New Bucks UTC head has business in mind

Bob Harrison - new'Principal of Buckinghamshire UTC  in Aylesbury PNL-151112-174204009
Bob Harrison - new'Principal of Buckinghamshire UTC in Aylesbury PNL-151112-174204009

Meet Bob Harrison, the man with big ideas for Bucks UTC.

Mr Harrison began his job as principal at the innovative technical college in September, and his mission is to create an environment of excellence for the centre’s 130 pupils.

Bucks UTC, which is based in Oxford Road, opened its doors in 2013.

It takes on pupils from age 14 to sixth form, who want to get a head start in having a computing or construction career.

By the time the pupils leave, they are said to have technical qualifications in their chosen field to rival graduate candidates, and receive tailored support to find a job.

Industry leaders, including CISCO, Taylor Wimpey, Esri and Intel are also involved with the tech college, setting projects for students, mentoring them and giving them jobs at the end of their education. And Mr Harrison hopes that he can build on the school’s good work, by enforcing these business links.

He said: “The students are also set projects by prospective employers to complete on site here, and we have a senior engineer for CISCO who is currently teaching maths.”

He added: “The school is different in the sense that all the students do their core GCSE subjects and then do the specialist BTEC, whatever they decide to do in the future and even if they change their mind about their career they will have those qualifications.”

But Mr Harrison admitted that work needs to be done to improve GCSE results at the school. Last year only 30% of students achieved five A-C grades including maths and English.

He said: “The GCSE issue is a challenge, but having strong vocational qualifications mean that our students still have great outcomes. 99% of our learners last year left into education, employment or training, the three people who didn’t decided to take a gap year. What excites me about being here is the involvement with the industries, we haven’t quite cracked it all just yet but the ambition is for the UTC to be very industry led.

“We have multinationals coming here alongside very local small firms. I have the same goal for every student, at the start of sixth form they tell me what they want to do, and I work to find that opportunity for them.”

The school employs 16 teachers and four learning support teachers, meaning that every student gets plenty of one on one time with a teacher.

Mr Harrison said: “Not enough employers and not enough families know we exist. I think the perception is that this is a really good place to come if school isn’t working for you; rather than that the UTC is a really good place to come because it’s such a great facility, that is a real shame.”