Pioneering tech college opens creative hub

A dedicated new centre for creativity has been officially opened at Hull’s Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC) to support and inspire its growing number of students.

The school, in Hull’s Kingston Square, has opened STEAM Studios in the former Hull Central Fire Station next door to prepare students for exciting careers in the creative sector.  

It will also be used to educate engineering students about opportunities in renewable energy.

The site has been renovated and repurposed to create a cutting-edge hub including a gallery and exhibition space, digital and photography studios, 2D and 3D studios, as well as an additional sixth form independent study centre.  

STEAM Studios is part of wider expansion work at the school, which included remodelling parts of the existing UTC building to create research and development science laboratories and independent study spaces.

The expansion has enabled the UTC to increase its capacity from 600 to 800 students following funding from the Department for Education’s (DfE) Post-16 Capacity Fund, in response to huge demand for student places.

The school, which has been oversubscribed every year since it opened its doors in 2017, has already filled all its additional places and reached its new capacity – a year ahead of schedule.

World leading renewable energy company Ørsted, which develops, constructs and operates offshore wind farms across Europe, is a major partner of Ron Dearing UTC and has made a substantial financial contribution towards the school’s expansion.

The funding, complimented by additional funds from other founding and major UTC partners, has also ensured the STEAM Studios building is as energy efficient as possible.

Invited guests attended the official opening of the new centre on Friday, which saw students lead them on tours of the state-of-the-art facilities and see a range of creative workshops including animation, photography, ceramics and fine art.  

Hull City Council gave the go-ahead for the school’s expansion plans last year and SPACE architects, working with contractors, Sewell Construction, completed the project in August this year. Hull Esteem Consortium LEP Ltd acted as project managers on the scheme.   

Ron Dearing UTC principal Sarah Pashley said, “STEAM Studios is an incredible facility which is perfect for our rapidly expanding creative pathways. We’re delighted to be able to offer more students a Ron Dearing education and it’s really positive to have hit our recruitment target a year early – which further demonstrates the demand for places and the need for this expansion.

“We’re keen to become a centre of creativity for the community and this has been a hugely exciting project which was a real team effort from everyone involved.

“We’re exceptionally grateful to Ørsted for their backing, to our fantastic Founding and Major Partners for their sponsorship funding, and to the Department for Education for the multi-million-pound grant from its Post-16 Capacity Fund to make this possible.

“The building is amazing. Everyone involved has worked really hard to retain its history and integrity while transforming it into a high-tech creative facility which is also a low carbon building – quite a challenge!”

The renewable energy aspects of the UTC’s engineering curriculum will now be taught in the Ørsted Digital Laboratory in STEAM Studios.

Lauren McGee, Ørsted’s head of site for the Hornsea 3 offshore wind farm, said, “We have a passion for inspiring the next generation into roles within the renewable energy sector.  Our investment in the independent learning facilities at RDUTC and the Digital Lab in STEAM Studios is a great example of our commitment to investing in young people and education.

“With the offshore wind sector predicted to have 100,000 careers in the UK by 2030, our partnership with Ron Dearing UTC facilitates powerful, employer-led learning that gives students the chance to hear and work with real industries while learning skills that will help them in their future jobs.”

Ron Dearing UTC’s Founding Partners are the University of Hull and leading local employers KCOM, Reckitt, Siemens Gamesa, Smith & Nephew and Spencer Group. The school is also supported by Hull City Council alongside many other partners.