Principal's Blog, Week 35 of 2019

This week has been incredible for meeting new students and their families alongside potential students who are considering joining our UTC family. In fact, myself and Jo have been meeting up to 8 families a day! This has got me thinking a lot about what our visitors perceive a UTC to be when they are looking around. Our staff and students get to see the amazing work we do everyday, but do our outsiders get the full experience in a short visit? So, I thought it would be helpful to look at what a UTC is and isn’t and answer some FAQ

1 – Why do people join a UTC at age 14 instead of 11?

At 11, it is essential that students study a broad range of subjects to build their general knowledge and education base and expose them to the range of learning topics available. A curriculum that we are currently creating for our Year 7 students. However, by the age of 13/14 most students will have a good idea of which subjects interest them most. Indeed the current system already asks students to make big decisions with regards to their career options by the age of 14 when they choose their GCSE and BTEC options. Unfortunately, this means that by the age of 16, some students will have already made decisions which could make a technical career difficult.
By joining a UTC at 13 or 14, it gives the students earlier exposure to the world of work and ensures you are doing the right subjects to leave open as many STEAM careers as possible

2 – Isn’t this too young to specialise?

No, the skills and qualifications offered by a UTC, whilst being technically biased, still set the students up for a wide career of non-technical careers. Indeed the professional and personal skills the UTC will embed in its students are likely to be highly sought after by employers and higher education providers. Exposure to other cultures, including our exchange partner in France and a variety of clubs, will enable students to maintain their interests in, for example, sport and music.

3 – What makes a UTC different from any other school?

UTC Plymouth is designed to furnish students with the skills and qualifications they need to work in or study further towards technical careers. This is achieved by a specially tailored curriculum, including BTECs in engineering, information technology and EAL in Vehicle Technology. The UTC operates a business day of 08.40 – 1600, with students working on enrichment and support programmes until 17.00. The extra teaching time this provides, allows for students to engage with local businesses in projects as well as extra enrichment activities including: Green Power; Welding Qualification or the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) to name a few. We also give dedicated time for independent study. One of the main differences in a UTC, is the way in which our subjects are taught. All learning is linked to the real world through challenges and projects. The teaching staff will be formed of a mix of traditionally qualified teachers and individuals, recruited from industry to bring a diversity of experience. The UTC also has a much larger catchment area than mainstream schools with many students travelling long distances every day to receive our specialist education offer.

4. Is it easier to study at UTC Plymouth than ‘traditional schools’?

We often get mistaken for a school that is for students that can’t cope in mainstream education. This is not the case. Please don’t think it’s an easy option; it is hard work and requires complete dedication. The specialist curriculum means that we expect high quality results. You will reap the benefits of our curriculum with 100% of our students moving on to further education, work or apprenticeships.

5. Do you only teach STEAM subjects?

No! We pride ourselves on teaching students a variety of skills and promote a love for learning. You have to write extended pieces regularly, with technical accuracy, read books and analyse poetry! However, our lesson are taught with passion and skill. All students receive oracy lessons too as we passionately believe that students need to be fantastic communicators. We offer a combination of GCSEs and BTECs in order to provide the best set of qualifications for potential employers! Homework and revision is timely and relevant- there is no exceptions for it to be in complete! We also offer PE and wellbeing lessons to support physical and mental health.

University Technical Colleges (UTCs) offer a new concept in education for 13-19 year olds. They give students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM) the opportunity to study at a specialist institution equipped to the highest standards and linked to industry. From 2020, this unique offer will be extended to Year 7! If you are interested in wanting to pursue a career in STEAM, then come and take a look at our college.

Next Open Evening 10th July 4 – 7pm

La Rochelle
It’s been a jam-packed week so far! Many of our students have taken up the opportunity to visit our exchange school in France. They have had factory visits to a local boat builder, a manufacturer of compactors for bin lorries, had a tour of La Rochelle (which turned into a 16km hike), visited the beach and harbour plus canoed along the canal. I would like to thank our lovely French hosts who have made the visit so worthwhile for staff and students. We have missed them all and can’t wait to catch up with them on their return.

The Big Build
In the absence of garden furniture our enterprising Year 10 students turned their skills to making some out of pallets. We have been very successful in gaining donations from our online plea, only last Sunday. Thank you to everyone who has supported us and for the continued donations. Thursday was a hive of activity with saws and hammers as students started to design and build! Great job guys; such spirit and teamwork!

Our new RSC
UTC Plymouth welcomed our new Regional Schools Commissioner Hannah Woodhouse, Leader of Plymouth City Council, Tudor Evans and many other South West leaders to the first Plymouth Education series event. There was a Brilliant talk by Ian Bauckham on evidence based learning. Jo and I made lots of notes and we can’t wait to share the messages with our teachers. We are striving to have the best teaching and learning. To do this, we have to give our staff the training and skills. Our first week back in September is dedicated to training and that all our staff understand the #UTCway. A big thanks you to all staff who made the event run so smoothly – such teamwork. In particular, I want to point out that the food was delicious – Jess ‘High five’ you really are a superstar. Finally, a huge well done to our students.They took on the role of car parking attendants, meet and greet in receptions, tour guides and ushers. All of our guests commented on how wonderful our students were with their social skills, politeness and confidence. #proudparents

The Big Clean Up
In preparation for our growth in September, both staff and students have been working hard on our make-over to create zones and spaces for our new year groups. There has been some heavy lifting, cleaning and general tidying. Students have been fundamental in making the school look amazing. Jo, Mike and Andy could not have done it without them- sometimes we forget they are students and not employees. Now we are ready to welcome our new students into their fantastic hubs! Great work everyone and keep going with your inspirational ideas. We can’t wait for our transition days next week: Tuesday new Year 9, Wednesday new Year 10 and Thursday Sixth Form. We still have spaces so please spread the word.

Engineering Education Scheme
I am proud to announce that UTC Plymouth won the Engineering Education Scheme Innovation award this week held at Plymouth University. Our team, represented by Year 12 Richard Platts (rest of team were in France) stormed to victory with the ‘on board stretcher’ a piece of engineering that allows patients to be transported on a vessel. A big thank you to our engineering staff who supported the team!

Links to Industry
Davy from ERA Fit spent the day with our engineering students as they help build bespoke gym equipment. Over the watchful eye of Davy, our students looked through the designs and started to build one of ERA Fits brand new pieces of kit. The students are working from industry-standard CAD drawings and need to use the skills that they have learned and inevitably honed whilst studying their Level 3 Engineering and Manufacturing qualification. It’s exciting stuff!

At the other end of the spectrum, we were pleased to invite South West Lakes Trust (SWLT) to UTC Plymouth this week, where some of our Level 3 Computing students receive feedback about an Android app they they are in the process of building. SWLT have approached our students and asked them to design and build a bespoke app to support the Invasive Species programme that SWLT are part of. Earlier, the students submitted various iOS and Android designs for the app as part of their BTEC Level 3 studies and this week saw the feedback directly from SWLT. The app is being designed and built in-house and will be ready for September so watch this space!

We are very proud to be able to provide solid and consistent links to industry and this is another thing that sets us apart as a UTC. Our learners frequently work with professionals within industry and alongside their studies will gain experience that will make more valuable within the work place.

Finally, the sun is shining in Plymouth and it looks like a good weekend to get out and enjoy the fresh air! We are so excited to welcome our new students next week who are starting in September. Our Year 11’s and 13’s are really looking forward to making Year 9, 10 and 11 feel welcome! If you are coming in next week, we are providing breakfast and lunch.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!