Why do PBL?

Our intention, during Project Based Learning (PBL) sessions is to give students the opportunity to develop a range of technical and transferrable skills focussed on one of more of our specialist career pathways. These are primarily medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, the health and life sciences, engineering, creative, digital technology and game development, and the social sciences. Students develop technical skills in one of our specialist, industry standard facilities including the innovation labs, health suite, engineering/advanced manufacturing lab, digital/mac suite, and basement project development space. Through industry-linked projects students develop key sector-specific technical skills as well as transferrable skills such as problem solving, resilience, agile project management, leadership, team-working and effective communication. This enables students to more effectively progress to higher education, apprenticeships and careers. Furthermore, the curriculum aims to develop students as global citizens through using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) as a framework for focussing project work and activism. Students are given the opportunity to apply for job roles within the Baltic Research Institute giving them a unique insight and experience into potential careers.

Students also develop academic skills which complement their academic studies such as time management, source selection and evaluation, report writing, data analysis, reflection and evaluation. The PBL programme links into all other areas of GCSE, A-level and BTEC study as our project curriculum spans across the full range of specialist pathways.

Key Stage 4

For the last two years, year 10 and 11 students have been working on projects aimed at tackling one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This has been our most successful approach to Project Based Learning at KS4, leading to greater student engagement as tackling big real-world problems means students see the importance of their project work and having a choice of projects makes it more relevant to their own interests and career aspirations. Life Sciences UTC students are incredibly aware of the current political, economic, social and technological challenges at a local, national and global level. The opportunity to tackle these development goals has resulted in outcomes shared with our parents and partners at our annual showcase event. On the last day of term students hold an exhibition to showcase their finished work to parents, partners and their peers.

Sixth Form

Each term, sixth form students are given the opportunity to apply for a wide range of industry-linked projects that cover the range of specialist pathways offered by the UTC. These projects range from highly technical skills-based projects that develop specific “hard-skills” through to projects focussing on the development of more transferrable “soft-skills”.

Year 12 students are given the opportunity to start a Level Three Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) which involves them either conducting a piece of original research, developing an artefact or writing a research based written essay. The topic of this research project is chosen by the student, who then works with a Supervisor to develop their project idea. The EPQ is highly valued by Universities and some will accept it as UCAS points, some use it to lower an offer and others like students to talk about their original research during applications and interviews.



Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Pathway

Medicine, dentistry and veterinary science are some of the most academically challenging degree courses to gain a place on. Similarly, this pathway is a challenging, intensive preparation for applying for these courses. Students work on a range of projects that teach the basics of biomedical and life sciences, and participate in work placements to support their UCAS application. For those interested in a career in medicine, dentistry or veterinary sciences this pathway offers the opportunity to complete a number of exciting work placements, masterclassses and projects designed to develop relevant skills and experience. Students split their project time between the innovation labs where they learn lab skills, including; microbiological technique, practical biochemistry and molecular biology and the healthcare suite where they develop clinical skills using high fidelity simulation. Students are also given the opportunity to undertake their own extended project research for the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). This requires them to manage every part of an investigative project from idea conception, through planning a method, collecting data and analysing and interpreting results.

Example Project– Bioprospecting with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Students work on extracting and testing natural antimicrobials. Students identify potential plants/natural sources of antimicrobials, make extracts and then test using antibiotic sensitivity testing.

Life Sciences Pathway

The life science pathway gives students’ knowledge and expertise in technical laboratory work and has evolved to support the need for more specialists in this area. Students gain the numerical, analytical and communication skills that many key employers look out for, including the NHS, pharmaceutical, medical diagnostics, biotech, nutrition, chemical and agrochemical industries, and government agencies like the Department of Health.

Students will develop a wide range of laboratory technical skills in our industry-standard innovation labs, including microbiological technique, practical biochemistry and molecular separation. Students are also given the opportunity to undertake their own extended project research for the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). This requires them to manage every part of an investigative project from idea conception, through planning a method, collecting data and analysing and interpreting results. Work placements with our partner organisations are a key element of the learning experience, creating a highly practical pathway with lots of opportunities for projects and placements.

Example Project – DNA Origami Project with IRIS and the Bragg Centre for Materials Research, University of Leeds. Students worked on designing and constructing DNA nanostructures using specialised CAD software followed by a laboratory phase to self assemble structures.

Engineering and Physical Sciences

Understanding the world around us guides exploration on the engineering and physical sciences pathway. It combines perspectives from physical, chemical, environmental, mathematical and geological sciences and is ideal for students who enjoy lab work, research, complex equations and methodical analysis.
This pathway is primarily aimed at students studying A Levels in chemistry, physics and maths – with a view to a career in engineering or the physical sciences. Students have the opportunity to develop their skills in 3D design and advanced manufacturing through completing a range of industry linked projects. Our strong partnership with Autodesk means that students are given the chance to develop their skills using industry standard software Fusion 360 throughout their time at the UTC and Studio Schools.

Example Project – The Future of Making with Autodesk (Fusion 360). Students apply mathematical principles to design and 3D print a Christmas decoration using Autodesk Fusion 360

Health Pathway

By studying the heath and care pathway, students gain a broad understanding of the human mind and body, and the causes and symptoms of some diseases – ideal for anyone considering nursing or midwifery. Students examine a range of health topics including anatomy, psychology, acute and chronic conditions, genetic and nutritional disorders, mental health and infectious diseases, backed up with a work placement at the Royal Liverpool Hospital.
Students explore the principles of the health and care sectors from a scientific, sociological and psychological perspective. The perfect springboard to enter a caring, social work or community work-based profession, it’s a highly practical pathway. Students are given the opportunity to spend time in our healthcare suite developing clinical skills using high fidelity simulation. A range of work-related projects and placements ensures students are well prepared for a job when they leave us, or to access a higher education course such as nursing, care or social work.

Example Project – Dementia Friends. Students completed training to be dementia friendly practitioners.

Social Sciences Pathway

Specialising in the social sciences will allows students to understand how and why people behave as they do, study society and understand unemployment, how people vote and what makes people happy. Students will develop an analytical mind, pay attention to the details and be interested in the study of people. This pathway requires students to be motivated to investigate their work fully, uncovering the evidence to support their studies.
Some students will combine their study of social science with learning more about the law in criminology or the body in biology and chemistry.

Example Project: Long Covid Communications Project with National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), University of Birmingham. In partnership with the National Institute for Health Research and academics at the University of Birmingham, students develop a digital communications strategy to disseminate long-COVID research findings to young people.