My experience of the UTC – A parent’s perspective
Jonathan & Natasha are parents of Year 9 student, Breanna, who left her previous school at the end of Year 8 and joined UTC Derby Pride Park at the start of Year 9.
How did you first hear about the UTC?
Part way through Breanna’s Year 8 at her previous school we received a letter from the local authority making sure we were aware that she could apply to join UTC Derby Pride Park for Year 9. When we checked the website we were intrigued by the options it offered and when we presented the idea to Breanna she loved the idea so much that we decided to contact UTC. We had missed one open evening and so they arranged a private tour for us one night and we ended up being shown round by the head of engineering and the head of science.
What impressed you about the UTC?
The UTC was extraordinarily strong in engineering and science subjects and it was focussed on developing skills that future employees wanted. It had developed strong links with its partners. The UTC seemed dedicated to creating a future for the children, it wasn’t simply about a curriculum. The enrichment projects sounded exciting, and time being given to life skills made us feel that the wellbeing of the children and the drive to succeed was at the heart of the UTC. They were trying to support a young individual and help them to grow on their learning journey. The staff on our tour were very patient and answered all our questions, allayed our concerns and showed their passion for the project they were following.
What made you take the plunge and help Breanna to move to the UTC?
While her previous school talked a good game, they had never fulfilled their promises on providing a good education or a duty of care that we had expected. Breanna had become withdrawn and lost in the mix. Bullying had been an issue in her group of friends. Seeing Breanna’s eyes light up at the thought of the things she could study made us realise that this was something to pursue, and we completed the application there and then. We returned to the UTC for an evening with some of the current pupils and staff and at the end of it we knew we were making the right choice, even if we had a few logistics to sort.
Why did Breanna decide to specialise in Engineering and Systems, Control & Electronics?
Breanna is very creative and inventive – she never really had a chance to do anything quite like it at her previous school and the hands-on element was a massive draw. Just seeing the massive workshop with all the equipment showed the investment in practical learning. The ability to work with companies like Toyota and Rolls-Royce on projects was exciting. Initially she had chosen her option as Product Design, but after several weeks of talking to her new friends at the UTC she was intrigued by the Systems, Control & Electronics option and the UTC made it easy for her to switch over and catch up.
What has the support for learning been like during the pandemic and lockdown?
Obviously the COVID pandemic and lockdowns have created challenges for her first year at the UTC. Certain enrichment programmes haven’t been able to be run and access to facilities shared by Derby College for Physical Education has been limited. The UTC hasn’t rested on its laurels, however, and has adapted to the challenges that have been created. We got our first taste of remote learning when a positive test result caused the bubble Breanna was in to be sent home for two weeks. The UTC very promptly and professionally sent everyone home and pivoted to starting a remote learning the very next day. Instead of just giving students a pack of work and expecting them to complete it with little input, the UTC created a remote learning timetable utilizing things such as Microsoft Teams to provide a virtual classroom. They valued the importance of trying to keep the structure of the day similar and have a good access to teachers. They also realised the importance of not having students attached to their screens for the entire school day. This approach was vastly above our experiences with other schools. We would check in on her from time to time, but we could confidently leave her to it. What really impressed us was that even though this approach was great, they were still committed to improving the learning experience and throughout the current lockdown it has.
How do you think Breanna is getting on?
Breanna has grown in confidence and stature. It has been a good new start for her, it is no longer about surviving, she is engaged with learning once more. Breanna really enjoys going to the UTC and is often sad when the holidays roll around. She has developed a good set of new friends at UTC which she is constantly in touch with.
What would you say to other parents?
That you and your child should organise a visit and talk to the UTC staff. The facilities for engineering and science are incredible. Once you have heard their passion and vision for what they are doing, you will realise that this is a perfect place for them to develop themselves and learn essential skills that employers are looking for. It is a safe place where intelligence is celebrated.