Byline: Niki Chesworth
"WHEN teachers hear about our approach to learning they jump at it," says Charles Parker, CEO of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust (BDT), which was founded by Lord Baker and Lord Dearing to promote university technical colleges (UTCs).
UTCs are a new concept in education providing 14 to 18-year-olds with fulltime, technically-oriented teaching. Sponsored by a university, they offer a clear progression route into work or further learning with a curriculum heavily influenced by local and national employers that also provide support and work experience for students.
They specialise in subjects that require technical and modern equipment, for example, engineering, product design, health sciences, construction and land and environmental services. However they all teach business skills and the use of ICT with the specialism, reflecting the university's areas of excellence.
For example, the Elstree UTC has a special focus on the technical skills, trades, crafts and technologies that support the entertainment, film, television, theatre, visual arts and digital communication industries.
It is being run with the University of Hertfordshire and has links with many employers including the BBC and the Ambassador Theatre Group.
The Royal Greenwich UTC specialises in engineering, construction and related industries including architecture, computer engineering and product design. Employer sponsors include Transport for London and Wates Group, which have taken an active role in defining the UTC curriculum.
Ford, on the other hand, is sponsoring the East London University Technical College, which is linked with both University College London and Loughborough University. This focus on technical skills rather than simply GCSE and A-level passes requires a different approach to teaching.
"Of course the teachers we are looking to recruit need to be qualified, but they also need to want to teach a very different curriculum from normal schools and this is because the employers and the universities that control UTCs are clear about needing an integrated curriculum with project-based learning," says Parker.
Tottenham UTC's approach to education extends to developing the employability of students, by engaging them in high-quality, technical, practical work and business-related learning.
When it opens in September 2014, it will specialise in applied scientific skills for students with a focus on business enterprise and work.
"Our unique curriculum will allow us to deliver all of the traditional subjects, but deliver them through real-life, pioneering technological projects codesigned with our employer sponsors and partners," says Zenna Atkins, director of Tottenham UTC.
"It will be a different curriculum and will give students a head-start to work in broad-ranging fields of science and engineering, with a particular focus on how these are applied. Every student will have an individual business mentor and will be working with our worldclass sponsors including Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, Middlesex University, Festo, National Instruments, Fusion Lifestyle, Mindsets and the Tottenham Hotpsur Foundation."
A DIFFERENT APPROACH "The teaching that happens in UTCs is very different to what happens in other schools," adds Parker.
"For a start, we do not compartmentalise education. So while we teach the core curriculum including maths and English, this is often part of projectbased learning.
"This integrated curriculum, with applied learning through projects is very different from the usual subjectbased teaching to the test. Teachers will also be teaching a specific age group within a free-standing technical school for up to 800 pupils. …