Middlesbrough UTC targets high-flyers

6th May 2011 at 01:00
Students of proposed technical college will go on to university, says principal

A new university technical college (UTC) proposed by an FE college would target high-flying teenagers, as well as those who have struggled in school.

Following the announcement that the Government plans to create at least 24 UTCs by 2014, Middlesbrough College has submitted a statement of interest to the Department for Education.

The college wants to create a school specialising in engineering and digital technology for up to 600 14 to 19-year-olds. If it gets the go- ahead from the DfE, the school would be the fifth approved so far and would create around 40 jobs.

The college would contribute up to pound;6 million towards the UTC. If successful, this would be matched by government funding.

Critics have already rounded on the UTC plans, with NUT general secretary Christine Blower warning that separating vocational education from mainstream schooling for 14-year-olds would create a "two-tier system with technical schools being seen as the poor cousin".

But college principal Mike Hopkins insists the UTC, which would be part of the Middlesbrough College Group but have its own principal, would be looking to recruit the best-performing students.

He told FE Focus that he would expect many to go on to university, as well as directly into employment or advanced-level apprenticeships, and denied that the UTC would create a vocational-academic divide in the school system.

"I don't accept that. I think it's adding to the plurality of the system, adding to choice, with a modern progressive curriculum.

"It's an inclusive offer for those who have struggled in the school environment and have an interest in engineering and digital technology, as well as high-flyers who have good academic achievements under their belts," he said.

Before GCSE-level, no more than 40 per cent of students' timetables would be made up of vocational subjects, rising to 60 per cent post-16.

Mr Hopkins added: "It's important (that students) are work-ready (when they leave), not just job-ready.

"The day will run from 8.30am to 5pm, and they will have to do a couple of extra weeks a year (on top of school terms). We want them to understand the work environment."

As well as STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, students would be expected to take English and a foreign language.

Mr Hopkins insisted the UTC - which has the backing of two local authorities, as well as Teesside University, SSI Steel and the Tees Valley Unlimited partnership - would work closely with the college.

"Some students may go from the UTC to the college, others from the college may go to the UTC," he said.

"Teesside has lots of potential; we need to manage people out of poverty. I feel very positive about the initiative."

Last month, Hackney Community College in London was given the green light to create a UTC, following in the footsteps of the JCB Academy in Staffordshire, Aston University Engineering Academy and Walsall College's Black Country UTC.

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