The official opening of Inspiration Academy @ The Leigh UTC took place this week and students and staff were delighted to welcome over 50 guests to the occasion including Charles Parker, Chief Executive of The Baker Dearing Educational Trust, The Mayor and Lady Mayor of Dartford, Jeremy Kite, Leader of Dartford Borough Council, Ash Merchant of Fujitsu, Stuart Walker of Intel, Leonard Sim of Kyocera and Lord Baker who did us the great honour of unveiling the official opening plaque. Other guests included Greg Baker of Thames Water, Heinz Richardson Jestico+Whiles, Alan Newland of BAM, Dana Woodmansey from the ESFA, Karen Major, Principal Dartford Primary Academy, Kim Gunn, Principal Strood Academy, The Leigh UTC Governors Keith Ellis, Clive Barker, Dan Brown, Janet Robinson Michael Laming and Sophie Dickenson.
All of our guests enjoyed a welcome lunch before touring the brand new academy building which opened in September 2018 and met students working on their various projects.
The Leigh UTC Principal, Steve Leahey opened the speeches before handing over to Carina Lindars, Head of College at Inspiration Academy who explained the exciting new Project Hoot. Project Hoot is a digital communication project designed to remotely connect LAT’s primary academies with The Leigh UTC and Inspiration Academy through the deployment of new video conferencing technology. It is intended to be a ‘human’ and accessible project for all involved, raising awareness of STEM, promoting collaboration and developing social and digital transferable skills among students. Project Hoot supports in underpinning the esteemed International Baccalaureate, as students are encouraged to share and discuss topics within its Primary and Middle Years’ programmes. LAT are currently exploring opportunities for expansion of Project Hoot internationally with other schools, to further enhance the socio-cultural development of learners.
Simon Beamish, Chief Executive of Leigh Academies Trust offered a warm welcome to all guests and speakers. He thanked the Education and Skills Funding Agency and Kent County Council for providing the investment to construct the new academy, architects, Jestico and Whiles and contractors, BAM, who made our vision a reality. He expressed gratitude to LAT colleagues and in particular Neil Willis, Deputy Chief Executive, who have worked tirelessly on this project, proving yet again the tremendous benefit of The Leigh UTC working within a strong multi-academy trust. He spoke of how honoured he was that Lord Baker would join us to enjoy the occasion. Finally, he thanked and acknowledge the superb work of staff at The Leigh UTC and Inspiration Academy, led by Principal Steve Leahey. As he spoke to Steve, he said “Everybody who knows you recognises your hard work, commitment and remarkable skill in providing young people who attend this academy with an inspiring education: inspiration by name and inspiration by nature! They and generations to come owe you a great deal.”
Guest speakers talked about the great work which has been undertaken by all of those involved in the opening of this age 11-14 UTC feeder school, the first of its kind. They spoke about the importance of technology in the workplace, telling students that many of the jobs they will do in the future do not even exist yet. Bob Findlay, LAT’s Chairman said “Thank you to Neil Willis, Deputy CEO who has been first out of the trench in every battle; Steve Leahey who wanted to be Principal right from the start and has toiled endlessly to deliver success whatever hurdles appeared; and Keith Ellis, Clive Barker and Steve Woodhead, who didn’t know what they signed up for as governors but have safely steered the school and engaged local businesses in ways never seen in education before.”
He went on to say “The central trust has brought essential and steadfast support for The Leigh UTC. That has allowed the leadership team to get on with its massive task of bringing 14-year-olds, many of whom had been let down by their previous schools, through to success in GCSE, BTEC and beyond, into sponsored apprenticeships, universities and good jobs. There are still a few years to go with that process but enormous progress has been made.”
The brand new facility, was built by BAM Construction on the site adjacent to The Leigh UTC’s 14-18 academy within The Bridge Development in Dartford. It hosts a fantastic Fujitsu innovation hub and outstanding STEM facilities which the staff and students were able to showcase to the visitors.
The event concluded with Lord Baker cutting a ribbon to officially open the Fujitsu innovation hub within the academy. He congratulated LAT and The Leigh UTC on the new academy which, he said would benefit students in years to come.
All students who supported the opening were outstanding ambassadors for the Academy.