Hull’s employer-led school is providing free driving lessons for students in a unique scheme funded by its partner businesses.
The initiative will enable eligible sixth form students at Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC) to have up to 20 hours of free driving lessons to enhance their employability.
It’s believed to be the only programme of its kind by a UK school and has been promoted by Ron Dearing UTC’s employer sponsors who say being able to drive is a key skill and advantage for young people aiming to join their businesses. It will cost a maximum of £30,000 a year if all students take up the opportunity.
Ron Dearing UTC has teamed up with Hull-based Elite Driving School for the innovative programme, which is open to students in Year 13 (aged 17 and 18).
To be eligible, students must have at least 95% attendance, be on target with their studies and have passed a Department for Transport driving theory test. All the students participating in the programme have also attended a hazard awareness course within the school.
Ron Dearing UTC has negotiated a discount block booking with Elite Driving School to cover the cost of the lessons. The school provides details of students on the programme to Elite and learners book their lessons directly with them.
Under the bursary scheme, each student is allocated 20 free hours of instruction to get them well on the way to taking their driving test.
So far 51 students have registered for the scheme – half of all the students in Year 13 – with a third of them having taken to the road to begin their driving tuition.
Ron Dearing UTC Vice Principal Mark Ollerenshaw, who is overseeing the scheme, said: “This programme has been planned from before the school opened in 2017 and we’ve had the budget in place since then.
“We’ve launched the programme during this school year because we now have students who have passed their 17th birthday and so are able to take to the road.
“The scheme is being paid for entirely from the financial contributions our employer partners make as sponsors of the school and they have decided to allocate the funds to this programme.
“Our employers see being able to drive as an important skill that makes our students even more employable and gives them a further edge in the competition for jobs.”
Hull-based engineering business Spencer Group is one of the school’s Founding Partners and a leading advocate of the scheme.
Spencer Group Human Resources Director Yvonne Moir said: “We see the ability to drive as a key advantage for both the students and potential employers such as ourselves.
“Young people who are qualified drivers are able to travel to work and to work assignments without reliance on public transport, which can sometimes be inconvenient, restrictive or expensive.
“That’s a real plus for the young people and for their employers, especially companies like us that work on projects all over the country.”
Student Matthew Hunt, who plans to apply for an apprenticeship with Spencer Group and hopes to take his test in the Spring, said: “I think this is a really good idea.
“Not only does it save me or my parents’ money, but it will really help me if I can pass my test while at school. It will definitely give me an advantage because driving is such a key skill.”
Fellow student Tom Adamson added: “It’s a brilliant scheme because some students’ parents may not be able to pay for driving lessons, which could prevent them from getting some jobs or make it difficult for them to travel out of the area on a work assignment or a training course”
Mr Ollerenshaw added: “At Ron Dearing UTC we’re all about developing confident, independent and employable young people.
“Being able to drive makes young people more independent and self-reliant, as well as giving them a significant advantage when applying for jobs.
“Another important aspect of the scheme is that it means students whose parents might not be able to afford to pay for or contribute to driving lessons have the same opportunity as those from more affluent families. It puts everybody on a level playing field.
“Parents have really welcomed this initiative and the students absolutely love it.”
Kevin Goldthorpe, a Director of Elite Driving School, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Ron Dearing UTC on this scheme and it’s working well.
“The programme is very well structured because it requires students to pass their theory and hazard perception test before they can start taking lessons. This obviously gives them a big head start when they come to us as they already have a reasonable knowledge of road signs, road markings and the Highway Code.”
Ron Dearing UTC’s curriculum has been designed in partnership with many of Hull’s leading employers and combines academic excellence with the development of advanced digital and engineering skills.
The school was significantly over-subscribed for its 2017 and 2018 intake, with demand set to outstrip available places again in September 2019.
To find out more about Ron Dearing UTC’s uniquely business-like education model go to www.rondearingutc.com
[John Meehan – Meehan Media & Comms]