Petition launched to keep Wigan UTC open until pupils finish their exams

Wigan UTC
Wigan UTC

A desperate last-ditch bid to keep Wigan UTC open long enough to allow pupils to finish their education has been launched.

A petition on Change.org is seeking to get an extension for the Parson’s Walk facility which is set to close in August.

The university technical college, which was launched to give young people a much more practical, work-based education to help their future careers, is shutting as low pupil numbers have made it financially unviable.

But devastated parents say the disruption to their children will be enormous.

Parents claim many will either face long journeys to another UTC or going back to mainstream schooling which in many cases they did not thrive in originally, will be enormous.

And Wigan MP Lisa Nandy has also weighed in on their side, saying parents were right to be furious and slamming the Government for its handling of the facility.

She asked how the UTC could have a deficit of more than half a million pounds when it received £169,000 from the taxpayer last year.

Petition starter Debby Lockett, from Beech Hill, said: “My daughter is devastated with the blow that Wigan UTC is closing its doors, as are all the kids there.

"Before she went there she was under-confident, below on her grades and wasn’t doing well. What she has achieved there is just amazing.

“We have been told Bolton or Warrington UTCs can take them, meaning my child has to make the hour-and-a-half journey each morning and night via buses and trains, adding to the stress of trying to fit in, make new friends who are already established and go to a new school with different teachers in a strange town she’s never been to before. This is so wrong.

“St Helens UTC has also been told it is to close, but they are allowed to finish their education and then go into the college.

“I am aware the same thing happened to Burnley UTC in 2014, through whatever means it was given a two-year extension allowing the children to finish what they were promised when they enrolled there.

“I’m begging for help. I have set up a petition for a closure extension to allow our future engineers, medics, nurses and managers to finish their education.

“It is so unfair. Our kids are settled and happy here and just want the chance to sit their exams without added stress.”

In a strongly-worded letter to education secretary Damian Hinds, Ms Nandy said there were major questions to be asked over why UTCs were shutting after large amounts of money were poured into them.

Ms Nandy wrote: “Families are rightly angry that their children’s education will be so severely disrupted at such a critical time. This is an institution that has been the beneficiary of large sums of government funding at a time when other educational institutions have had real-terms cuts to their funding.

“It has changed hands a number of times at additional expense to the public and disruption to students.

“I am not alone in having raised concerns about the quality of the offer and the impact on other providers in recent years.

“Can you explain how this institution has been allowed to fail, given the amount of funding and political support it has enjoyed?”

Ms Nandy also asked if Wigan Council would be reimbursed for any costs racked up finding alternative places for Wigan students, given huge budget cuts at the town hall in recent years.

The local authority and UTC staff held one-to-one drop-in sessions this week for parents and pupils.

A larger meeting to discuss the way forward is expected to be held later this month.