A SECONDARY school has denied rumours that it is at risk of closure barely two years after opening.

Bicester Technology Studio was the subject of concern among councillors this week, after a council report warned that the trust in charge was 'considering its long-term future.'

Oxfordshire County Council's education scrutiny committee heard how studio schools across the country have been struggling to survive, mainly due to dwindling pupil numbers, and fears Bicester's is set for the same fate.

The Activate Learning Education Trust which runs the school confirmed that the headteacher of Bicester Technology Studio has been replaced by the head of The Bicester School nearby, who will now oversee them both.

However, a spokesman added that concerns about closure were 'misinformed.'

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He said: "Bicester Technology Studio is very much part of Activate Learning’s long-term plans.

"As part of our vision to provide the young people of Bicester with the best choices for their education, we need to change the relationship between the Technology Studio and The Bicester School, but this is not about the two schools merging."

The studio school has taken on the same headteacher and governors as The Bicester School, which is part of the same academy group.

A spokesman added: "By combining leadership and governance of the two schools, we are better able to recognise when learners want to change the direction their education takes.

"A single leadership team across the schools means staff will be better placed to recognise and spot when these needs change and make the transition between the more technical work-related pathway of the Bicester Technology Studio, and the more academic pathway of The Bicester School, much smoother."

The Queens Avenue school first opened in September 2016. It has a capacity of 310 pupils, and currently teaches about 120.

It is one of two 'studio schools' in Oxfordshire alongside Space Studio Banbury, which councillors also raised concerns about.

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Studio schools were introduced in 2010 as a form of free school, which are types of academies – state schools run by academy trusts rather than councils.

They are sponsored by existing schools or colleges, teach a maximum of 300 students all aged 14-19, and have strong links with employers.

They are similar to another type of free school called university technical colleges, such as UTC Oxfordshire in Didcot, which is also part of Activate Learning.

UTCs are usually sponsored by universities and businesses, specialise in technical subjects, and teach up to 600 pupils.

According to research by Schools Week, 21 studio schools nationwide had closed as of February.

At the scrutiny meeting in Oxford on Monday, Bicester councillor Michael Waine said studio schools were often seen as 'the poor man’s UTC.'

The former headteacher, who is chair of governors at Bicester Learning Academy, said: "It does beg very serious questions in terms of the sustainability of the schools."

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Allyson Milward, the council's head of access to learning, said at the meeting: “Studio schools seem to be losing popularity and becoming ever smaller in intake – that is a worry."

A council report compiled ahead of the meeting said: "It is understood that Activate Learning... is considering the long-term future of the studio school."

Ms Milward said numbers at Space Studio Banbury, run by Aspirations Academies Trust, are ‘incredibly low and getting worse,' particularly among older pupils.

She added: “They did try to expand their age range about 12 months ago, but the Regional Schools Commissioner said no and we [the council] opposed it as well.”

However the school's principal, Sylvia Thomas, told the Bicester Advertiser the school's roll was 'growing rather than shrinking.'

She added: "Politically, I think studio schools have lost favour.

"Our numbers aren't getting worse. We provide a very specific curriculum and were only ever designed to have small numbers, as we are so specialist."