PLANS for a £5 million purpose-built studio school for pupils wishing to pursue an education outside traditional academic subjects have been lodged with South Lakeland District Council.

The new studio school would be built in the grounds of Queen Elizabeth School, Kirkby Lonsdale, from where its courses have been run since September 2017.

A studio school is where the curriculum is organised around practical projects and, in this case, runs with input from local employers. The Queen Elizabeth Studio School offers pathways in engineering, art, health and education, food, sport and conservation and the environment.

Chris Clarke, chief executive of the Lunesdale Learning Trust, which was set up to oversee the two different schools, said it was an exciting time for pupils.

"We already have a significant number of pupils in the school itself," he said. "At the moment, the studio school is operating as a school within a school.

"The plans for the new building create a brand new facility in which studio school pupils will have their lessons with specialist facilities."

In October 2016, when the plans were first revealed, QES head Alison Wilkinson said the school will create a number of opportunities for pupils and generate employment.

"It's come out of about 15 years worth of work," she explained. "The starting point is a genuine commitment to serve the community, all the children, and preserve the community of the future to ensure children have a route into employment and local businesses have local people coming through. We've always had a commitment to that."

In documents submitted to SLDC's planning department, it is said: "QEStudio aims to help students become the next generation of creative professionals to develop the local economy and rural communities and to build links with professional partners across Cumbria.

"Offering technical qualifications, and allowing pupils to create their own personal learning package, offering a mix of traditional and specialist qualifications.

"An important part of the brief is that the Queen Elizabeth Studio should look and feel like a professional environment and allow students to experience a sense of working in a professional environment."

Mr Clarke said: "We see this as a template for a kind of education provision which there could be in other parts of the region and the country.

"There are very few examples nationally of a similar kind of set up. It's a more practical and vocational education and it will enable people to choose whether they want a purely academic curriculum or this more practical education."

Mr Clarke added the new building is expected to be completed around summer 2019, and will be able to accommodate 300 pupils.

He also said he expects the proposal to be heard at the February meeting of SLDC's planning committee.