Priestley College is one of only 30 educational institutions in the UK to receive STEM-assured status – the only benchmark of excellence in STEM provision.
Prof Sa’ad Medhat, Chief Executive of the STEM Foundation which honoured Priestley, said: “STEM disciplines form the backbone of any high-tech and knowledge-intensive economy.
“It is pleasing to see that a number of progressive educational providers are shifting gears to refocus their efforts on STEM-related subjects, laying the foundation for the sustainable future of employment for their students.”
In 2013, Priestley became the first sixth form college in the UK to receive STEM-assured status.
It is now the first to have been revalidated confirming it has maintained – and improved – standards of education.
A STEM Foundation team visited Priestley in April and met tutors, students, the Local Enterprise Partnership, many employers, universities and schools to discuss the opportunities provided by the college.
“This honour recognises the strong STEM culture at Priestley and the opportunities we create for learners to improve their level of achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths,” said Jan Costello, Director of STEM at Priestley.
The foundation said that ‘a strong pipeline of STEM-educated workers is a priority for government and features heavily in regional growth strategies.’
However, they added that the skills employers are looking for is changing. Versatile staff who can work across different STEM disciplines and embrace emerging technologies will be in high demand in future.
Principal Matthew Grant said this fitted with one of the goals at Priestley, which is to provide students with as much choice as possible in both vocational and academic courses. In September, students will be able to study two new courses – Engineering and Environmental Sustainability.
“We offer more than 70 courses, which cater for interests across the STEM agenda from Computer Games Design to Music and Maths,” he said. “It means our students can mix and match a huge variety of choices to suit themselves and their future prospects.”
Priestley’s STEM success not only depends on the quality of its teachers and facilities such as university-standard laboratories and technology centre, but also the links the college has secured with major employers.
Among more than 60 companies that either provide work experience, workshops or assignments are the Environment Agency, Sellafield, Barclays, Warrington Borough Council and the MoD.
“It motivates everyone to know that we are doing things correctly and we look forward to continuing to lead the way in STEM education in Warrington for years to come,” said Matthew.