Ofsted boss tells UTCs to ‘radically improve to survive’

Ofsted boss tells UTCs to 'radically improve to survive'

Ofsted’s chief inspector has slammed university technical colleges (UTC) and told them that they need to make “radical improvement” if the model is to survive.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, who has been a champion of the controversial 14 to 19 vocational institutions during his tenure as the education watchdog’s boss, spoke out at the Baker Dearing Conference in London this morning.

He said that to date, consistency in their performance has been missing and the UTC track record is “patchy”.

It comes after FE Week revealed yesterday that just one of the 14 inspected UTCs has been rated outstanding, seven were considered good, five got requires improvement results, and one was branded inadequate.

Sir Michael told delegates at the Baker Dearing Conference today: “You need to be doing significantly better than this, particularly because, unlike GFE colleges, you largely focus on one vocational or technical specialist area.

“If the UTC movement is to survive and prosper, then radical improvement is necessary.

“If this doesn’t happen, politicians will come to the conclusion that the model is flawed and not worthy of further political or financial support.”

It also comes after FE Week’s exclusive analysis showed a lack of inspections to UTCs following Ofsted’s new policy dictating that schools which opened after September 2014 would not be inspected until their third year.

FE Week found that half of the 28 UTCs that have been open for two or more years are yet to be inspected and graded by Ofsted.

Despite his call for radical improvements to the vocational institutions, Sir Michael also used his speech to reiterate his call for the government to insist that every major multi-academy trust (MAT) includes a UTC.

He said: “I have argued that every medium or large multi-academy trust or federation should contain a UTC.

“Such an arrangement would enable young people to transfer across institutions in the cluster to follow a route into high-level academic or vocational study.

“Pupils on either path would be free to access the specialist teaching available in the other and would not be stuck in one route.”

Yet UTCs are still experiencing ongoing problems with student recruitment since the model’s inception in 2010.

Four UTCs have closed or are about to close and FE Week found in February that 40 per cent of those that opened between 2010 and 2013 saw student numbers fall for the current academic year.

In response to Sir Michael’s speech today, a spokesperson for The Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which develops and promotes the concept of UTCs, said: “Sir Michael Wilshaw’s speech underlinned his support for the UTC model and the importance he places on technical education.

“Although some UTCs have been judged below good the majority of those who have been subject to inspections have been judged good or outstanding.

“We are pleased to have the support of Sir Michael and look forward to continue working with Ofsted as the UTC programme develops.”