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Published 27th Apr 2011

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Middlesbrough College is bidding to develop a University Technical College as part of its group, in a move that would revolutionise the way education is delivered to teenagers in the Tees Valley.

The college’s bid has gone to the Government which is behind the push for UTCs and would mean a new £10m-plus ‘college’ for 500 to 800 pupils being built at the Middlehaven site.

This would be in addition to the Sixth Form College already announced. Work is due to start on construction of the sixth form later this year and the doors will open in time for the 2012 academic year.

A new concept in education, UTCs aim to offer 14-19 year olds technically-based courses at specialist colleges and are seen as a way of engaging pupils more interested in practical subjects.

UTCs have to be sponsored by a University and Teesside University is fully behind the plan – Middlesbrough and Stockton Councils have also given their support on the proviso that it will respond to an identified local skills gap.

As well as studying technical subjects UTC students would take GCSEs in the core subjects of English, maths, science and IT. They would also take part in sports and learn how to set up a business.

Middlesbrough College Principal Mike Hopkins, said: “There is a compelling case for UTCs – some students are very capable of taking vocational decisions at the age of 14. They know what they want to do.

“It is these students the new UTC would attract from across the Tees Valley. We are looking at offering specialisms in engineering – both traditional and digital.

“The new college would be fully equipped with state-of-the-art modern equipment and would give young people the perfect platform from which to launch a technically-based career.

“Middlesbrough College would pay for half the cost of building the college and the bid is for the other half from the Government.”

“One of the criteria of the bid is that you have to have employers already signed up to support the UTC and we have great interest from some fantastic companies across the Tees Valley. We will be looking to them for apprenticeship placements and release, as well as keeping us up to date with the latest in their industries.

“This is about looking at the bigger picture and seeing that not everyone is an academic high-flyer. It is a ground–breaking initiative that could have a major impact on youth unemployment in the Tees Valley.

“UTCs are about what is right for young people across the board not what is right for those who deliver education and I must applaud the far-sightedness of those who have agreed to get on-board with us in this exciting venture.”

“With the support of the University, local authorities and those employers we believe we are in with a great chance of making a successful bid.

The Government put aside £150m to establish 24 UTCs in its last budget and sets out its reasons in a document which says: “In the education system half of our young people do not obtain five good GCSEs including English and maths.

“The reasons are various but include disengagement and lack of motivation. There are many young people who could achieve more but whose technical talents and predisposing are being neither utilised nor brought to fruition.

“International and historical evidence shows the necessity for good technical education for England to compete and lead the world.

“We are about to embark on the building of new power stations, developing fast rails links, more waste disposal plants, wind farms and more carbon efficient houses.

“It is vital that we have the right degree of skills at all levels, from the mechanic and the plumber - to the graduate engineer and the post graduate nuclear researcher, to master all these opportunities.”

John Catron, deputy director children, families and learning, for Middlesbrough Council, said: “The proposed UTC at Middlehaven will improve motivation, raise aspirations and widen horizons for a generation of Middlesbrough’s young people.”

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