Ministers could block expansion of technical schools

The Telegraph is reporting that plans for an expansion of University Technical Colleges could be scaled back as new figures show that some schools are running at just a third of their capacity…

Ministers may block plans for a new generation of technical schools amid concerns children do not want to learn a trade from the age of 14, the Telegraph has learnt.

The Department for Education is to delay the creation of dozens of University Technical Colleges because of fears over a lack of demand and poor ratings from Ofsted inspectors.

Currently, 17 of the schools have been set up to teach teenagers vocational qualifications in addition to core academic subjects.

Pupils can opt out of mainstream schools to transfer to UTCs at the age of 14, being given specialist tuition in disciplines such as engineering, manufacturing, construction, business and computer science.

But officials are concerned that the programme is growing too quickly with no evidence that it works.

The DfE is now closely scrutinising proposals for a further 42 schools amid fears that the first wave has not proved popular with pupils and parents.

It is believed that some projects may be blocked altogether while others will be required to provide more information to prove that demand exists.

The disclosure comes despite high-profile backing for UTCs from David Cameron and George Osborne.

It follows the publication of figures showing that some of the schools are running at just a third of their capacity – at a potentially huge loss to the taxpayer…

A senior Whitehall source said: “The idea of some academies focused on vocational training is a good one but there are problems with UTCs that need ironing out.

“Supporters of UTCs want a pace of growth that would mean lots of failure and wasted taxpayer money.

“The DfE is slowing the programme down so they can get it right.”

UTCs are state schools run by charities, businesses and universities free of local council control.

They have been championed by Lord Baker, the former Conservative education secretary, as the best way of providing pupils with rigorous vocational training…

More at:  Ministers could block expansion of technical schools

Your thoughts on this news? Do you think UTC are a good idea? Please share your insights into why they are not apparently proving as successful as hoped on the ground so far in the comments or on twitter… 

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  1. Mike Bell

    There is a wider social problem:  society as a whole (which the students pick up their values from) does not give technical education a high status.  At 14 students are not ready to believe that academic options are not open to them. 
    They do not necessarily want to be academics, nor do they know quite what A-levels and a degree will get them, but they have been ‘sold’ a story that this is what counts as ‘success’ – and they are going to go for it..

  2. GrahamBett

    SchoolsImprove Failure of UTCs was inevitable. A change of sch at 14 is damaging for pupils & limits staff expertise see #Leicestershire

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