust, said a thorough review had been carried out and paid tribute to the tremendous work that had been done on both sites.

He said: “Our first priority is to make sure that all current Da Vinci students are clear on their options.”

College principal Matt Hamnett, who is also chief executive of the Hart group, added: “It is a real shame that the studio schools will close next summer but we will take forward many positives.

“We’ll make further announcements in the weeks and months to come about the inventive ways in which we intend to develop our offer in each sector area.”

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