£10 million bid for city college

Photo: KEVIN McGUINNESS.'Preston Buildings.'The old Preston Post Office
Photo: KEVIN McGUINNESS.'Preston Buildings.'The old Preston Post Office

A £10 million bid has been submitted for a university technical college in Preston.

The bid, backed by the University of Central Lancashire, has been made to the Department for Education.

A number of buildings in the city centre are up for consideration to house the college, one of which is rumoured to be the former post office building.

Focussing on construction, civil engineering, interior design and architectural technology, the new college would be for young people age 14 to 19.

The bid for a UTC is set to complement Preston and Lancashire’s £400 million city deal programme, and was welcomed by Preston Council leader Coun Peter Rankin.

He said: “Over the next 10 years Preston and Lancashire is set for major economic growth, construction and development.

“The opportunities are tremendous, but we need to help young people get the skills required to meet this demand and build successful careers for the future.

“We are looking at 20,000 new jobs, 17,420 new homes and over £1 billion added to the local economy so we have to start planning for the future now.

“The university technical college led by UCLan is a great place to start.”

Rod Dubrow-Marshall, Pro Vice-Chancellor at UCLan, added: “Preston is a perfect place for a new University Technical College.

“It is the engine for economic growth in Lancashire and beyond, even more so now with the £400 million city deal that is planned.

“That’s why we want to bring our experience, skills, abilities and academic clout into establishing a new technical college in the city.”

The bid is also backed by Visions Learning Trust, Training 2000, the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and Preston City Council.

If it comes to fruition, the university technical college, which will be an academy, will have up to 500 students and up to 55 members of staff, and will offer GCSEs, A Levels, BTECs and other vocational qualifications.

Young people would go to secondary school in years seven, eight and nine, and then decide to either go to the UTC or stay at their current school.

But union heads have expressed concerns about the impact a potential UTC could have on local high schools in the city.

David Fann, national executive member for the National Association of Headteachers, said in theory he thought a UTC was a good idea, but in practice could be “fraught with issues involving high schools”.

He said: “The benefit for the children is that children who are not academically minded are not following courses which they are struggling with, and that schools are having to deliver but children aren’t achieving.”

However, he added: “The down side is in terms of local high schools, it could cause an issue with children leaving at the end of year nine.

“We may get a two-tier system with children staying on at high school studying academic subjects, and other children leaving and doing the vocational subjects.”