Gemma Wright is Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning and Subject Leader for English at UTC Leeds. She joined the UTC in May 2017 after previously teaching at other schools for 11 years. She was attracted to the UTC as she saw it as an exciting opportunity: ‘I’m really passionate about students being prepared for the next steps in life after they have been at school. I think there is nowhere like the UTC, preparing the students the way we are doing here, so that they are ready for apprenticeships or university. It is all focused on their skills for later life and their employability. I think that isn’t as prominent in some other places of education.’

Gemma sees real-life employer projects as a huge strength at UTC Leeds: ‘It means we have lots of things going on for the students. They have projects where they work with employers from across the city. We have about 70 different employers that students work with. The students work with real-life problems that companies would give to their employees, so they get real-world practice. They focus on their employability skills, which will be relevant to them making applications later on.’

Whilst the UTC specialises in engineering and STEM subjects, English is still a core focus for UTC Leeds and adds a different perspective: ‘It is interesting from an English point of view, because people might assume we are going to get side-lined at a UTC and we are not as important as the engineering. In fact, English is fundamental to everything that engineers and STEM subjects are doing, because we are creating articulate, literate, clear communicators. We make sure their writing is clear, accurate and unambiguous when they are writing in their engineering style. We ensure that they can present well and communicate with others. I think the English work is essential for everything they are doing elsewhere.’

Gemma initially had expectations that not all students would engage with English, having chosen maths and science subjects, but found that this wasn’t the case: ‘The students here are really passionate about English and they’re really motivated and engaged with English. I don’t think we can stereotype engineers as being only interested in engineering and not interested in English; students here love reading and poetry and get on board with everything we are doing. In a way, we are a creative outlet to everything else they are doing in school.’

One of the highlights for Gemma has been a recent poetry workshop: ‘We had a poet come in for the day called Andy Craving Griffiths who raps and does performance poetry. He came and worked with all the Year 10 and Year 11 students on workshops where the students were creating their own poems. The students do a lot of engineering employer projects, so it was nice to do something that was English focused and get students on board with that.’

Gemma describes the UTC as innovative, exciting and creating pathways towards employability. She is inspired by teaching in this kind of environment: ‘I’m so passionate about my subject that I’m inspired by everything related to English. I love reading, poetry, creative writing and looking at how the media presents different issues. My passion for my subject is communicated with the students by the way we teach the students in the lessons. Hopefully the passion we have for English is infectious!’

You can join UTC Leeds in Y10 or Y12. Apply online now
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