Choosing schools for your children is a complicated process. Identifying what your child’s needs are, establishing what the school can offer, followed by demystifying the admissions policies, which can change year to year and from school to school. In addition there are your own child’s special needs, from being quiet, to too loud, struggling in one area, but excelling in another. Not forgetting the complexities of an additional learning need due to a disability. Or in our 13 year old son’s case a different ability, as he likes to term it. Not wanting his Dyslexia to be labelled as a special need.
Having invested copious amounts of time and money supporting his academic abilities in a local (specialist) private school, we were informed by friends living in the Borehamwood vicinity of a new type of state school, Elstree UTC. A state educational establishment with a focus on the creative arts, an area in which our son excels. On hearing that this new school had opened, we were excited by the concept which could enhance his learning through his passion of music and the creative arts. Suddenly there was a possibility of offering him the chance to be more excited by learning and giving him multi-facetted skills. Whilst most importantly allowing a capable child to succeed in school where previously, the traditional state schooling environment had failed him due to his different abilities.
From the very first visit to UTC we were struck by the commitment that both teachers and students had to this concept. We were excited that this school was not just a place where people were passionate about creative learning, but where they were also given the opportunity to develop their skills in areas which might normally take luck, contacts and many years to gain experience and knowledge in. Whilst UTC’s ethos of creativity aims to inspire students in the core subjects of English, Maths, Sport and Science as well, it will ultimately lead towards achievement and job satisfaction.
The young adults that stood in front of us at the open day positively articulated their experience of the first two years that the school has been opened. They were not a group of kids that had dropped out of their previous school, or thought this would be an easy ride. The ethos expressed from the head teacher, through the teachers to the students was that of, if you want something, you work hard to get it. If you don’t, then UTC is not the place for you. Whilst the message from the teachers regarding “different needs” did not appear to be a barrier, “as all young people are individuals and are supported accordingly”.
The environment of the school is one of young adult hood, a college concept, where teachers and classrooms merge into a sea of creative learning. Not only will the school produce the next wave of musicians, directors and artists to name a few, but will also enable individuals to consider careers that previously would not have been possible due to lack of experience and knowledge. In a society where children grow up very quickly, and employment passion and success can be a hurdle to achieve, the UTC offers young adults a meaningful and successful learning experience.
Of course this model is not for everyone, but gives parents and young people another option. As parents, UTC provides us with confidence that our child will succeed and be an enthusiastic and keen learner. He will be ready to be part of the workforce, giving his skills and knowledge back to society, having ultimately excelled, gained more confidence and knowledge, and been part of a cohort of different achievers.