With the full support of Kent County Council (KCC) and the Department for Education (DfE), Leigh Academies Trust (LAT) is now consulting on a proposal to expand The Leigh UTC. All LAT academies in North West Kent are heavily over-subscribed and have been for many years. It is quite clear that far more parents and children wish to access a ‘Leigh-style’ education than we have places for each year.

The Leigh UTC, specialising in engineering and computer science, currently admits students in Year 10 and Year 12. However, following its early success, the Trust is proposing to extend the age range of The UTC to admit students from Year 7 onwards. Under plans being developed with KCC and the DfE, vacant land directly opposite the current building will be used to construct a brand new age 11-14 facility called ‘The Inspiration Centre’ @ The Leigh UTC. It will contain its own classrooms to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum as well as a state-of-the-art sports hall. The new Inspiration Centre will house students in Years 7, 8 and 9, admitting 120 students annually from September 2017. Meanwhile, the Trust is also working with Dartford Borough Council to provide an outdoor sports complex for all students on fields next door to The Leigh UTC.

Embracing the Trust’s small school approach to education, students from Year 10 onwards will continue to be housed in the existing building. In future, students belonging to Years 7-9 will occupy the proposed new building creating a second college on the same campus. At Key Stage 3, students will enjoy the full range of subject teaching before embracing The Leigh UTC’s specialist ethos with an increased focus on engineering and computer science from Year 10 onwards. The Leigh UTC will continue to recruit directly to Year 10 until all Key Stage 3 places are full. From this point, a further 30 places will be made available in Year 10 each year on top of the 120 admitted to Year 7, taking the size of each year group from age 14 upwards to 150.

In a joint statement Principal, Steve Leahey, and Managing Director of Kenard Engineering and Chair of Governors, Keith Ellis, said: “Plans to expand The Leigh UTC are tremendously exciting. They represent a serious vote of confidence by KCC and DfE in the early success of The UTC. They will also ensure that even more students have access to our successful model of education which is allowing students to gain places at selective universities and advanced apprenticeships in areas that our nation’s economy so badly needs. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our committed business and university sponsors for their ongoing strong support and encouragement.”

MP for Dartford, Gareth Johnson, added:

“Leigh Academies Trust offers excellent educational opportunities for local children so I am really pleased we should now see The Leigh UTC expand. We have recognised for some time that expanding The Leigh UTC would be the right thing to do. Dartford needs more school places and this proposal will help provide this and ensure more local children can take advantage of the fantastic opportunities The UTC provides.”

Added to plans to extend the Published Admission Number at Wilmington Academy to 240 in September 2016 and the Trust’s commitment to opening the brand new Cherry Orchard Primary Academy in the Ebbsfleet Valley in September 2017, it is quite clear that LAT is leading the way to provide an increased number of high quality school places across North West Kent over the next eighteen months.

Simon Beamish

Chief Executive

March 2016