From education to employment

Bristol MP and major local employers visit Stoke Gifford school’s Engineering Centre to see how it champions technical education

Jack Lopresti MP and several major regional employers visited Abbeywood Community School’s Engineering Centre this week to understand how it is teaching technical skills to secondary school pupils.

The Filton and Bradley Stoke MP met students, staff, and stakeholders at the Stoke Gifford centre last Friday and heard how the centre’s revolutionary model could be replicated across the country.

The centre, formerly Bristol Engineering and Technology Academy, has since September 2022 delivered Abbeywood’s Engineering Pathway. This allows students to study two or three different areas of engineering alongside standard school subjects such as English and PE and an optional humanities, a language, or extra science subject.

Students from the Olympus Academy Trust, of which Abbeywood is part, also have the option to study a single engineering pathway by travelling from their home school to the Engineering Centre for five hours of engineering over the fortnight.

Engineering Centre pioneering new technical education model

Abbeywood’s centre is hoped to be the first in a series of ‘UTC Sleeves’ – which deliver the model of a University Technical College, of which there are 47 across England, within an existing secondary school.

University Technical Colleges are secondary schools delivering a science and technology curriculum that is informed by local businesses. Employers play a similar role in UTC Sleeves such as Abbeywood’s Engineering Centre and a number of high-profile employers attended the visit on Friday. This included Airbus and Rolls-Royce.

The visitors toured the centre then sat down for a discussion with school staff and representatives from the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which represents the network of around 50 UTCs, about how Abbeywood delivers the engineering pathway, how students are benefiting from the provision, and how the UTC Sleeve initiative works.

The Baker Dearing Educational Trust, chaired by former education secretary Lord Baker, earlier this year launched a consultation on expanding the UTC Sleeve initiative nationwide. The Department for Education is now considering the proposals.

Filton and Bradley Stoke MP Jack Lopresti commented:

“It was fantastic to visit the Engineering Centre at Abbeywood Community School. I often hear from employers that they need young, skilled professionals to deliver much needed innovation and extra capacity. The Centre is a unique opportunity, bringing the first-rate technical education of the UTC programme to a leading secondary school.

“I always come away from visits to schools in my constituency like Abbeywood with renewed optimism for the country’s future.”

Baker Dearing Educational Trust chairman Lord Baker commented:

“Abbeywood’s Engineering Centre is pioneering a revolutionary delivery model for technical education, the UTC Sleeve. This will bring together employers and educators within leading local secondaries to deliver a modern curriculum that meets an evidenced need locally for skilled young professionals.

“It is an approach we hope to replicate across the country, building on the success of the UTC programme. We know University Technical Colleges deliver successful outcomes for young people, with three-quarters of last year’s UTC leavers progressing onto apprenticeships or university.”

The Olympus Academy Trust chief executive Dave Baker commented:

“We are delighted to be hosting Jack Lopresti, MP for a visit to Abbeywood Community School this Friday as he has championed vocational learning opportunities and employer engagement and involvement in education.

“We will be showcasing our plans for developing the Engineering Centre at Abbeywood as a specialist centre for Olympus students who wish to follow an engineering pathway within the curriculum for pre-16 or post-16 study.

“We are pioneering this approach with support from the Baker Dearing Educational Trust as other educational establishments across the country will want to develop similar opportunities elsewhere in due course.

“We are especially pleased to be hosting representatives from a number of significant local and global employers at the event as we hope to develop working partnerships with them to support our curriculum and to prepare future employees for them. These are exciting times to be a student within The Olympus Academy Trust.”

Abbeywood Community School headteacher Benjamin Dilley commented:

“As Abbeywood Community School continues to develop our ambitious engineering curriculum offer to students both from the school, Olympus Academy Trust and wider area, I am thrilled to welcome Jack Lopresti and local industry experts.

“We have developed an engineering pathway that will inspire young people and nurture their skills so that employers have a talent pool at their disposal.

“We are hoping that with the support of local and central government, we can grow our offer at Abbeywood Community School and are excited about attracting greater employer engagement from those companies attending.

“Our ambitious, confident and successful engineering students are also excited about the prospect of meeting our visitors.”

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