The boss of the region’s first University Technical College (UTC) says the beginning of construction in Newton Aycliffe marks a “very exciting moment”.
Work has now started on the £10m UTC South Durham, an engineering and advanced manufacturing Centre of Excellence, next to Hitachi Rail Europe’s new train-assembling factory on Aycliffe Business Park.
Opening in September 2016, the UTC will take in students at both year 10 and 12 (sixth form) and will eventually accommodate up to 600 young people.
Year 10 students will study core subjects including English, Maths, Science, Engineering and PE as well as a range of options including Geography/History, Modern Foreign Language, Design and Technology, Computer Science, Business, Electronics and Graphics.
Former Cambridge University engineering graduate and ICI Teesside worker Tom Dower was appointed principal of the UTC in April.
In an exclusive Video Interview with Aycliffe Today, Mr Dower said: “This is a very exciting moment for me personally, as an engineer, a business leader and now an educationalist.
“I’m from Northumberland originally. I started my career with ICI on Teesside and moved down to London as a consultant in business.
“I came back home to the North-East 10 years ago as a school leader, working in Northumberland, it was very important for me to launch back into industry and inspire young people into engineering.
“My job now is to explain to families about what it is that we’re doing. We offer a very different type of education, a work-placed education, which focuses on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.
“That’s not going to be right for everyone, and I completely understand families whom their children are settled at school, looking at us thinking ‘why do we take that risk?’.
“The risk is worth it for the individuals, if that’s the direction they want to go in. We’re not going to be right for everyone.
“We’re going to attract students from a very wide area, and every family will need to make their own decisions based on individual factors.
“We want to explain what we’re about, and let people come to us and have a look, and then we’ll have individual conversations with families about whether it will work best for them.”