Positive progression

Meet the Headteacher Phil Lloyd, Liverpool Life Sciences UTC (University Technology College)

When Liverpool Life Sciences UTC (University Technology College) opened in September 2013, it became the UK’s first school to specialise in science and healthcare for 14 to 19-year-old students. And whilst the prospect of setting up a whole new school from scratch, let alone one that’s venturing into new territory, may seem bold; to principal Phil Lloyd it posed the perfect opportunity.

Phil Lloyd had already achieved a long and varied career in education before his current position at the helm of Liverpool Life Sciences UTC brought him to the city, as he’d spent around 20 years fulfilling both school and local authority roles across the West Midlands with a particular focus on his subject area of science.

“Science education and teaching were my passions and combining the two, the Life Sciences UTC struck a chord,” says Phil, who had also developed some previous experience in working with new models of schools.

For instance, he began his career as a newly qualified teacher at Shropshire’s then new Thomas Telford School – one of the original city technology colleges which were a “precursor” to UTCs; and before eventually becoming part of a project team setting up the Thomas Telford-sponsored Sandwell Academy in 2006, where he took the role of deputy head.
“[Life Sciences UTC] was a pretty unique opportunity in terms of developing a new school, which I’d done previously so some people would say I’m a little bit addicted to that kind of thing. But starting a new school from scratch, focusing on opportunities in science for young people, was too good to miss really,” says Phil.

Having moved to Liverpool in December 2012 to begin laying the foundations of Life Sciences UTC, Phil’s task hasn’t been without its challenges. As he recalls, the first was being faced with the prospect of having to “prepare the pupils and the parents with the vision and ethos of the school” before it had any physical presence in the city.

“The first students to join the school in September 2013 had taken a risk,” says the principal. “They’d joined a new unproven establishment, they bought into the philosophy, they bought into the vision, they bought into the idea of what we were about and the links with the industry there; but I think that will continue.”

Then there’s the new concept of pupils changing schools in Year 10, which Phil understands will “take a while to establish” amongst both parents and pupils.

As Liverpool Life Sciences UTC sits alongside existing schools and academies though, offering an early pathway for young people who “have a passion for science and healthcare and see the opportunities with links with industry as a mechanism for building their future,” it appears to be successfully making its mark amongst the area’s educational offering.
In November last year the UTC was awarded two prestigious accolades at the 2014 Educate Awards – the Career Aspiration Award and Science Project of the Year.

“The Educate Awards for the science project and career aspiration are probably the two most important strands for the school and so that meant a great deal for the work that the team has done over the first 18 months, recognising that we’ve still got a long way to go but underpinning what we’re about,” says Phil. “We’re about specialising in science but also healthcare, and that career aspiration in terms of the end goal for students, the positive progression.

“We make a promise to students that if they work with us over two or four years there’ll be an apprenticeship, a job or a higher education place. With that end goal in mind we build the curriculum around students, we give them a wider range of opportunities whether it’s through our culture and enrichment programme or whether it’s through the science projects  and work placements, and it’s about enhancing the opportunities for them to move onto their next steps.”

Looking ahead to the summer, when the Liverpool Life Sciences UTC will see its first students complete Year 12 and take their next steps towards careers, Phil says their destinations are where the school’s “success will be measured”. However, he suggests there are already signs of a “very good start” for the school.

“What’s great to see is things like the university offers coming through now, and unconditional offers from some universities based on personal statements and projects that students have produced. Students applying for medicine and biochemistry and healthcare related courses like nursing and midwifery are receiving successful offers so, for me, that’s an indication of where students will be in the summer.”

With Year 12 of the UTC already oversubscribed, the rest of the school’s population is said to be growing year on year as the specialist school recruits students from across Merseyside. From 170 pupils in its first year to 450 in the current academic year and expectations of just over 600 in the next year, it’s nearing closer to its full 800-student capacity and Phil remains dedicated to ensuring it achieves its goals.

“When this school is successful or has the proven track record and is oversubscribed, that’ll be the most significant thing for me in my career,” adds Phil. “At this point in time I’m very proud of the fact we’ve established an extraordinary team of staff who are working with an exceptional cohort of students.

“My focus over the coming years is this school and making this as exceptional as I can, and I haven’t looked beyond that at this point.”

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