Pupils and staff enjoy ‘unique’ learning environment at Sheffield’s £10 million Olympic Legacy Park school
The UTC Olympic Legacy Park has been open for just over two years.
In that time, the school has grown from 130 pupils to the 400 they have now and will eventually cater for 600.
Backed by 70 top employers, both Sheffield universities and Sheffield College, the school cost £10m to build and sits on a high-tech park which also features the Oasis Academy Don Valley and the English Institute of Sport.
And soon, Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre - which is currently being built directly opposite the school - will open its doors bringing even more high-tech expertise to the site.
School principal, Dr Sarah Clark, said UTC Olympic Legacy Park was ‘unique’.
She said: “We have three specialisms - health, sport and computing - which give the students a pathway they can follow to employment.
“When they apply we ask them about their ambitions, but when they come here we find they discover a whole lot of opportunities and careers they didn’t know about.
“We work with both national and local employers and sports teams like the Sheffield Sharks so the students can understand what skills and experience they will need in the real world.
“And we also do lots of extra-curricular activities that are going to make them interesting and competitive to employers.”
Asked whether the school pushed vocational route for its students at the expense of traditional subjects, Dr Clark said the most important thing UTC Olympic Legacy Park was offering was choice.
She said: “We still do the academic GCSEs and A-levels and pupils can end up doing apprenticeships or going to university.
“The whole point of the school is to provide a really good education. If you ended up in sixth form wanting to be a lawyer you could do it.
“For a lot of these careers students will still need to go to university.”
And this year, Dr Clark revealed the school has had its very first Oxbridge offer for one of its students to study maths at one of the UK’s two elite universities.
Computing curriculum director Colin Smith said the thing that made UTC so different to most schools was the way they designed the curriculum.
“The idea was that we have a lot of employers working with us to enrich the curriculum,” he said.
“And for employers, they get to see what is going on in schools and set up a recruitment pathway for themselves as well.”
Pupils at UTC have therefore done projects on cyber-security with Symantec and worked with the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine.
They have also taken part in regional competitions in robotics and should they be successful in the national competition in Telford in March, they will them compete in an international robotics tournament in Kentucky.
“We get great feedback from the parents and the kids love it here,” said Mr Smith.
“The biggest problem I have is getting them out of the building at the end of the day.”
Likewise for health specialists, the University of Sheffield arranges visits from real life patients to speak to pupils about healthcare, something normally only university medical students get to experience.
And for sports specialists, it almost goes without saying that attending school on the Olympic Legacy Park with its first-class facilities is a dream come true.
On a quick tour of the facilities, it is clear that UTC Olympic Legacy Park is a school like no other.
In a health development suite, a robotics lab and a high-tech gymnasium, we see the school’s three specialisms in action.
In the health class - which has been built to resemble a hospital ward - two pupils demonstrate CPR on a dummy and take each other’s blood pressure.
Upstairs in the robotics lab students demonstrate the robots they have made and how they hope to win at March’s national competition.
And back on the ground floor in the school’s gym, pupils use the latest fitness and sport science equipment to produce real data, allowing them to base their learning on real-world experiences.
Talking to students, it is clear UTC Olympic Legacy Park encourages them to pursue their dreams and ambitions, whatever they may be.
Year 10 sport specialist Emmanuel Lawal said he hoped one day to become an Olympic sprinter but was also interested in sports advertising as well.
He said his old school - Tapton - was good for some things but it wasn’t doing it for him.
“At my old school we didn’t have the facilities to do what I wanted to do like a gym and and a 4G pitch,” he said.
“Here I can train every day at the English Institute for Sport.”
Another sports specialist, Year 13 high-jumper Charlotte Kerr, will soon be starting a four-year scholarship at a university in the United States, where she will also continue her studies in physiotherapy.
Year 13 computing student, Annija Balode, said everything about the education they receive at UTC was about gaining ‘hands on’ experience.
Annija is one of the students who will compete in March’s national robotics competition and said she hoped one day to become a software developer.
And health specialist Poppy Liptrott, said she originally hoped to be a coroner but was now thinking of pursuing a career in law, showing how the school’s wide-ranging education can be tailored to each individual pupil’s ambitions and talents.