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Labour Shadow Schools Minister visits UTC South Durham

The Labour Shadow Schools Minister has heard how high demand for technical education has created cost and catchment issues at UTC South Durham in Newton Aycliffe.

Catherine McKinnell MP heard during a visit last Friday that the University Technical College has shrunk its catchment area due to a high demand for Year 10 places.

UTC South Durham is also having to spend a quarter of a million pounds on transporting students, who live across the North-East.

McKinnell was impressed by the UTC, praising the “fabulous” tour she was given by Year 10 students Chloe Vaughan and Lennon Gamble.

Speaking after the visit, in a video for her X/Twitter channel, McKinnell said: “It’s been great to see young people so enthusiastic about their education, happy to come to school every day, and really getting stuck in on building not just their skills for today but their skills for life.”

The Newcastle North MP was joined on the tour, which took place during National Apprenticeship Week, by Kim McGuinness, Labour’s candidate for North East Mayor, and Alan Strickland, who is Labour’s candidate for the Newton Aycliffe & Spennymoor Constituency, as well as the UTC’s leaders and supporters.

UTC creates an ‘atmosphere of confidence and well-being’

Chloe and Lennon showed the group around the UTC’s state-of-the-art engineering facilities and highlighted how there was an atmosphere of support, respect for students and focus on careers at the UTC, which they had not found in their previous schools.

McKinnell was told how the UTC, based on Long Tens Way, attracts students from a wide area of the North-East due to strong employer links with major local firms such as Hitachi Rail and manufacturer Gestamp Tallent.

This demand for places is behind the school’s shrinking catchment area and why it has to spend £250,000 a year on transport, the Labour MP was told.

Need for greater funding for technical education discussed

With UTC South Durham’s leaders and representatives from UTC support body the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, McKinnell also discussed the need for more funding to deliver technical subjects at pre-16 and Labour’s pledge for a curriculum review if it wins the next General Election.

Baker Dearing also raised its proposal for UTC Sleeves, which replicate the technical education that UTCs like South Durham deliver within an existing school. The UTC Sleeve demands fewer resources than an entirely new school and can help expand the delivery of technical education to a wider number of students.

Labour MP and Shadow Schools Minister Catherine McKinnell MP commented after the visit:

“Speaking to staff and pupils, the commitment to providing academic, technical and professional skills and opportunities was clear, as well as their determination to give young people the breadth of education they need to find the right next step for them.

“A Labour Government would prioritise ensuring every young person has the best opportunities, with a Curriculum and Assessment Review to ensure that all schools can deliver a rich and broad curriculum so that young people see and receive the full benefits of an excellent education.”

UTC South Durham Principal Tom Dower commented:

“It was fantastic to welcome Catherine McKinnell MP, Kim McGuinness and Alan Strickland to UTC South Durham.

“Our students were excellent ambassadors for the employer-led education we provide and the visit also provided a perfect opportunity to discuss the pressures that schools are dealing with at the moment.”

“The curriculum we deliver and our strong links with local employers help prepare our young people for their careers and life journeys. Last year, six times more of our students progressed onto apprenticeships than the national average.”

The full transcript of Catherine McKinnell MP’s X video:

“We’ve had such a wonderful visit at UTC South Durham today.

“We’ve had a fabulous tour from two of the students who’ve really explained to us why this education for them has really worked in terms of combining their love of science, technology, engineering, and maths, but also the very practical skills they get to put in place. Also to get their hands-on experience of making and designing things and all the engineering, technology, and computer science that goes into that.

“It’s been great to see young people so enthusiastic about their education, happy to come to school every day and really getting stuck in on building not just their skills for today, but their skills for life.

“It’s been a great visit and thanks very much to UTC South Durham for hosting us today.”

Pictured top (left to right): Tom Dower (UTC Principal), Catherine McKinnell MP, Kim McGuinness, Alan Strickland, David Land (UTC Chair of Governors), Catherine Purvis-Mawson (UTC Deputy Principal).