Science school at region’s heart

North East Futures UTC will be a part of a revolution in vocational learning in the region, as we learn talking to principal Dan Sydes

Newcastle’s Stephenson Quarter, home of Robert Stephenson’s Works where the Rocket was built in 1829, was at the heart of the First Industrial Revolution.
Now it’s set to be a driver of the next revolutions in IT and in Life Sciences as the location of a new college to arm young people for successful careers in these sectors.

North East Futures University Technology College is being built on the site of the Locomotive Works and in part of the original building.

It is important that in the city centre it will be surrounded by modern high tech firms for it will work closely with businesses to fully prepare young people for fulfilling careers in IT and Health Care Sciences and give those sectors much needed, highly skilled workers.

UTCs, which are government funded, teach 14 to 18-year-olds, with an emphasis on STEM subjects, and with the close involvement of local employers.
Students study the national curriculum, but with heavy emphasis on tech.

New principal Dan Sydes has moved from Reading, from being vice principal of a highly successful UTC, where he learned the value of business involvement.
He says: “The new unique feature of the UTC is you actually get to do real life projects and find out what it is like going to work.’’

North East Future’s founding sponsors are Accenture, The Academic Health Science Network, Sunderland University, Dynamo, Ubisoft, Sage and the NHS. It also has supporting partners including companies such as Kromek, Datatrial and biotech company Glythera.

Sydes adds: “The main thing that attracts parents and young people is that they get to work with professionals from these businesses and from all of the Dynamo network, the NHS and private sector health science companies.’’

When full, the college will have 600 students from across the region. At Key Stage 4 they will cover core GCSEs in English, maths, science and computer science and will pick options and specialism subjects including in health science and IT, with further options to study subjects such as language or art and students will take core sports and ethics which will be non-examined.

Sixth formers choose a selection of A-levels including three sciences, maths, further maths computer science or biomed or a blend of these, along with access to projects and work experience.

“The students will meet the requirements of the national curriculum but the involvement of employers will be central and there will be much more learning based around projects done with our industry partners and work experience,’’ says Sydes. “They will also have access to further technical awards on top of their academic curriculum.’’

The UTC’s specialisms have been chosen for their importance to the regional economy.

The North East is the biggest area for health science in the country and there are thousands of vacancies for careers. The IT industry is also huge in the region, which is why Dynamo is one of our biggest sponsors.

North East futures, will be heavily career focused, placing heavy emphasis on preparation for employment as well as university. The working day will run from 9am to 5pm.

Sydes explains: “This is to get students fully accustomed and prepared, so when they’re at work they already know what they’re doing. The feedback from businesses and other organisations is that a lot of young people aren’t ready for the workplace. We are going to address that. Obviously, like any school we will have very high expectations and will push students to achieve their best and we’ll have a very clear code of conduct. We have a balancing act between being a school and being a business.’’

And if the right balance is struck, North East Futures will help drive the region’s economy.
“Our graduates will be the most employable, they’re going to have a direct pipeline into these key sectors, they’re going to have a positive impact on the economy, they’re going to fill skills gaps, they’re going to fill all these vacancies so organisations don’t have to look outside the region to recruit.’’