Wearside Matters: Call for business people to rally to new super-school

People from across the region's software and science sectors have thrown their collective weight behind new super-school, North East Futures UTC, which will open next September.

Principal designate Dan Sydes has called for support to provide a mentor for every child, with the aim of ensuring the UTC will be the best start for students in its specialist areas: digital technology and health science.

The first cohort of mentors – which includes businesses from Sunderland – met recently for a briefing and to shoot videos talking of their experiences getting into their sectors – and their wish to help others.

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The UTC team is looking to recruit more mentors and calling on the industry to volunteer in the run-up to the school’s next open evening on February 19.

Top young talent from digital tech and health sciences have pledged support. Each will work with a UTC student to help them better understand the sector, and to prepare them for the world of work.

Among the mentors is Sally Blake, an associate producer for games giant Ubisoft.

The company employs more than 400 people in the North East, and Sally believes the UTC will create a unique opportunity for young people to follow their passion – and pursue a similar career to her own – as early as possible.

“I always loved gaming and I knew when I was at school that it was what I wanted to do,” she said.

“To have the opportunity to follow that path from an earlier age is amazing and I think I would have done it if I had the chance.”

She added: “I’m really excited about being a mentor to a student at North East Futures UTC.

“As a woman working in the gaming industry, it’s great to have the chance to inspire other young females to follow their interests.

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“I feel really lucky to have a job that allows me to do something I love and hopefully I can help someone else to achieve that.”

The new school – adjacent to Newcastle Central Station – will deliver education that is grounded in hands-on experience, with opportunities for students to work closely with industry and to undertake placements with the big-name employers such as Sage, Accenture, Ubisoft, NHS and the University of Sunderland, that are behind the initiative.

Every young person at the UTC will have a professional mentor to support them through their studies, and the school will welcome students from across the North East, with many young people on Wearside already committed to joining.

Director of corporate affairs at Ubisoft, Giselle Stewart OBE, is on the trustee board of North East Futures and is a passionate supporter.

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She said: “The whole team behind the UTC absolutely believes in it. The passion is palpable and we know that this can genuinely transform the way that education is delivered in this region.

“The North East tech sector is seeing incredible growth and it is vital we nurture talent and equip the next generation with the right skills to succeed in industry and to continue to drive the development of this important field. The UTC will do that.”

Ms Stewart will be acting as a mentor to one of the UTC’s students when the school opens in September.

Ms Stewart added: “For a long time, I have been saying the industry should step further into the education space to inspire young people – this is how.

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“If I can help to make a difference to even one young person and show them the opportunities that exist for them within the tech sector, I’ll be absolutely delighted.”

The school welcomes students who are about to enter their Year 10 and Year 12 studies, giving young teenagers the chance to make a fresh start and embark on their GCSEs at a specialist school, as well as providing an alternative to college or sixth form.

Over a third of first year places are already signed up, so interested parents and students are urged to register for up-coming open evenings, with the next taking place at on February 19 at the Centre for Life.

The UTC is headed up by principal Dan Sydes, who joined last year from UTC Reading, which was rated ‘Outstanding’ in all categories by Ofsted.

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He said: “We have assembled a fantastic team already. Students are signing up fast and will continue to add to the ‘Mentor for Every Child’ programme in the run up to September.

“The mentors are a fantastic extension to that team – experts in their field who committed to giving our students the best possible chance of success.

“We are thrilled to have such inspirational people on board.”

To find out more about North East Futures UTC and its mentors, visit www.nefuturesutc.co.uk follow @NEF_UTC on Twitter or Instagram, like NorthEastFuturesUTC on Facebook.