UTCS may not be the answer, Labour warned

The Association of Colleges (AoC) has warned Labour-backed proposals for 100 more University Technical Colleges (UTCs) to be established by 2020 “may not be the best response” to skills shortages.

The AoC was joined by former government advisor Sam Freedman in questioning whether there was enough evidence to support the plans, outlined by Lord Adonis in his review, ‘Mending the fractured economy: Smarter state, better jobs’.

The review, published on Tuesday, was supported by Labour leader Ed Miliband and is expected to form the basis of Labour’s skills and business manifesto policies in the 2015 general election.

Mr Freedman, now director of research and impact for teacher training organisation Teach First, took to Twitter to ask “on the basis of what evidence” the 100 new University Technical Colleges were being recommended.

The former civil servant added: “It would be good to evaluate the ones we have before building more.”

All UTCs, which provide vocational education alongside academic qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds, inspected by Ofsted to date have been graded inadequate or requires improvement by the education watchdog.

A spokesman for the Association of Colleges said: “AoC has already drawn attention to the need for more places for secondary age pupils after 2015 and we agree with Lord Adonis that our education system needs a greater focus on technical education and on future employment needs.

“Whether 100 more UTCs are the solution is less clear because the model seems to work where there are large local employers which are a sufficient draw for children at the age 14.

“However, adding more small institutions to a fragmented education system at a time of continuing public spending cuts may not be the best response to the problems Lord Adonis outlines.”