It’s a typical Thursday at Leicestershire’s newest school - and a quarter of the pupils are missing.
But this mass absenteeism isn’t a bad reflection on the Sir Frank Whittle Studio School in Lutterworth; it simply shows that this new Leicestershire school is very different from the school most parents knew.
The pupils are out on their twice-weekly work placements, at a variety of local firms, from Britvic and Waitrose to Serco and Caterpillar.
“Education plus” as how the school’s headteacher Paul Hostead describes it, as he sits in his office in the school’s new £3million building, only opened last month.
As soon as the Mail arrives, he is talking proudly about a group of students who have just given a presentation on health and safety to the European director of huge access equipment firm JLG in Amsterdam, via Skype.
Sir Frank Whittle Studio School isn’t just a new school for south Leicestershire, it brings a new type of learning to the county.
Mr Hostead explains: “It’s a new concept in education. It addresses the growing gap between the skills and knowledge that young people require to succeed, and those that the current education system provides.
“Studio schools pioneer a bold new approach to learning which includes teaching through enterprise projects and real work.”
Working round the new school, which will hold a maximum of 300 pupils, you can see the effort made to make it a hybrid of education building and workplace.
The engineering room looks much more like a factory than a classroom, everywhere the building’s “workings” are exposed, and a whiteboard close to the personal coaches room has a list of pupils next to their “partner” companies.
Yes “personal coaches”; each pupil - and there are 80 so far at the school as it builds itself slowly to maximum capacity - has their own personal coach.
These coaches meet their pupils at least weekly, and inform parents of their progress through weekly reports.
All Year 10 and 11 pupils study a core of English Language and Literature, maths and triple science, as well as having one day per week in work placement.
In Years 12 and 13, pupils opt for “Routes to Success” in either business or engineering and two days per week at a work placement. From there, they can go on to university, or into work, well-prepared for either eventuality, not least by the work-style nine to five day that pupils do here.
We spoke to a group of school pupils about Sir Frank Whittle Studio School.
Charlotte Reynolds: “I chose this school because of the work placements and the coaches who help with progress and learning.”
Elijah Dance: “You’re more engaged. It’s more of a private school feel here and the teaching is better. Companies specifically request FW pupils to go to them.”
Rose Heard: “I didn’t want to do A-levels, and I thought BTEC diplomas would be a good opportunity for me, and help me do what I want when I’m older.”
Joel Woodward: “Everything you learn in the classroom relates to real life.”
Taijan Patel: “It’s not an easier option, it’s a different option. You’re developing your knowledge about work as well as your education.”
Amy Betteridge: “Some of the pupils at Lutterworth (next door) don’t realise what we’ve got here. They’re used to bigger class sizes, traditional teaching.”
Charlie Mark: “The work placements is one of the best things about this school . Maturity helps to do this sort of learning, especially with the work placements, but the school helps you be more mature.”
Harrison Tebbutt: “It’s thanks to this school that I do know what I’m going to do next.”