Walsall Studio School amongst first T-Level providers

Posted on: May 27, 2018

Walsall Studio School has today been announced as one of the first schools or colleges in the country to develop and teach the new gold standard T-Level qualifications.

From 2020 the studio school, which is one of the founding academies of the Mercian Trust, will deliver the new T-Level in Digital Production, Design and Development.

The new study programme will see students preparing for a technical career or university-level higher apprenticeship. Young people will study significantly more hours than most sixth form students and will also complete a three-month work placement. The curriculum itself is being created by expert panels of employers.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds

Education secretary Damian Hinds told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme this morning: “We haven’t had businesses as involved as they should be”. “This is a really big reform,” he said. T-levels will become one of three main options for post-16 study alongside apprenticeships and A levels. Prime Minister Theresa May said T-Levels will help the UK to “compete globally”.

Dan Parkes, Principal of Walsall Studio School and the Mercian Trust’s Executive Director for Innovation, Partnerships and New Schools Development, said: “We are thrilled to be pioneering excellence in the field of technical education as we further develop qualifications that employers value and real-world experiences for students that prepare them for the world of work.”

Dan Parkes, Principal – thrilled to be pioneering excellence in the field of technical education.


“The digital economy in the West Midlands has created record levels of jobs but many are currently unfilled because local young people do not yet have the skills employers need.  Through Walsall Studio School the Mercian Trust aims to be at the forefront of this digital revolution.”

The Digital Production, Design and Development specialism will be developed over the next two years as part of the trust’s new St Matthews Learning Quarter and will maximise the life chances of all its students by working closely with the creative and digital industries to help address the growing demand for higher level digital skills.


Gold standard qualifications

Businesses want people with technical education and workplace experience to “help them fill the skills gap,” said Jane Gratton, head of skills policy at the British Chambers of Commerce. She said: “T-levels will be an important part of the solution.”

The Prime Minister said the new courses were the “most significant reform to advanced technical education in 70 years” and would “ensure young people have gold standard qualifications open to them, whichever route they choose”.

A full list of schools and colleges developing T-Levels for their launch in 2020 is available on the DFE’s website here.



School Celebrates Milestone GCSE Results

Posted on: August 24, 2017

Today, Walsall Studio School students have been celebrating their GCSE results as they mark the half way point in a 4-year journey from school student to young creative professional.  The school is pleased to congratulate more Y11 students than ever before collecting A*/A grade results with more than 65% students gaining the top grades in at least one subject.

Mr Dan Parkes, Principal, said “To think that these students only joined the studio school in September 2015 – and after only 5 terms have sat their GCSE exams gaining these results is astonishing.  I am really proud of what they have achieved in such a sort amount of time.”

Mr Peter Stack, Head of Sixth Form added “I am delighted to welcome our Y11 students into the studio sixth form today – and with many students doing better than expected we have had record numbers of enrolments onto our advanced level programmes – from within our own Y11 and from external students joining us from other schools having collected their GCSE results this morning”.

There has been significant coverage of the new 9-1 ‘more difficult’ GCSEs in the national news with many people talking about Maths in particular.  Mrs Narishaa Singh, Senior Leader for Maths, was celebrating with students today and said “These students have worked very hard having to study more difficult topics than previous years and their efforts have been rewarded” adding “Early analysis from the AQA exam board indicates that GCSE Maths here at the studio school has out-performed similar centres and the national average for all schools in both standard passes and the new strong pass measure”.

It seems the school has much to celebrate including significant improvements (more than 10%) in students achieving 5A*-C grades including English and Maths and similar increases in sixth form students passing re-sit GCSEs as part of their sixth form study programmes.


School Celebrates A+ Results

Posted on: August 17, 2017

Today Walsall Studio School students have been celebrating their A Level and Diploma results as they progress onto university and into employment. 52% of students at the school secured the equivalent of 3 grade A’s at A Level or better with 100% of students passing their study programmes.

Mr Peter Stack, Head of Sixth Form said “Education pathways at the studio school are a 4-year transformational journey from school student to young creative professional. These results, our best ever, demonstrate this transformation particularly well.We are really proud of everything our students have achieved.”

As one of the best performing 14-19 academies in England Walsall Studio School features in 4 different DFE ‘league tables’(General Applied, Tech Level, Academic and A Level) and the school’s Average Points Score (APS) and Average Grade has increased in all four of the published measures compared to last year.

Principal Dan Parkes said “This year we have met or exceeded every attainment target and consequently we have ‘3-year trends’ that demonstrate our improvement from good to outstanding in the sixth form”. Adding “Study at Walsall Studio School brings the real world into school and introduces students to industry professionals to ensure their learning is set within the context of real life projects and scenarios – with these results we see again that this approach really works”.

• 61% of students are progressing to further/higher level study including securing places at Aston University, Loughborough University, British Institute of Modern Music (BIMM), Cardiff University, De Montfort University, Birmingham City University and more
• 39% of students are progressing directly into employment including apprenticeships
• No NEETs (young people not in education, employment or training)





Saddlers and School launch new children’s book

Posted on: April 7, 2017

swifty EandS

Walsall Football Club is launching a new children’s book telling the story of how ‘Swifty’ became their club mascot. The brand new storybook for young club supporters and the wider community, is a joint-project between Walsall Studio School and the Club, and tells the story of how one little swift bird became their hero and mascot.



Swifty is ideal reading for children between the ages of three and six, and it is hoped will help youngsters develop their reading skills.

Walsall Football Club Manager Wayne Thomas believes that the book is a great way to encourage children into developing those vital skills.

“When I first came to the club, secretary Dan Mole said, it would be good to engage with a younger audience,” said Thomas. “We feel that the book is a great way to do this and is a superb way to engage young fans. By linking reading with the football club, we feel sure this will have a positive impact on their education.”

“It’s a perfect collaboration between and Walsall Studio School and Walsall Football Club to improve youth engagement and to improve literacy,” said Head of Sixth Form Peter Stack. We have had students and staff working together over nine months to produce an excellent book for young readers. The combination of well-crafted story-telling and superb illustrations will further cement Swifty as an enduring part of Walsall” said Stack.



Student illustrator Courtney Brevitt said, “It was a great experience and gave me the opportunity to enhance my painting and illustrative techniques. I have learnt and applied new skills to a live project and hope Swifty goes onto further adventures”.

Co-illustrator Josh Vine said, “It was intriguing to see my visual concepts come to life in the book. It has been a journey of development for me by applying my skills to a project brief. I hope now that Swifty flies off the shelf.



Head of English Ms Corinne McCabe said “It has been a life long ambition of mine to be an author and to see the results of your endeavours in print is so exciting. It has been great to work with Josh and Courtney to combine my words with their visuals. What a great and exciting opportunity for them.

SWIFTY will be available to buy in the Walsall Football Club shop, retailing at £5.99.


UPDATE Monday 10th April: Our Swifty book made the front page the local newspaper The Express and Star!


Cirque O’ 44 – The Circus is Coming

Posted on: March 8, 2016



Behind the lights and the red and white stripes lies a very different tale to tell…
A physical theatre production

Wednesday 23rd March 2016, 7.30pm
£5 advance ticket, £6 on the door.

Contact: Jessika.Powell@WalsallStudioSchool.co.uk

Please note this performance is not suitable for children under the age of 12 years.

Christmas Shoebox Appeal 2015

Posted on: November 27, 2015

shoebox1 2015

Students from Walsall Studio School joined a volunteer team in Walsall today packing Christmas Shoeboxes on behalf of Operation Christmas Child.  After delivering shoeboxes from the school to the distribution centre students spent time wrapping other gifts that had been donated.

The Christmas Shoe Box Appeal team are  looking for volunteers on December 12th 10 a.m. to help them pack the boxes into the trucks to make their journey into eastern Europe and parts of Africa ahead of Christmas.  If you would like further information or if you could help please contact Laverne Williams on laverne.williams@thevinetrust.co.uk

The social media video below shows the impact these gifts have.


Exam Results – August 2015

Posted on: August 13, 2015

We are delighted to congratulate our sixth form students who are receiving confirmation of their final grades today and wish them every success as they progress onto university or directly into employment.

We are proud to confirm our end of Key Stage 5 Level 3 results as follows:

  • 100% pass rate in all subjects
  • 30% of students achieved 360 UCAS points or more (3x Grade A’s at A Level)

Results by Subject Area

Subject Area Pass Rate High Grades
(A*- C, Merit and above)
Highest Grades (Distinction*/ Distinction)
Business 100% 56% 22%
Music 100% 55% 36%
Performing Arts 100% 44% 11%
Media 100% 60% 40%
I.T. 100% 100% 100%
English A Level 100% 100%
Maths A Level 100% 100%


  • 59% of students are progressing to further/higher level study including places at Royal Holloway, University of London, Aston University, Liverpool University, Loughborough University, British Institute for Modern Music, Brighton, Royal College of Music and more
  • 36% of students are progressing directly into employment including apprenticeships
  • 5% of students are undertaking ‘Gap Year’ activities before attending university next September

Case Studies

This year we are highlighting the success of 5 students who joined the studio school aged 17.  These students started A Level programmes at different schools / colleges and subsequently changed their minds about the subjects they had chosen when they received their AS results in 2013.  Each of these students have now completed a two-year programme at the studio school and have achieved truly outstanding results.  All are progressing onto university or full time employment in their chosen career. Click here to read the case studies.

Teacher Subject Specialism Training: Maths

Posted on: June 25, 2015


We are delighted to announce that Walsall Studio School has today been designated a lead school for Teacher subject specialism training in Maths by the National College for Teaching and Leadership.

Earlier this year the Prime Minister David Cameron announced significant investment in schools to up-skill teachers in Maths. In a joint statement with the Secretary of State for Education he placed a huge emphasis on not only increasing the number of teachers able to teach maths, but on ensuring the training was devised and developed by the country’s best schools.

Dan Parkes, Principal commented: “We are very pleased that our school has been recognised for the excellent and innovative work we are doing in Maths education.  This is the second national project we are working on after the success of our Level 3 Core Maths pilot which began last year” adding “the TSST programme is here to drive up the quality of maths teaching across England and we are really excited about working with staff from schools across Walsall, Birmingham and The Black Country to see us achieve this for the benefit of all students in our local schools.”

Teachers wishing to retrain in Maths or those looking to re-enter the profession after a break from teaching should contact Mrs Narishaa Singh at the school on 01922 621951 Ext 321 or via email narishaa.singh@walsallstudioschool.co.uk

Rendezvous for Nepal – Students Perform alongside BBC The Voice Stars

Posted on: June 9, 2015

The Voice stars sing at Walsall charity concert

Two stars from BBC’s The Voice, including Black Country singer Sasha Simone, were on hand to help at a charity concert at the Goldmine Centre, home of Walsall Studio School and Sixth Form.

The Voice stars sing at Walsall charity concert
Sasha Simone, singing at the The Rendezvous for Nepal concert

Sasha, along with Northern Irish co-star Leah McFall, appeared at the The Rendezvous for Nepal concert last week.

The pair both sang to the crowd inside the centre’s 400 seater auditorium.

All proceeds from the event went to aid workers Youth With A Mission, which is helping rebuild people’s lives and homes after the Nepal earthquake disaster.

Carl McGregor from Pendeford playing drums in the show

The earthquake left over 8,500 dead and more than 20,000 injured. Leah finished as runner-up on the competition in 2013 and went on to support Will.i.am on his European tour.

Sasha, who went to school in Walsall herself, reached the final four of the show earlier this year.

Organising the event was session musician Carl McGregor, who performed with his soul band Project 21 and was the drummer for all the acts throughout the night, including Leah and Sasha. Mr McGregor, who lives in Pendeford, said: “The night was absolutely brilliant, we were really pleased with how it went, all of the performances were fantastic.

Leah McFall from Ireland, who lent her voice to the event

“I have been inundated with messages from people who came along to say how much they enjoyed their night.

“Rachael Orrell, CEO of Saltmine Trust spoke of her daughter being caught up in Nepal at the time of the earthquake.

“She was safe, but her story was really moving, it really personalised the event and emphasised why we were doing it.”

As well as performing on the night Mr McGregor, who is a Music Industry Coach at the School co-hosted the show.

Excellent Ofsted Report 2015

Posted on: June 4, 2015



Walsall Studio School is a “Good School” where students are very well prepared for the next stage of their lives.

The staff and students of Walsall Studio School received a significant boost to the summer term following the publication of an excellent Ofsted report today. The team of inspectors who visited the school in April praised the standards they found and rated the school as ‘Good’ while highlighting many areas of excellent and outstanding practice.

In a summary statement, the inspectors concluded, “A culture of very high expectations permeates the studio school, driven by leaders’ uncompromising belief that all students can reach their potential. As a result, students are very well prepared for the next stage of their lives.” Furthermore, the school’s work to keep pupils safe and secure has been judged to be “outstanding.”

The work of teachers in the studio school was praised – particularly in planning to meet the different needs of students.“A range of activities that motivate students to learn new things and help them consolidate earlier learning results in students making good progress”. As one Year 11 student told inspectors, ‘I had cobwebs in my brain before I came here!’

Unique to the studio school is the team of personal coaches who work with students on their personal and professional development. Inspectors recognised the benefit to students in saying “The highly effective use of personal coaches ensures that all students’ academic and emotional needs are clearly understood. The individual support students receive contributes significantly to their progress.”

Walsall Studio School is the first and only studio school in the Black Country and brings together professionals from the world of work and students aged 14-19 who study GCSE, A Level and BTEC qualifications at the school. Inspectors commented on this approach in the report saying, “Teachers are skilful at planning rich and rewarding tasks that are based on real experiences linked to working alongside professionals in the workplace. These motivating experiences are demanding and build resilience” adding “Sixth form students are independent and able to manage their own learning.”

The leadership of the school has been highly praised in the report. The principal’s inspirational leadership drives a team of very dedicated staff to be ‘pioneers’ of the studio school vision. All staff are very clear that they are contributing to students not only achieving academic success but developing students to become confident adults in the world of work and the community in which they live. This view is widely shared and students clearly understand these values at the heart of their school.”

Dan Parkes, who has been principal since the formation of the school in 2013, expressed his delight with the findings. “The inspectors spent their time observing lessons, scrutinising student work and talking to students during breaks and lunchtimes. They also spent time after school meeting with staff, governors and our partners including representatives from Queen Mary’s Grammar School. The students’ pride in this school had a real impact on inspectors and that really comes across in this report – as do the high standards that were observed throughout the visit.”
He added, “My favourite conversation with inspectors was when a group of students described our school as ‘a community they belong to not just a school they attend’ – I was really pleased it made the final draft of the report.”

In concluding the principal reflected on the success of launching the first school of its kind in the local area, “This Ofsted framework really sets a very high bar. I am proud that Walsall Studio School is succeeding in areas where other schools and colleges have been unable to do so – and I believe that is reflected in this report. We will continue into the 2015/16 academic year now from a very strong starting point. We have established the studio school as one of the best local providers of education, unrivalled in bringing high academic standards together with quality vocational training and experience for students who want to progress to university or directly into employment.”

There are limited places available for Year 10 and the sixth form for September 2015 at Walsall Studio School. For more information please contact the school office on 01922 621 951 Ext 321.


Ofsted Inspection Report – Read the full report.


Key Quotes

A culture of very high expectations permeates this studio school, driven by leaders’ uncompromising belief that all students can reach their potential. As a result, students are very well prepared for the next stage of their lives.

Students make good progress. Teachers use questioning well to deepen understanding and match activities in lessons to the needs of individuals.

The highly effective use of personal coaches ensures that all students’ academic and emotional needs are clearly understood. The individual support students receive contributes significantly to their progress.

Behaviour in school is good. The school is characterised by good productive relationships. Students describe their school as ‘a community we belong to, not just a school we attend’.

The school’s work to keep pupils safe and secure is outstanding. Designated staff are tenacious in following up any safeguarding concerns, and ensure that students and their families are accessing the support that they need.

Teachers plan well to meet the different needs of the students. A range of activities that motivate students to learn new things and help them consolidate earlier learning results in students making good progress. As one Year 11 student told inspectors, ‘I had cobwebs in my brain before I came here!’

Sixth form teachers are skilful at planning rich and rewarding tasks that are based on real experiences linked to working alongside professionals in the workplace. These motivating experiences are demanding and build resilience. Sixth form students are independent and able to manage their own learning.


Ofsted Inspection Report – Read the full report.

Local TV Channel Broadcasting from Studio School

Posted on: February 6, 2015

This evening students from Walsall Studio School worked alongside experienced media professionals at Big Centre TV opening event at the school.  They will continue to work on the new local television channel as part of their studies, when it launches at their school later this month.

BCTV photo compilation


Big Centre TV will broadcast to millions of viewers from Walsall Studio School – based in the Goldmine Centre – and will see more than 30 students involved with the station as part of their studies.

Peter Stack, creative director and head of Sixth Form at Walsall Studio School, said students will benefit from the new partnership.

“Our philosophy is to bring the place of work to the school,” he said.

“This partnership will allow us to create an education and training programme, that will eventually give students an incredible opportunity to participate in a wide range of roles within Big Centre TV – from presenting to production.”

The partnership will see the station having use of the school’s media studio, a presentation suite, as well as a 400-seat auditorium.

The station – which launches on February 28 – will also have access to broadcast cameras and a TriCaster production facility, which uses green screen to insert ‘virtual studio’ backgrounds, for news and current affairs programmes.

Dan Parkes, the school’s principal, added: “This is a huge opportunity for our students to be engaged with such an exciting project. “It will provide invaluable practical experience and give them a competitive advantage as they enter their future careers in business and the creative industries.”
Kevin Davis, Chair of Governors and CEO of the Vine Trust Group – which run the Goldmine Centre – said the move was “great news for Walsall” and “a real coup” for the St Matthew’s Quarter. “I am encouraged that the inward investment and job creation, will add to its credentials as a creative work, live, play and learn centre,” he said.
Big Centre TV will cover Birmingham, the Black Country and Solihull, providing an estimated 2.3 million viewers with a mix of local and national news, current affairs and magazine shows, alongside comedy, music and light entertainment, children’s content, shopping and other commercially-led programmes.

The station will broadcast seven days a week on Freeview channel 8, with programmes also available online.

Chris Perry, channel director at Big Centre TV, said: “We are extremely fortunate to partner with Walsall Studio School, which has some of the best people, production and broadcast facilities. “As a professional media company we have big ambitions and these can only be met through having access to outstanding facilities and talent, which is exactly what Walsall Studio School provide.”

More information:

Pre-Launch TV Broadcast
Big Centre TV Facebook
Big Centre TV Twitter

Diversity Day

Posted on: November 28, 2014

Students taking part in Diversity Awareness Day in appreciation of each other’s cultural backgrounds and community heritages.

The day (which was a fantastic success with students, staff and visitors) was the culmination of much planning, hard work and commitment from the students who organised it – Well done!

Watch the video highlights below.


WSS Shortlisted in National Digital Enterprise Competition

Posted on: July 17, 2014


We are delighted to announce that Walsall Studio School Media team (alongside two other studio schools) has been shortlisted for the National  iDEA Award.

iDEA stands for Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award and its founding partners are HRH The Duke of York and Nominet Trust. It is designed to inspire young people to follow their passion, equip them with the digital skills to put that passion into practice, and make them more employable at the same time.

iDEA will support 16-25 year olds in developing a digital business venture enabling them to build prototypes and test the viability of their business idea with real customers in the market. The three business ideas which show the most potential will be awarded £15,000 funding (in addition to £5,000 during the Gold Stage – see below) to develop their prototype into a successful digital business start-up.

For more information check out: http://www.onemillionyoungideas.org.uk

Real World, Real Life Week

Posted on: July 16, 2014

KS4 students at WSS are this week enjoying a wide range of activities designed to provide real world, real life opportunities and experiences. Feedback from students and visiting staff has been extremely positive including:

  • virtual baby weekend
  • working with PHASE trust discussing wiring ranging issues of relationships, sexual heath and urban culture
  • volunteering at the LIGHTHOUSE youth centre in Birmingham
  • taking part in health, fitness and wellbeing sessions with the VILLAGE HOTEL
  • taking part in a budgeting and healthy eating competition

Well done to everyone involved and thank you to our supporters and partners for making the week possible!

Real Week.011 Real Week.005 Real Week.006 Real Week.007 Real Week.008 Real Week.009 Real Week.010 Real Week.001 Real Week.002 Real Week.003 Real Week.004

Sky Skills Academy London

Posted on: July 9, 2014

Staff and Students at Walsall Studio School have been involved with many media production and live streaming events this year and today Sixth form students and staff attended an advanced skills day at the Sky Skills Studio at their purpose-designed facilities in Isleworth London.  Students demonstrated their media skills in the production of TV packages that were put together into an impressive short news show.

IMG_0716 IMG_0717 IMG_0718 IMG_0719 IMG_0720


Sky News and Sports, have over 16,000 staff based in the UK and it was a perfect opportunity for the students to explore their interest in working in the media. A nice touch was that all students were presented with a wristband memory stick with their finished production on it!

The Water Carrier Book Launch

Posted on: June 10, 2014

Authors Glyn Morris and Rick Norris launched their book The Water Carrier exclusively at Walsall Studio School today. The book, a gritty work of fiction, deals with the main character 14 year old Alfie, who has to deal with bullying both at home and at his school.

The book not only deals with bullying but also homophobia and racism in a challenging and dramatic way. Alfie’s self esteem reaches an all time low when the intervention of an ex Croatian footballer helps him to try and put his life back on track. The book is aimed at 14-19 year olds and as part of the launch, all students and staff have been given a signed copy of the book as part of our summer literacy initiative.

The book is also available as a download on Kindle.



Rick Norris writes a personal message and signs copies of the limited edition books for each student


Glyn Morris and Rick Norris with students Olya Gribuska, Arun Collier and Megan Hutchins


Glyn Morris and RIck Norris are interviewed by Megan Hutchins on the school radio station


Media Crew at OMG with Lawson and Union J

Posted on: April 29, 2014

‘OMG Live’  one massive gig this Easter break was filmed exclusively by students and staff of Walsall Studio School at the LG Arena Birmingham.

With unprecedented access to all areas headliners including Lawson , Union J, The Boxettes, Ollie Marland and a host of new talent, rocked well into the night to an audience of over 5,000 young people and was filmed by  3 media crews in a mammoth 9 hours of live entertainment!

The experience for the students was unique giving them access both front and backstage  to some of Britain’s best musical talent. The material will be cut together to make a promotional programme for next year’s event together with the production of a documentary for the Arts Council.

A special thanks goes to those students who did the full day – arriving before 7am and not returning to the early hours of the following morning!  Now there’s a ‘real world experience’ in the entertainment industry for you!


Headline Acts Lawson & Union J

Headline Acts Lawson & Union J give a shout out to Walsall Studio School



The Media Crew interview some familiar student faces in the queue outside



Filming from the VIP balcony



Master class Q&A with Headliners Lawson

KS4 End of Term Showcase

Posted on: April 14, 2014

KS4 Students hosted an end of term Showcase Evening last Thursday in the main auditorium. The evening of song, dance, theatre and music provided students with the platform to ‘showcase’ their work to friends, family and invited guests.  Some students performed as soloists for the very first time and many students were performing in multiple disciplines publicly for the first time too.

Dan Parkes, Principal, commented: “It is wonderful way to conclude this term, we have seen just how far students have progressed in the past six months and how individuals have grown in confidence. I am delighted with how teams of students have worked together in preparation for this evening and I, along with parents and friends have thoroughly enjoyed the show!”

12mins Highlights Video.

Exclusive work for Student Media Crew at the LG Arena

Posted on: April 5, 2014

Staff and students at Walsall Studio School and Sixth Form are working on a live project commission from EMO ltd and the LG Arena as part of the OMG Live Festival. The studio school is providing 3 production teams to create mini documentaries and promotional material for future OMG events. The media production itself is sponsored by the Arts Council England and provides student with real opportunities of the challenges and excitement of working within the creative industries. The production teams will be working alongside industry professionals at a series of master classes as well as the festival on April 24th 2014.

omg-poster-275x391 WSS_MediaCrewFlyerWeb

Challenge Friday – Hits New Heights

Posted on: March 28, 2014

KS4 Students at Walsall Studio School start each Friday morning with a challenge or competition.  The idea of  Darren Perry, Assistant Principal, “Challenge Friday” has become a weekly highlight for students and staff alike.

“Staff take it in turn each week to bring a challenge or competition to the students.  We started with making tower structures out of marshmallows, we have seen students building tent structures out of newspapers, making parachutes for eggs before launching them from the second floor balcony… but today thanks to Mr Joe Karchud and Walsall Council’s Reach-up Tower we have seen Challenge Friday reach new heights” commented Mr Perry.




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