It has been another difficult year for everybody in education. COVID related absences haven’t made it easy to help students with catch-up in readiness for their examinations (if they go ahead).

And spiralling energy prices haven’t helped as we crank up the heating in classrooms with all the windows open.

The Christmas and New Year break offers some much-needed respite. Whilst we would hope that this is a joyous time of year it is a holiday that comes with its fair share of challenge and stress, considerable expense and, for some, a heightened sadness for absent friends and family.

I think of Frank Capra’s 1946 classic, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. It’s Christmas Eve and George Bailey (played by James Stuart) is struggling to cope. He’s on a bridge and planning to take his own life. In his thoughts, the world would be a better place if he’d never been born.

Clarence Odbody (guardian angel) pulls him back from the brink and shows him a world in which George didn’t exist. It’s not a pleasant place and one in which so many people’s lives are much the worse for not having George ‘in their corner’. When George returns home, expecting to be arrested, he finds that the entire town have rallied round to support him. His brother, Harry, toasts him as the “richest man in town” and Clarence reminds him that no man is a failure if he has friends.
(I’m welling up here, as I type. If you haven’t seen this film, you really must. Apologies for the spoilers … but it has been out for more than 70 years.)

When I consider the trials and tribulations of a teaching career, I remind myself of how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to influence and impact on the lives of so many young people.

Here at Lincoln UTC, we have the good fortune of working with the most talented and delightful students. We equip them with the skills and provide them with the opportunities that will set them on the path for future career success. It’s a privilege to be ‘in their corner’.

The atmosphere in the UTC is unique and the relationships that exist are uncommonly positive. I know that all the staff here (teaching and non-teaching) share my view that we’ve never worked in a friendlier place.

In that way, I consider myself to be “the richest man in town” (Sorry, George!).

I hope that this year, across the breadth of Lincolnshire, Christmas tree bells ring loud as Clarences get their wings and all of us who work in schools raise a toast in appreciation of all the young people who make this the most rewarding job in the country.

Whilst the rules surrounding the formation of ‘Christmas bubbles’ may be complex; the intention is clear and simple. Christmas is a time for families to come together and the one-day relaxation in the restrictions should allow this to happen.

In a year where the opportunities for social interaction have been so limited it is worth reflecting on how lucky we are at Lincoln UTC… lucky to be part of a learning community that genuinely feels like an extended family.

Lincoln UTC is smaller than most schools and we get to know every one of our students on an individual basis and in a way that we couldn’t if we were a larger setting.

The relationships that exist between staff and students are uniquely positive. We have had to put a number of precautionary measures in place to keep everyone safe through the pandemic but we haven’t allowed it to compromise the experience for our students or the atmosphere in the college. It has been and continues to be a real tonic to come to work and leave the worries of the world behind.

2020 has been a year in which Lincoln UTC’s reputation and popularity have increased. In September we welcomed 110 new year 10 students, the largest cohort we have ever had. We feel that our ‘family’ is now pretty much the perfect size. We took the decision, after consultation, to reduce the college’s admissions number. Historically we have had nominal capacity to accept up to 160 new students each year.

Going forward, the college has set a maximum number of 120 in each year group. That family feeling is precious and we don’t ever want to lose it by growing too large. Despite the lockdown and the cancellation of our open evenings, the number of applications for September 2021 is already up on previous years. We’re not quite at the maximum of 120. There are still a few places left but it does look like we will be full next year and, sadly, we may have to turn some students away.

If you are interested in one of the remaining opportunities for either year 10 or year 12 give us a call. We are still offering individual tours (socially distanced). We are also hosting an open day on Tuesday, January 5. Places on the open day are limited due to our Covid precautionary measures and need to be booked in advance. Bookings may be made via the college website.

John Morrison is the Principal of Lincoln University Technical College (UTC)

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