FEATURE: SPECIALIST PROVISION 'For us, there is nothing more important than

giving a young person the knowledge and skills they need to become a nurse a paramedic or a midwife.'

A biotech city Over in Liverpool, the pandemic has been dominating the news and it turned out that the college was playing its part. 'We've got the army coming in!' said Jill Davies, principal of Liverpool Life Sciences UTC. The city moved from Tier 3 to Tier 2 at the

beginning of December. Infection rates had fallen and public health experts were rolling out the first mass Covid testing trial in the UK. The UTC was one of a dozen secondary and special schools in Liverpool where the army would be testing learners over the age of 11. This would be familiar territory for the students following the Health and Social Care pathway and in time many of them will be the ones administering tests and vaccinations. Nationally, 17% of people work in

healthcare. The pandemic has given us all a chance to see the range of careers and job opportunities as the health sector has been in the spotlight as never before. Liverpool is one of the UK’s leading biomedical centres with a significant cluster of research and clinical activity and is a member of the ‘European Super League’ of biotech cities. Liverpool Life Sciences UTC opened in 2013

and was the first school in the UK to specialise in science and health care for students aged 14 – 19. It is also one of the earliest UTCs and has an enviable reputation for its exam results. Over 85% went on to university last year. 'It has been consistently high since the very beginning,' said Davies, 'always over 80% with the vast majority going into nursing, health studies, life science, medicine and veterinary.'

Making up for lost time One of the key factors for UTCs is that they prepare young people for the world of work, not just in terms of attitudes but also giving them practical skills that are in short supply in their region. Covid has been disruptive and Liverpool has

experienced more lockdowns than most parts of the UK. This year, induction was largely about making sure that everyone could access online learning and providing technology for those who did not have home access. They also introduced a new Year 12 Bridging Course to meet the needs of last year's school leavers. 'Students missed out on the last few months of

GCSE tuition and this made it difficult to bridge to A-levels,' Jill Davies explained. This new course lets them have a second pass at GCSEs in English, maths and science and pick up additional post-16 qualifications such as lab skills at level two and a level two qualification on working with patients with dementia or the Mental Health First-Aid course. While staff cannot send students out into

hospitals and other settings for work experience as they have done in previous years, they have been building up online placements, providing opportunities for them to attend lectures alongside university students, seeing simulations and learning how to organise and triage cases.

They have also been working with the Sims family, simulated patients who can be tweaked to exhibit different symptoms so that students have an opportunity to exercise some basic diagnosis skills.

Medical researchers of the future What really sets Liverpool Life Sciences apart from other providers is the state of the art facilities. The labs are more sophisticated than students have experienced at school, with equipment such as Gilson pipettes, spectrophotometers, centrifuges, balances and chromatography columns. Students usually arrive with little practical

experience so there is an initial project that acts as an introduction to Project Based Learning (PBL) and gives them opportunities to develop their technical skills. Project Based Learning runs alongside GCSEs

and A levels. Students from all year groups can sign up to joint projects, led by year 13 students, and developed in collaboration with the UTC's academic and industry partners. A current project is being run in conjunction with the University of Liverpool funded by a Biochemical Society grant to set up and culture neuroblastoma cells at the UTC. This lets students investigate the effect of natural substances on the growth of human cells which could lead to new treatments of conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Experiences such as these mean students have

a level of professionalism that makes them attractive to universities, hospitals and research organisations, as one of their former students explains. Joyce did Applied Science BTEC at Liverpool Life Sciences and is now studying Biomedical Science in Nottingham Trent. She said: 'I thoroughly enjoyed the UTC. I undertook several placements which helped me gain a lot more practical skills as well as academic skills. The labs at the UTC are so advanced. You certainly wouldn’t have the same experience at any other school!'

uFor further information on the UTCs mentioned in the article, please see and

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