From education to employment

Former education secretary and Ofsted leader visit Dartford UTC

Former education secretary Kenneth Baker and Ofsted’s chief operating officer Matthew Coffey were impressed by a Dartford school’s students and staff during a visit on Friday 6 October. 

Lord Baker and Mr Coffey toured The Leigh UTC’s state-of-the-art facilities including the engineering workshop and engaged with students from across the 11-18 age range.  

The two also discussed the school’s provision with the leaders of the University Technical College and its sponsor body, the Leigh Academies Trust, including chief executive Simon Beamish.  

The visit was also attended by representatives of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, chaired by Lord Baker, and which supports the 44-strong programme of University Technical Colleges including The Leigh UTC. 

Education leaders tour classrooms and speak with students 

Lord Baker and Mr Coffey were shown around the UTC, based on Brunel Way, and The Inspiration Academy, which operates as a feeder school for the technical school and sits on the same site. 

At the UTC, engineering T Level students discussed their work completing an extended project qualification (EPQ), designing bespoke items such as darts and chess pieces. 

This tour segued into a discussion with several students about why they chose the UTC and what they hoped to achieve. 

Students and employers attracted by UTC’s success 

Speaking with Lord Baker and Mr Coffey, students said they had enrolled at The Leigh UTC after being told by their previous school it was “one of the best schools in the area.” One learner said she believed the UTC is her best opportunity to follow a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). 

Another student said they were told they were a “good fit for the UTC,” while others enrolled because their siblings had studied there. 

Lord Baker, impressed by the students’ abilities and willingness to discuss their work, told them all they would “provide economic growth” for the UK. 

Gifts were also presented to the two visitors, with Lord Baker being given a pen holder and Mr Coffey a trophy made from aircraft components. Both gifts were made by apprentices at Leigh’s employer partner, Dartford-based Kenard Group. 

UTC has developed strong links with local business 

A hallmark of a UTC education is the close involvement of employers and The Leigh UTC works closely with major local businesses such as Kenard, an apprentice for which attended Friday’s event and presented the gifts to Lord Baker and Mr Coffey. 

The Leigh UTC’s principal Kevin Watson revealed that other employers had reached out to work with the school after hearing about it from businesses in their supply chain.  

These strong links with local industry meant that 33 per cent of the UTC’s leavers progressed onto apprenticeships last year, against a national average of four per cent. 

Baker Dearing Educational Trust chairman Lord Baker commented: 

“Speaking to the staff and students at a University Technical College always boosts my optimism in the future of British industry and it was excellent to be able to share that with Matthew Coffey last Friday.  

“The vast majority of UTCs are rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, reflecting a better understanding by the watchdog of our unique provision and our focus on destinations.  

“I greatly appreciated the opportunity to celebrate the positive relationship between Baker Dearing, the UTC programme, and Ofsted through this visit.”  

Ofsted chief operating officer Matthew Coffey said:  

“It’s always interesting to meet with school and trust leaders and I was very pleased to visit Leigh UTC. I particularly enjoyed spending time with students who are clearly proud of their work and ambitious for the future.” 

The Leigh UTC principal Kevin Watson commented: 

“We were truly honoured to host Lord Baker and Matthew Coffey as their visit underscores the importance of technical and vocational education in the UK. 

“We are proud to provide a cutting-edge learning environment that equips our students with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in STEM fields.” 

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