Published: 20:47, 05 December 2018
| Updated: 20:54, 05 December 2018
A university technology college (UTC) in Kent is to open its doors to pupils in years seven and nine.
The recently re-branded Waterfront UTC in Chatham – which specialises in engineering, construction and design – will start hosting pupils aged 13 in the next school year, before welcoming 11-year-olds in September 2020.
Only those in years 10 and 12 can currently move to the facility, which opened in 2015 and aims to deliver graduates which can fill particular skill shortages in the area.
Principal Paul Cottam said the changes would not increase the UTC’s maximum capacity of 600, but instead make each year group smaller.
He told councillors last night: “In 2019 we’re recruiting for year nine, and that’s proving very popular at the moment.
"I’m giving tours to five students and parents a day, which is a good sign.
“We’re looking to open to year seven in 2020.”
The announcement was widely welcomed by members of Medway Council's children and young people overview and scrutiny committee, with Mr Cottam confirming the curriculum would be extended to give pupils a rounded education.
He added: “At the moment we’re struggling in terms of numbers to be able to support anything other than what we’ve got, so we’re running on a shoestring.
"At the moment we're struggling in terms of numbers to be able to support anything other than what we've got, so we're running on a shoestring" - Paul Cottam
“Certainly as we develop into year seven, that’s going to be on the agenda.
"We’ll be looking for the arts, humanities, creative subjects, and performing arts.
“When we’ve got those staff in place we can start offering them, but it’s going to be built up effectively from scratch.”
Cllr Barry Kemp (Con) said the move would make Waterfront UTC – which got a damning Ofsted report earlier this year – similar to the former technical high school in Gillingham.
Mr Cottam acknowledged concerns that some parents would be reluctant to send their child to a specialist facility at such an early age, but said the matter will be looked at before advertising the places.