A leading education expert has hailed Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC) as a flagship school and praised staff for transforming the lives of students.
Robert Halfon, Chair of the Education Select Committee and Conservative MP for Harlow in Essex, took time out from his Parliamentary roles to visit Hull’s employer-led school.
He met Principal Sarah Pashley and her Senior Leadership Team, spoke to students, observed engineering, maths and digital media lessons, experienced virtual reality technology and met two former students who have been taken on as apprentices by one of the school’s Founding Partners, Spencer Group.
Mr Halfon also took questions from Year 13 students about online learning, apprenticeships and concerns about exams in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Halfon said: “Ron Dearing UTC is one of the flagship UTCs and it’s been a pleasure to visit because everything I believe about in education seems to be reflected in the ethos of this school.
“It is clearly transforming the lives of hundreds of students. Some of them may not have been so successful in their traditional schools previously, but they clearly love learning here.
“They told me a key reason they came to this school is because they’ve got a very good chance of having a great career afterwards.
“To me, this is the future and this school is truly fit for the 21st century. The organisational ethos is second to none and there is a really great atmosphere.
“It’s all down to leadership. Every time I’ve visited a great school, I’ve found it’s because it has a brilliant leadership team.”
Mr Halfon added: “I’m a huge supporter of UTCs because I think they’re the future of learning and they’re doing things that are absolutely vital because the world is changing. I would love it if there were many more UTCs like Ron Dearing UTC – one in every town and city.
“A fourth industrial revolution is under way, driven by technology, and 28% of jobs that are currently done by young people could be lost to automation.
“This is why education has to change. Students here are destined for good jobs with blue chip companies – they’re the people who are going to thrive in this new industrial revolution.”
Mr Halfon took time for a Q&A session with students and said he understood their concerns regarding the impact of Covid-19 on education.
Year 13 student Alex Burr, 17, asked Mr Halfon for his thoughts on costly university fees as face-to-face learning has decreased and more tuition is carried out online. Alex suggested universities should offer a discount when they were unable to offer their usual curriculum. Mr Halfon agreed that she had a very good point and said he would raise Alex’s concerns with ministers.
Principal Sarah Pashley said she was delighted the visit was able to go ahead despite the challenges posed by Covid-19.
She said: “It’s a really key time for a visit such as this because education is facing many challenges at the moment and it’s really good to have somebody who is influential in Government to feed back the views of staff and students.
“Mr Halfon has certainly been very interested to hear what we have to say about how we get through the difficult next 12 months in education. It’s also great to meet someone who is clearly a huge supporter of technical education and apprenticeships and understands how education needs to change.
“We’re very passionate about our curriculum, with its balance between technical and academic learning, the opportunities it provides for students to apply theory to real practice and the very strong partnerships we have with our employer sponsors and the University of Hull.
“Mr Halfon seems to agree with us that this approach is the way forward for education in this country. We really hope he is able to take this back to government and that we may be able to bring about some much-needed change in terms of the education in the UK.”