'We've already had enough applications to fill the school', reveals Doncaster UTC boss as new pictures revealed
It is not due to open until September 2020 and the builders have yet to start on site.
But the Doncaster University Technology College already has enough applicants for a full roll of pupils, just days after opening up to applications.
They are signing up for a school with longer hours than most – but a school whose leader hopes will inspire its pupils. This week he has shown the Free Press detailed pictures of how the building is expected to look, both inside and outside.
The speed with which the applications have poured in has even surprised college principal Garath Rawson, who met parents and would-be pupils for the first time this week, with a meet the principal session.
With the college building still to be constructed, Mr Rawson is operating out of an office at the National College for High Speed Rail, at Lakeside, and met the families in the landmark building’s reception area.
They were the latest meetings in his busy diary as he works to make sure the college hits the ground running in September 2020.
On the day the college opens, there will be 300 pupils, youngsters in Year 9 and Year 12. As those youngsters move up the school, it will expand to 750 by September 2022.
Staff recruitment starts in the new year, although enquiries about positions have already been received.
Mr Rawson has been involved with the opening of a UTC before. A former science and Spanish teacher and assistant headteacher, he got his first job with a UTC when the college at Sheffield’s Olympic Legacy Park opened in 2016. He was appointed vice principal prior to its opening.
The Sheffield scheme was a new project, which specialised in health, computer science and sport. The Doncaster UTC will specialise in engineering and creative and digital technology.
Mr Rawson said: “UTCs all have something in common – they are about developing employment skills that the business community has identified that they want teaching.
“They have been tailored to Doncaster but we have a similar ethos. It has been totally driven by employers, and local businesses have had a phenomenal input to make sure the curriculum is fit for purpose. Some have already said they want to take apprentices from us. Agema Spark and Polypipe have given us software they want people to be trained in.
“We will maintain academic rigour. But the consensus from employers is that students have not had enough of those skills that we are specialising in.
“The speed with which the applications has come in has been quicker than we expected. We expected to be at this stage in October or November.
“We’ll give places to students on a first come first served basis – we’re going to be fully inclusive , and all the students will have a a meeting with me to make sure the curriculum and school day is right for them.
“It is about being transparent and making sure we are fit for purpose and that the pupils are here for the right reasons, with an interest in engineering or creative and digital and creative technology.
“Parents see the need to develop employability skills and understand this could open up the job market for their son or daughter.”
Youngsters who do not get in will be put on a reserve list and could still be offered a place if other pupils drop out.
The core teaching at the school will still be the national curriculum. Youngsters will still be doing their GCSEs, including English, maths and science. In addition, they will take specialisms related to either engineering or digital work. Those specialisms will make up 40 per cent of the pupils’ curriculum.
The youngsters who attend the UTC will also have a longer school day than schools traditionally had. There will be morning clubs and meetings from 8am, with registration at 8.30am. The normal finish time is planned to be 4.30pm, although the doors will be open longer for youngsters wanting to work later on projects or homework.
Mr Rawson has been in his post since the start of the month. He will be working with the Brighter Futures schools trust, which will run the college, along with Hungerhill School and a number of primary schools.
There are expected to be be links between those schools and the new college.
But the next major milestone on the project is expected to be the start of the construction work. Builders are due to start on the site in November, with a phased opening of the building.
The first phase is due to open in August next year, ahead of the second phase in November 2020. It will mean two floors are ready for the first 300 students.
The building itself will be in the town centre, taking up land once occupied by the old council headquarters, Council House, on Waterdale. It is a part of the town which has seen a lot of development recently, and is close to the new cinema and restaurant complex currently under construction.
Mr Rawson has the plans for the site. As well as the buildings, the college will have grounds like any other school. It will have its own sports facilities in the shape of a multi-use games area along its Waterdale frontage.
The artist’s impressions also show a large outdoor space for students to gather outside, and green space. He believes the sports facilities are unusual for a UTC facility, and says he had known sites have their games areas on the roof at other venues.
Mr Rawson acknowledges it will be a big step for some of the younger pupils to switch schools.
“It is a massive step for them to come out of their comfort zone in year eight,” he said. “We need to make sure we’ve thought of everything for their smooth transition to year nine. We will work collaboratively with local schools, and I will be meeting with other heads. There needs to be a strong partnership with local schools.”
He also expects to work closely with the National College for High Speed Rail.
Mr Rawson is excited about the facilities those new students will see when they arrive. “They will be world class, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “There will be industry standard equipment, with lathes, laser cutters, computer aided design equipment, a robotics lab and a VR suite. It will be state of the art.
“We are preparing students for the jobs of the future that may not exist yet. We want to make sure they are equipped.”
He hopes the college will turn out students with the skills businesses need locally so they do not have to do so much training themselves when they take workers on from the college.
But the goal is not just to vocational success, and Mr Rawson also wants to see academic success for the students, and hopes that students will also find places at the top universities including Oxford and Cambridge.
He feels the nature of the college could help fire up pupils who may otherwise have not been fully embracing with their education in conventional schools.
“We’ve picked up that people think its going to be all vocational or all academic,” he said. “It is about providing two distinct pathways that allow pupils to do their best. We will get academic and vocational pupils, and pupils can tailor the curriculum to their interest. But industry partners will be coming in and will be providing lectures and activities ,and setting up employer led projects where youngsters see how skills are applied in real life.
“Students that come to study at the UTC Doncaster will come to study specialisms in engineering or creative digital technologies and what we’re hoping to see is high enthusiasm high engagement and ultimately that’s going to lead to better outcomes for students moving forward.”