My experience of the UTC – a parent’s perspective with Faye
Faye is parent of Year 9 student Josephine who made the big decision to leave her previous school mid-year and join UTC Sheffield City Centre in January of this year, right at the start of third lockdown. Faye describes her experiences as a parent so far and her views on how Josephine is getting on…
How did you first hear about the UTC?
One of Josephine’s friends at her old school moved to the UTC for Year 9 and she mentioned it at the time, but we didn’t really think anything of it. She continued to talk about the UTC, then in November Josephine came to us and said, “My friend said that I’d absolutely love it at the UTC, can you please take a look”. At first, we just thought this was a hair-brained idea, but then we looked, and I have to say that we were both blown away by what the UTC had to offer. At the time we were in local lockdown and we couldn’t visit so it was all via the website. It was the videos that impressed us in particular and we looked on Facebook to see what others were saying.
What impressed you about the UTC?
I’m from a commercial industry background and so is my husband. I work with a lot of the companies that the UTC works with such as McLaren. It was so nice to see a school that focused on business and opportunities in the workplace. There’s such a big difference between traditional schools such as the one my daughter went to before, where it’s all about English, maths and GCSEs, then you have to make a decision about the rest of your life. At the UTC students are given an opportunity to delve into career areas that might be of interest, working alongside companies, so that they can start to understand the concepts of the commercial world as well. We were fascinated by it.
What made you take the plunge and help Josephine to move to the UTC?
I think Josephine is bright and I wasn’t displeased with her old school, but they never seemed to push her, there never seemed to be any other opportunities outside of school. When we saw the facilities and the projects that students were working on at the UTC and the chance to work with different companies, we didn’t want to turn down an opportunity for her. We didn’t want to hold her back.
Why did Josephine decide to specialise in Engineering and Geography?
As a family we’ve always had a fascination with aeronautics, so it’s always interested Josephine, but she’d never had the opportunity to understand the engineering side of it. It’s one of the things we debated for a while, and we recognised that she might be really skilled in Engineering as a subject, she just hasn’t had the opportunity to try it.
Josephine had to start at the UTC during lockdown, how has it been?
The UTC has been absolutely amazing. The announcement came about the third lockdown and she was due to start at the UTC that week, so we were really concerned that it would be very challenging for her, but Josephine wasn’t fazed at all. The teachers all supported her as she was new and invited her to contact them if there was anything she didn’t understand. Likewise, where she’d previously covered a topic and was flying through the work, they gave her additional work to do. Miss Martindale, her Pastoral Manager, has made herself very accessible to her. From a parent point of view, the UTC has been very communicative. Within the first week, Miss Martindale contacted me and gave me feedback from the teachers. Then there’s the weekly report – that’s something that you don’t get in traditional schools, so you can’t identify any issues until you get to a parents’ evening because nothing’s notified to you. Having a weekly report about Josephine’s progress to keep on top of things is fantastic.
What has the support for learning at home been like?
The support for online learning has been amazing. It’s like night and day compared to our previous situation where they were sent a few items of work over Teams and it was all independent work, they had no interaction with other students or teachers. At the UTC it’s almost like being in the classroom. She’s on calls with the other students, she’s got the direct contact with the teacher throughout the lesson, having the work set there. In fact, most of the time the work is set prior to the lesson. It’s things like this that other schools aren’t providing and it’s taken for granted that the students can adapt which may not necessarily be true.
It’s too early to say about impact but how do you think Josephine is getting on?
She’s definitely got a lot of confidence and it’s lovely that she speaks to some of the students out of school now. She’s got these little groups going off already, even though they haven’t been able to meet in person. She’s very vocal about the school, even to friends who haven’t moved, and to family members. She talks so positively about the UTC.
What would you say to other parents?
I’ve already spoken to other parents where their children have shown an interest in an area that relates to one of the UTC’s specialisms and I’ve said they should look at the UTC, because it’s extremely good for harnessing that interest.
I’m an “only live once” kind of person so I’d much rather give my daughter opportunities, and if anything goes wrong we can fix it. I just think if you don’t take that step forward, you’re never going to know.