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Investigation into university technical colleges – Sector Response

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Today (30 Oct) the National Audit Office (NAO) publishes an “Investigation into UTCs” report on university technical colleges. UTCs are a type of free school that focus on providing technical education, mainly to students aged 14 to 19.

This investigation sets out the facts about the UTC programme. It covers how the programme has progressed and the financial and educational performance of UTCs. The investigation also examines the Department for Education’s plans to improve UTCs.

Meg Hillier 100x100Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said:

“£792 million pounds has been spent but UTCs are running under capacity, often perform less well than other secondary schools and just under half of those inspected either require improvement or are inadequate.  

“UTCs were set up to improve technical education but 17% of UTCs that opened have since closed, leaving hard-pressed local authorities to find alternative places for the students affected. 

“This report provides further evidence as to why the Department for Education is my top department of concern.”

Jo Grady 100x100UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

‘In too many cases, University Technical Colleges have proved to be expensive failures that took funds away from the further education sector at a time when it most needed support.

‘If the government really wants to improve the standing of technical education, it must ensure that the further education sector as a whole is well-supported to deliver it. That means building capacity across the board because without proper investment, this perennial conversation about the problems facing technical education is doomed to repeat itself.’

Lord Baker100x100Lord Baker, Chairman Baker Dearing Educational Trust said;

“This report records the price of everything and the value of nothing. UTCs should be judged by the success of their students becoming apprentices, studying STEM subjects at a University and getting a job as a technician or an engineer. For that we have the best destination data of any schools in the country.

“Because of this the Department has encouraged us to make applications for new UTCs and we are working with local employers and universities for the next round in November.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“We’re committed to ensuring people have access to high-quality technical education across the country, and University Technical Colleges are helping to deliver on that, with 21% of pupils progressing into apprenticeships after completing their post 16 education, more than double the national average.

“As this report recognises, we have taken significant action to support and raise the profile of University Technical Colleges to make sure they continue to play a role in our diverse education system and provide the skills that employers need.”

The key findings of this report relate to:

  • The number of UTCs that have opened, and the number that have subsequently closed as UTCs
  • What capacity UTCs are operating at
  • The financial position of UTCs and formal intervention by the Education and Skills Funding Agency
  • How much has been spent on the UTC programme
  • How Ofsted rates UTCs compared with other secondary schools
  • What proportion of students from UTCs go on to become apprentices, compared with other secondary schools
  • What the Department for Education’s plans for improving UTCs are
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