A specialist centre for young people who are better suited to vocational settings than mainstream schools has been relocated due to high demand.

Durham Gateway has outgrown its home for three years at Bishop Auckland College (@bishopcollege) and is now based in its own campus in Spennymoor.

The centre has had 160 students aged 14 to 16 through its doors since opening in 2018, with 26 feeder schools from across south west and central Durham and as far afield as Catterick and Middlesbrough.

Designed to feel like a school but combining academic and vocational learning, Durham Gateway offers GCSEs in English, maths and science alongside training in trade areas including motor vehicle, construction, catering, sport, hairdressing and beauty therapy.

All students also participate in activities to develop social and employability skills and PE.

It has proved a winning combination, with 100 per cent student retention and 98 per cent of learners progressing into post-16 education or employment. This has led to such high demand more room is needed.

Durham Gateway’s new home is the college’s former Skills and Enterprise Centre, an £8.5m facility which opened in Spennymoor in 2010 and will be able to accommodate up to 120 students.

As well as classrooms for English, maths and science lessons, it has technology workshops for motor vehicle, joinery, construction, beauty therapy and painting & decorating.

Outside it boasts a Muga pitch, sensory garden and an area which could be transformed into an allotment.

Richard Hinch, Director of 14-16 Learning for the Bishop Auckland College Group, said:

“This is an exciting time for Durham Gateway and its students and staff.

“Our new premises and facilities will enable us to grow and provide unique opportunities for our young people, both in terms of access to modern training facilities that reflect real working environments and to develop an even wider and more enjoyable curriculum.”

A core aim for Durham Gateway, which employs 26 staff, is to nurture a strong line of sight to a meaningful career pathway through vocational learning, apprenticeships, higher education and employment.

The approach is enjoying huge success, with young people who are not flourishing in mainstream secondary education thriving in an alternative setting offering skills-based learning.

In July, Durham Gateway teacher Andrew Grant was named New North East Teacher of the Year in the Lord Glenamara Memorial Prize awards, having been praised for his passion for his subjects and dedication to his learners.

Richard added:

“The environment feels like a school, but having daily vocational elements which the students love alongside structured GCSEs in English, maths and science works very well.

“The building is welcoming and students have excellent rapport with staff, as they are treated with respect from day one, having usually had a bad experience of education from their previous school. That’s why we have had 100% retention over the last three years, and 98% have gone into post-16 education and employment.”

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