Barnfield Studio School to close after years of omni-confusion and a multi-million pound makeover

Janet Downs's picture

Barnfield Business and Enterprise Studio is to close, Schools Week reports.  A simple enough statement, it would seem.  But not for anyone who’s followed Barnfield Federation, the complex organisation originally behind the studio school.

Make yourself a strong cup of coffee and prepare to be confused.

1:  The studio school began in 2010 as Barnfield Business and Enterprise Studio Academy, a sponsored academy.  It was one of the first studio schools.  In October 2012 Ofsted judged it Good and said the name had changed to The Barnfield Skills Academy.  

2:  If you search Ofsted’s website for Barnfield Skills Academy you'll get no result.  You’ll need to search for Barnfield Business and Enterprise Studio.  But you won’t find the 2012 report – it’s no longer there.  Instead you’ll find the latest Ofsted report for Barnfield Skills Academy (aka Barnfield Business and Enterprise Studio) which said it required improvement.  This report acknowledges the studio was previously Good but if you want to read it you’ll have to do an internet search.

3:  The Department for Education's EduBase2 database lists no school called Barnfield Skills Academy.   But it does list Barnfield Business and Enterprise Studio.  It says in began life as a sponsored academy called Barnfield Business and Enterprise Studio Academy.  This was closed in December 2012 and reopened the next day as Barnfield Business and Enterprise Studio (designated 'studio schools').   

3.5:  Its designation on DfE Schools Performance Tables is ‘free school – studio school’.

Reason for confusion:   Not keeping Companies House updated with the change of names.  No formal resolution to change names existed (see damning reports from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and Education Funding Agency (EFA) March 2014, summary here).  DfE confusing free schools and studio schools.

4:    Barnfield Academies Trust (BAT), which had been part of the Federation, has changed its name to The Shared Learning Trust.  It runs five of the Federation’s academies including the studio, nowThe Studio School Luton and a free school.  It’s renamed three of its academies, Barnfield South, Barnfield West and Barnfield Vale to Stockwood Park Academy, Chalk Hills Academy and Vale Academy respectively.  EduBase2 and the DfE School Performance Tables have yet to catch up.

5:  A Freedom of Information response (August 2015) listing academies which had changed hands up to 31 August 2015 said the five Barnfield academies had been run by Barnfield Education Partnership Trust (of which BAT was a part) but were ‘no longer associated with an approved sponsor’ as at 1 March 2015.  This implies they were in limbo before another sponsor was found.   But that’s not so.    The Shared Learning Trust which runs the academies is BAT under a new name.  Companies House says the name changed in July 2015: it does not list the Trust as a new entity.  It’s unclear how much the break-up of Barnfield Federation has cost the taxpayer – the DfE has refused my FoI request.

6:   The studio school’s website has a tiny announcement in its sidebar saying it’s closing. But the same page has large rolling adverts for Barnfield Skills Academy:  it has a new multi-million pound location; it’s offering a ‘practical hands-on approach to learning’ to 14-18 year-olds;   it’s offering taster sessions.   This gives the impression the Skills Academy is very much a going concern.  

Opening, closing, reopening, different names, redisgnation, disintegration, mismatch between Ofsted, EduBase2, School Performance Tables and the DfE.  It’s not just confusion – it’s omniconfusion.  All overseen by the DfE.  And it’s already cost millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.




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Jane Eades's picture
Sat, 12/03/2016 - 12:08

This story is depressing and being repeated, with each repetition costing money which should be being spent on teachers and the classroom. It is becoming a full time job just to track who is running which school as academies and 'free' schools are being handed around from one trust to another. Janet is right to underline the difficulty of tracking Ofsted gradings. At one time the Ofsted reports for schools, which converted to or became sponsored academies (apart from the first wave), were on the website. Now it seems to be less reliable. It is clearly a deliberate policy in order to attempt to support the increasingly discredited story that academies improve standards.

Linda Starkey's picture
Mon, 14/03/2016 - 18:35

They must hate you, I on the other hand love you and thank you for keeping me constantly up with all of this. Linda

Jane Eades's picture
Wed, 16/03/2016 - 14:31


Mark Watson's picture
Tue, 27/09/2016 - 19:09

I find it telling that you're all so caught up in your armchair sleuthing, desperate to find that elusive evidence that backs up your conspiracy theories, that I don't see anyone discussing what education was provided to the children and whether it was any good. That's what I, and I would hesitate to say the parents of the children that attended the relevant institution(s), would find rather more interesting and relevant.
And by the way, many of the points this article purports to make are simply as a result of confusing the name of the academy trust and the name of the academy.

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