Stoke-on-Trent set to get brand new secondary and primary schools


A new primary and secondary school could be built in the heart of Stoke-on-Trent’s University Quarter.

The new free schools – located side-by-side – would both specialise in creative arts and digital technology and would cater for young people from across North Staffordshire.

Alongside the national curriculum, pupils could learn how to make video games, apps, animation sequences, movies and the basics of product design. Older students could also explore artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

And at both primary and secondary level, they could be working with local companies, Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College and Staffordshire University, with design challenges and other problem-solving activities.

The plans are being developed by the Potteries Educational Trust (PET), with backing from Stoke-on-Trent North MP Jonathan Gullis as part of his vision for ‘Silicon Stoke’. A bid is expected to be submitted to the Government in the next free schools round, with the earliest opening date likely to be 2024/25.

Trust CEO Mark Kent, who is also principal of the sixth form college, said: “We want our children to dream big and to experience big.

“We also want to do something that develops the skills base in the city. We are working with businesses on this.”

A site has yet to be earmarked for the proposed new schools, but options include land already owned by the university and college in the Leek Road area of Stoke.

The high school, which would not be selective, is set to cater for 11 to 16-year-olds. Some students would be able to join at the age of 13 if they wanted to pursue the digital and creative specialisms.

All students would take at least one course in these areas alongside their core GCSEs. It could include computer science, arts-related subjects or design technology.

They would also have access to specialist facilities at the college and university.

Other plans include having an extended school day, with GCSE pupils attending from 8am to 5pm to give them time for projects, competitions and enrichment activities.



Staffordshire University's science centre off Leek Road, Stoke
Pupils could be using specialist facilities, such as those at Staffordshire University’s science centre

Mr Kent said the plans come on the back of Stoke-on-Trent’s shortage of secondary places.

He added: “There’s also a shortage, in the city and region, of people with skills in digital technology and creative design. Many businesses are having to recruit nationally or internationally.”

To give young people an insight into future jobs, there would be educational visits and work experience opportunities.

“It might involve special effects companies and technology linked to health sciences. They might see how products are made, such as automotive design,” said Mr Kent.

Martin Jones, deputy vice-chancellor of Staffordshire University and chairman of PET, is also excited about the potential.

Primary pupils already learn basic coding as part of the national curriculum. In future, they could be applying this to designing their own games.

It could lead on to more specialist courses at 16 and 18.

Professor Jones added: “Staffordshire University is one of the largest providers of courses in the digital and computing areas. We have 4,000 undergraduates doing games, esports and digital courses.”

Teenagers could also go on take T-levels at the college, which is piloting the new national qualifications billed as a technical equivalent to A-levels.

Mr Gullis said: “We are in the early stages, but the ball is rolling on the plans.”

It would tie in with Silicon Stoke, which aims to turn the city into a hub for digital skills and cutting edge businesses.



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