Struggling Central Bedfordshire UTC to close despite FE college’s intervention

Struggling Central Bedfordshire UTC to close despite FE college's intervention

A struggling University Technical College (UTC) which has already been rescued by a neighbouring FE college is to close this summer, bosses have revealed.

Leaders at Central Bedfordshire UTC have admitted they had not been able to attract “sufficient pupils” to the 14 to 19 vocational institution to provide a “financially viable experience” after this year, and announced plans to close in August, four years after it opened its doors for the first time.

It will be the third of the new institutions, the brainchild of former education secretary Lord Baker, to close within a few years of opening.

Black Country and Hackney UTCs shut last summer following problems with recruitment and viability.

It comes after Skills Minister Nick Boles admitted he wanted to see UTCs function as part of multi-academy trusts to make them “stronger, and despite efforts by Bedford College to rescue the UTC after it was asked by former Education Secretary Michael Gove in 2014 to step in following its inadequate Ofsted grading.

An investigation by FE Week in February revealed Central Bedfordshire UTC was operating at just 16.8 per cent of its capacity, with just 101 learners on roll and 600 spaces available.

Mark Kiteley, the chair of the UTC’s governing board, said the 14 to 19 age range of the college did not “fit comfortably” within Bedfordshire’s three-tier school system, but added that poor transport links to the UTC’s site in Houghton Regis were also a contributing factor to its demise.

He said the board had been “exceptionally well-supported by its sponsor Bedford College”, adding “The latest school performance tables show that in less than 40 teaching weeks the College helped ensure the UTC achieved the 11th best vocational value-added of any school in the country.”

Bedford College chief executive Ian Pryce said: “When a school is doing so well in so many ways it is sad to see it close. In conjunction with a great staff team the UTC has again delivered some of the best advanced engineering results in the country, and produced exceptional maths and English results in a very short time.”