PUPILS joining a new University Technical College in Didcot have visited for the first time on a tour around the campus as it takes shape.

The £10.5m specialist college, on the Great Western Park estate, will become the county’s first UTC, providing science and engineering education for about 600 pupils aged 14-19.

The college, paid for with money from central government, will initially offer 140 places for Year 10 and Year 12 students, and eventually provide places for 600 students.

The UTC is an academy, backed by the government, and is not under local authority control.

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Headteacher Owain Johns said the UTC, run by Activate Learning, has proved so popular that the initial 60 places for Year 10 pupils has been boosted to 90.

Mr Johns met pupils at the college in Greenwood Way on Wednesday and they put on hard hats and fluorescent jackets before being shown around.

Elliot Harvey, 13, from Didcot, is one of the students who will be joining the UTC in September.

He is now studying at St Birinus School in Didcot and said: “I chose the UTC because it’s an amazing opportunity and I think it will set me up for the future.

“I would like to have a career in the motorsport industry, and the UTC specialises in science and engineering, so I can develop my skills and learn new things to make me the perfect candidate for future jobs.”

The UTCs offer technical courses and work-related learning, combined with academic studies.

Mr Johns said: “The building programme started in September and is now about half way through.

“Building work will be completed in August, with students due to arrive on September 7.

“In four years’ time there should be as many as 600 pupils and about 50 staff.”

Mr Johns added: “The students are looking forward to starting – there’s quite a buzz about the UTC on social media.”

Teenagers starting in September will be able to study for GCSEs, BTEC qualifications and A-levels alongside a chosen specialism – the UTC is a non feepaying school.

Activate Learning appointed Mr Johns as head teacher last year.

Mr Johns, 40, a father-of three who lives in Horspath, near Oxford, previously worked at Princes Risborough School in Buckinghamshire.

He has also worked as a teacher at Lord Williams’s School in Thame.

Mr Johns said the number of pupils from Didcot and the surrounding five-mile area, from any year, would be limited to 30 per cent of the total intake for the year, in order to reduce the impact on local schools including St Birinus School, a specialist technology academy, and Didcot Girls’ School.

Activate Learning also runs City of Oxford College, which has campuses in Oxpens Road and Blackbird Leys, and Banbury and Bicester College.