Youngsters get their first taste of Doncaster’s new University Technology College

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It is the college that is set to revolutionise education for hundreds of pupils across Doncaster.

And youngsters and their families have finally got their first taste of the Doncaster University Technology College, due to open in Doncaster town centre next year.

Youngsters from across the borough met the business leaders and teachers who are behind the plans for the college, at a launch event at Cast Theatre, close to the Waterdale site where the college will be built.

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It is the first time the public has had the chance to meet them.

The education trust which will run the new college is due to be created in September, with the first pupils due to start in 2020. It is expected that a principal will be appointed in the next few weeks..

There will be a year nine intake and a year 12 intake in 2020, when it opens.

Businesses including Polypipe, Unipart Rail, Skanska, and Volker Rail were among those attending the launch, running activities for youngsters to try, and talking to them about the plans, which are intended to train youngsters with the technical skills that employers say they need, in an environment that is different to a mainstream school.

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Families at the event told how they felt the scheme would help their youngsters maximise their chances of finding jobs.

Mike and Angela Bailey, from Edlington, are considering the UTC as a possible destination for their sons, Aaron, 14, and Lewis.

Dad Mike is himself from an engineering background, working for Polypipe.

The family visited the launch together.

Lewis, who would like to be an architect, was impressed by what he saw. He said: “I think its something that I’d like. I’m still thinking about what I’d like to do.”

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Aaron said: “I think I’d like to go into engineering, and I’m interested in the UTC.”

Mum Angela said: “I like that they work with local companies and it looks like there are good employment prospects after they leave. They tell us that UTCs have less than one per cent who don't go on to education, employment or training.

“When it opens in 2020 Aaron will be moving to year 11, so it could be post 16 for him.”

Dad Neil Calow, from Hatfield, brought son Zack, aged 14, and daughter Tayla, aged 11, to the launch.

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Zack thought the new college was a good idea. He said: “I think it would help me get a job, but I’m not too sure what I want to do yet.”

Tayla said she thought she may like to go to the UTC.

Neil said he had read about the UTC in the Free Press. He said: “From my point of view, I think that it’s good that there is a college dedicated to engineering skills, which would be good for technical and design oriented education. The man from Polypipe we spoke to said it was like a stepping stone between apprenticeships and university, and I would be happy to see my kids there if they’re interested.”

Mum Sadia Ahmed visited the launch with son Adam, aged 14. She said: “I think its fantastic. We’ve spoken to a couple of employers here today. We’d always thought about A-levels and university, but this makes you realise that there are other things that you can do. It is an option that Adam can look at for after he has done his GCSEs.

“I would have not thought about and apprenticeship before.”

Adam, who is interested in computer science and design, said: “It’s good to see the options, and to talk to employers about their experiences.”

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Melissa Flett, the human resources Director at Polypipe and a director of the UTC, said interest in the new college was increasing among employers. In the last few weeks she had seen a number of employers coming forward to ask to become involved in the project.

She spent the day working on the launch event, and met a group of primary school pupils who had expressed an interest in working in engineering.

She said: “We have been talking to parents and children. In some case their current secondary school provision is not capturing the interest of the students. The standard curriculum is not always enough for all children. The UTC provides relevant variation.

“We have had clear interest and enthusiasm.”

“But the UTC will only be successful with industry involvement, so the more industry is there the better. We had a recent curriculum event, and we have had more businesses showing an interest.”

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UTC chairman Dan Fell said the college was still on track to open in 2020.

He said: “Today's event has been a landmark because it we have effectively opened our doors to parents and communities and young people so they can familiarise themselves with the project.”

He expects to announce the appointment of a principal for the college imminently.

The new college will be run by an education trust which will also include Hungerhill Academy in Edenthorpe, as well as Kirk Sandall Junior School, Kirk Sandall Infants, Dunsville Primary, Barnby Dun Primary and West Road Primary in Thorne.

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The new trust will be called the Brighter Futures Learning Partnership Trust, and the chief executive will be the current principal of Hungerhill, Helen Redford-Hernandez, who was involved in the application to the Government for the project.

She said: “Children and parents need to know all their options, and hopefully they will see there is a distinct identity to the UTC. I think it is important that there are different pathways for our young people to be successful.

“I think this complements the existing curriculum that places like my school are able to provide. We are working with other education partnerships as well including Hall Cross, Doncaster College, XP school, and we believe that collectively we offer a universal offer for all young people.

“At Hungerhill, we don’t have a sixth form. A lot of students go to post 16 but not always the right course, and worse still, a lot of young people leave Doncaster because they don’t understand the jobs, skills and opportunities that Doncaster needs.

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“We are not a university town, but Doncaster has a bit of a boom going on. We want a state of the art education system that gives diversity. If they want to students can do a degree through one of the Sheffield universities, level three at the University technology college or move to a level four at Hallam. We don’t have a university campus in Doncaster so sometimes people feel they have to leave.

“This will give our young people more choice, diversity and different pathways to reach where they want to go.”

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