UTCs - preparing young people for over 350 different careers in the NHS


n our third feature this month we’re delighted to hear from well-known

education journalist Sal McKeown, who looks at the rise of the UTC and the valuable work they do in ensuring students have the practical skills needed to thrive in the world of work.

When everyone was waiting for their A level results Fatima was doing her first shift at Homerton Hospital in the delivery room. That is the difference that a UTC education can make. 'At Mulberry UTC we are proud to produce

young people with the right qualifications who are also ready to step into some of the most responsible careers in the UK,' said Katharine Vincent, principal of the college. Like other UTCs, Mulberry is an

education/industry partnership. It was set up by the headteacher and governors of an outstanding well-respected girls' school in east London. They had a thriving sixth form, excellent A level results and many of the students went on to universities. However, they found that even when students

succeeded at A level and university, they were not always able to secure professional careers in nursing or midwifery because they did not have the practical skills or the experience to succeed in a health workplace.

Working with hospitals They talked to Barts, one of the largest NHS Trust in England, and found that hospitals were keen to recruit locally. 'Our success lies in the combination of practical and applied learning,' says Vincent.

'From day one students are working with different industry professionals, finding out about partner organisations, being inducted into a different way of working.' Mulberry staff worked with Lois Whittaker,

Managing Director of the Education Academy at Barts Health NHS Trust, and the college now has a replica ward, right down to the carpets and curtains, plus another suite that is a model of a care home. As well as college training and work experience

in local hospitals, students have outreach placements to broaden their experience and to give them a taste of the variety of NHS roles available. One is Bromley by Bow Centre, a community setting which has a medical centre, housing and social care in the same premises.

A community resource Mulberry students are valuable to the local hospital trusts because they are part of the community. They may have the home languages needed to communicate with patients and they have life experience that more academic children often lack. A high number of the learners are on free

school meals. There may be safeguarding issues and lack of confidence and some may need extra support. 'But they have empathy; they understand their community, and these are all assets,' said Katharine Vincent. 'Sometimes in school we are too focused on young people’s deficiencies. Here we see their value, even if that does not lie in the academic side of the curriculum.'

30 Now Mulberry UTC has students following

technical and vocational courses at KS4, alongside GCSE maths, English, double science and humanities. Post-16 they work towards Level 3 qualifications in a range of subjects including Applied Science and Health and Social Care, usually combining this with the study of one or two A-levels. Sociology, biology or psychology are popular choices. Afsana admits that she wasn’t the most

conscientious student in her GCSEs and she relished the opportunity to get a fresh start at the UTC. She benefited from the career days at Royal London Hospital where she had a chance to meet many nurses from different areas of the hospital. She also enjoyed learning technical skills and was able to talk about these confidently in her interview for Kings College London. She is especially interested in mental health and chose this as her degree subject when she discovered the course would also let her qualify as a registered mental health nurse. Katharine Vincent feels that there are still

misconceptions about technical and vocational learning. People do not always value practical and applied knowledge in the same way that they value academic learning. She points to the fact that for every hundred doctors the Heath Service is going to need at least 900 nurses and associated professionals. These need to be trained to a high level because, some time in the future, some of them will probably be working as consultant nurses, managing GP surgeries, or in high-level management roles in the NHS working in responsible hospital jobs.

January 2021

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