Failed UTC site used as cheap accommodation

Failed UTC site used as cheap accommodation

Young professionals are living in a disused Walsall university technical college site, after the 14-19 institution was forced to closed in April last year.

Black Country UTC was one of the first of its kind when it opened in 2011, but low student numbers, financial challenges, and poor Ofsted results were said to be behind the decision to shut it down.

Part of the former £9.5 million Black Country UTC, is now being used by members of a “live-in guardians” scheme, which offers cheap accommodation to professionals and students.

Walsall council said the live-in guardians were being used to “secure the building”, while also sharing the site with the council’s outdoor pursuits team.

The council is renting the rest of the site to the Sneyd Community Association. Specialist equipment left behind following the closure was “redistributed by the EFA”, officials said.

Hackney UTC also closed in 2015, and a string of collapses have followed.

In February, an FE Week investigation found that forty per cent of UTCs opened between 2010 and 2013 saw student numbers fall for the last academic year, and seven of the flagship institutions will have shut by the end of this academic year.

Although the government aims to ensure their sites are still used for “educational purposes”, this hasn’t always proved to be the case.

The £8.6 million Burton and South Derbyshire UTC, in Staffordshire, which never managed to open because of recruitment problems, is also empty.

But the de Ferrers Trust, a local academy trust, is hoping to relocate sixth-form provision from its flagship de Ferrers academy into the UTC’s “world-class” facilities.

Steve Allen, chief executive of the de Ferrers trust, said the Burton and South Derbyshire UTC site was the “perfect environment” for a 16 to 19 institution.

“In other UTCs they have relocated the furniture to other schools, but we would like to utilise the building with the furniture, and that’s part of our bid.”

At the £6.49 million Central Bedfordshire UTC, which closed this summer, the engineering block and main building are used by Bedford College.

Meanwhile, buildings on the site of Hackney Community College, which were used by Hackney UTC between 2012 and 2015, continue to be used for education.

Tottenham UTC has requested permission to become the second London Academy of Excellence, while Greenwich council has confirmed plans to spend £13 million converting the Royal Greenwich UTC into a secondary school.

The status of the site that once housed UTC Lancashire in Burnley, which announced its closure in May, is unknown.

Commenting on the use of space dedicated to unsuccessful UTCs, Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, accused the government of having “no strategy for dealing with abandoned sites”, and described the “failure of UTCs to recruit pupils” as a “waste”.

She added: “Rather than experimenting with our children’s future, the government really needs to concentrate on the issues that matter — proper funding, motivated teachers, smaller class sizes.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Where UTCs have closed, we have undertaken a full assessment of the site and aim to ensure that it continues to be used for educational purposes.”