Parents put case to keep Wigan UTC open another year at meeting

Parents of children attending closure-earmarked Wigan UTC put the case for it to remain open for one more year at an emotional meeting with school bosses.

Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 9:29 am
Updated Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 10:30 am
Wigan UTC

The Parson’s Walk facility is due to close at the end of August but families of youngsters learning there hope the shutdown can be postponed until the existing students have sat their exams and are ready to move on to the next stage of their education.

Those in charge of the UTC met parents last week and expressed sympathy for their aim, which has also been gathering support online courtesy of a petition.

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However, the meeting was told it would ultimately be a decision for the Government to keep the UTC open for one more year or not.

Rod Dubrow-Marshall, chair of the Wigan UTC governing body, said: “This is an incredibly difficult time for our students, parents and staff and I want to thank everyone for coming to the meeting and sharing their concerns.

“I deeply regret the government’s decision to close the UTC, which is a great school with terrific outcomes, and along with all our staff I remain completely committed to finding the best possible educational solution for all of our students for next year in the days and weeks ahead.”

Mr Dubrow-Marshall said he would support the opportunity for year 11 and year 13 to remain at the UTC for 12 months to finish their courses, but ministers would get the final say on permitting and funding this.

Parents told the meeting they were very pleased with their children’s experiences of the UTC and were very upset the industry-focused education offered at the facility may not be on offer elsewhere.

The school outlined the work being done with Wigan Council to ensure smooth transitions are in place for all the UTC’s students.

Work is taking place with other UTCs in the area to discuss moves so pupils can still enjoy a similar curriculum, but parents have expressed concern about their children having to travel to and from Warrington and Bolton every day.

Families were invited to attend individual meetings with senior UTC staff to discuss options for September and told these should be arranged as soon as possible.

The feedback given by families involved was also welcomed.

However, some parents expressed a feeling of deflation after the meeting.

Debby Lockett, who set up the petition on, said: “I feel quite defeated at the moment. We are no further on, with no answers and no solutions.

“All they wanted to talk about was other school admissions.”

Parents have expressed concern about their children returning to mainstream school, saying many opted for the UTC alternative at age 14 because their sons or daughters were not thriving in more established institutions.

Wigan Council has confirmed it is still working to secure the best outcome for the youngsters at the UTC and to decide what will happen to the building, which has a number of innovative features including the large vertical farm at one end.

Cath Pealing, interim assistant director for education at the town hall, said: “We are continuing to engage with all relevant parties to look at possible options for all of our young people.

“We are also having conversations about the possible uses for the future of the building.”