Government grant gives green light to Ron Dearing UTC expansion

09th Nov

Hull’s employer-led school, Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC), has received approval and funding for major expansion plans.

Ron Dearing UTC has been awarded a grant of just over £3.7 million to increase its capacity by reconfiguring space in the school’s existing building and creating a hi-tech new Centre for Sustainability in Hull’s former Central Fire Station, next to the school. 

Focusing on decarbonisation and renewables, the expansion will support the Humber’s growth as a leading region for green energy technologies by providing local industry with an additional 100 highly skilled and qualified potential employees every year.

The grant funding for the expansion is from the Department for Education’s Post-16 Capacity Fund, launched earlier this year to ensure schools and colleges can accommodate an expected increase in sixth-form students. Ron Dearing UTC is one of 39 providers across England that have been awarded a total of £83 million from the fund.

The Ron Dearing UTC expansion will enable an additional 200 students to study Level 3 qualifications in engineering, creative and digital, increasing the school’s overall capacity to 800 students.

The expansion plans have been drawn up in consultation with parents, local employers, the Hull and East Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce, Hull City Council and the region’s post-16 education providers. They have been informed by a review of the renewables, engineering and digital curriculum available locally, which highlighted the need to increase places on Level 3 academic applied technical qualifications.

Ron Dearing UTC principal Sarah Pashley said: “This is great news for the region and its young people. Having received approval for our application for funding, we can now focus on turning our plans into reality.

“We’re really excited by this opportunity to offer more students the chance to benefit from our unique employer-led education model and increase the pipeline of talent we provide to local employers.

“We are extremely concerned about climate change and want to play our part in supporting the Humber’s contribution to meeting the UK’s net zero target. As jobs in the green energy sector grow rapidly, our expansion will ensure significantly more local young people are well placed to take advantage of these opportunities.  

“Our vision is for our Centre for Sustainability to be a ‘smart building’ that is used as a teaching resource for our students and a model of outstanding practice in terms of green renovation projects.

“I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to our amazing employer partners – without their outstanding support this project would not be possible. The backing we have received from Hull City Council has also been crucial, as the council is leasing the former fire station building to us on a long-term peppercorn rent.”

Richard Martin, customer experience director at Arco and Ron Dearing UTC’s chairman of governors, said: “Matching our curriculum with the needs of the region’s employers is what we do best at Ron Dearing.

“This funding allows Sarah and her team to give our students the relevant skills they need to support the region’s ambitious growth plans in the renewables and sustainability sector, as well as expanding our digital capabilities. I’m delighted the DFE is supporting our growth and giving us the tools we need to take our partnerships with the region’s employers to the next level.”

The new Centre of Sustainability is expected to open in September 2022. It will feature renewables workshops as well as digital studios equipped with computer-aided design (CAD), augmented reality and virtual reality software as well as 3D printers. The facilities and equipment will enable students to create product prototypes to address real world industry challenges.  

Additional Sixth Form independent study space will be incorporated into the Centre for Sustainability and the school’s existing Ørsted Library. In addition, a number of new science labs will be developed within the school’s current building to broaden the highly successful science curriculum to include digital health.

The Department for Education’s support for the expansion plans reflects Ron Dearing UTC’s success in producing young people with advanced engineering, creative and digital skills for local industry, as well as the school’s status as the only provider in Hull judged as “Outstanding” by Ofsted for post-16 provision.

Ron Dearing UTC caters for students aged from 14 to 19 and offers a unique model of employer-led education with a specialist focus on digital technology, creative digital and digital engineering.

The school has been oversubscribed every year since it opened in September 2017 and has an impressive record for student destinations, with over half of Year 13 leavers progressing to apprenticeships at Level 4 or degree level, compared with just 6% nationally.

Ron Dearing UTC is supported by many of the region’s leading employers, including KCOM, Reckitt, Siemens Gamesa, Smith+Nephew, Spencer Group, Arco and Ørsted. The employer partners are actively involved with the school at all levels, including leadership and governance, curriculum design and delivery, mentoring students and providing sought-after apprenticeship opportunities.

The former Central Fire Station building originally opened in 1929 and was rebuilt after the Second World War. It closed in 2017 and Hull City Council subsequently acquired the site with a view to identifying a new use for the building.

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