Many struggle to recruit pupils, ten have closed
The University Technical College (UTC) initiative is failing, an Education Policy Institute report concludes.
60 UTCs have opened but one-in-six is no longer operating or due to close. The capital funding for these 60 was £330m, £51m of this was for UTCs which are no longer operating.
Despite this expenditure, which doesn’t include operating costs, bail-out grants and closure costs, the initiative isn’t a success, the EPI says.
Many UTCs struggle to recruit pupils and over half of UTC students recruited at age 14 don’t stay on after age 16. Those that do remain are ‘less likely’ to stay the course than their peers elsewhere.
Post-16 UTC pupils make poorer A level progress that those in state-funded mainstream schools although they are more likely to improve their original GCSE grades in English and Maths than their peers in other schools.
A higher proportion of UTCs is less than good when compared with other schools. However, the sample is too small to consider this a reliable conclusion about UTC Ofsted performance as a whole.
DfE fights back against findings
The Department for Education has fought back against the findings. A DfE spokesperson said ‘the best providers’ provide ‘skills and knowledge’ which are helpful in securing specialist technical jobs.
It’s true that many UTCs do well. Reading UTC was rated outstanding in 2015. Others, such as Liverpool Life Sciences UTC and UTC Sheffield City Centre, are rated good. But many UTCs do not do well by their pupils. As noted above, ten are closed or about to close.
The DfE says twice as many UTC pupils leaving at 16 start an apprenticeship compared to the national average. But very few 16-year-olds take up apprentices, 29,000 in 2016/17, a Commons Briefing Paper* finds.
The proportion of UTC pupils entering apprenticeships at Key Stage 5 ‘is three times as high as pupils from other state-funded schools.’ This is true. At Key Stage 5, 20% of UTC pupils start an apprenticeship compared with 7% of pupils elsewhere. This should be expected – UTCs are set up as sites of employment sector specific vocational education and are often linked to local employers. But UTC pupils are also less likely to proceed to university (41% compared to 50% elsewhere).
However, the apprenticeship figure should be used with caution as only ten UTCs had data available. This is far too small a sample to use as a comparison with other state-funded schools.
Move UTC admissions to age 16, says report
The EPI recommends raising the UTC admission age to 16 as moving schools at 14 is not the norm in England. Post-16 UTCs could then become ‘flagship level 3 technical institutions’. This makes sense, although they would have to be distinctive to differentiate themselves from general further education colleges.
Note: some people, including me, refer to UTCs and University Technology Colleges. This is a misnomer - UTCs are University Technical Colleges