Ofsted’s chief inspector is set to call on the government to insist that every major multi-academy trust (MAT) includes a university technical college (UTC).
Sir Michael Wilshaw will speak out on the issue during his speech, starting at 1:30pm today, at the Festival of Education.
He will say: “The government should insist that every major multi-academy trust should have a UTC.
“Every multi-academy trust should be inspected to ensure that the UTC does not become a dumping ground for the difficult or disaffected and that it delivers high quality pre-apprenticeship programmes to the age of 19.”
Sir Michael Wilshaw previously told MPs on the education select committee in March that school and UTC clusters provided a “really great opportunity” to ensure high quality vocational education.
He said at the time: “If I was running one of those I’d have primary schools, I’d have secondary schools and I’d have a couple of UTCs [university technical colleges] as well.”
But this latest call for the 14-to-19 vocational institutions to be part of the furniture in all MATs will be seen as further indication of his support for UTCs becoming integral to the delivery nationwide of skills training.
Nick Boles, the Skills Minister, also said in March that “UTCs are stronger inside MATs”, during a speech to the House of Commons.
The chief inspector’s speech at the festival in Wellington College, Berkshire, will also reflect on school leavers’ general lack of vocational skills.
Sir Michael will ask: “What about those youngsters who would benefit from a technical education?
“What about those employers who, year after year, say that school leavers are not equipped with the technical skills that they are crying out for?”
He will refer to the latest figures as “shocking”, saying: “In the UK as a whole there are now 210,000 vacancies as a consequence of skills shortages across the economy – an increase of 43 per cent from 2013.
“I have taught in disadvantaged communities for most of my professional life. And I can tell you that there will always be some children who will respond better to a technical curriculum than others.”
Sir Michael’s support for UTCs comes after FE Week reported in May that UTC Lancashire would be the fourth of its kind to close, since they launched in 2010.
Central Bedfordshire UTC announced in March that it would close in August — after admitting it had not been able to attract “sufficient pupils”.
Hackney UTC closed in July 2014, also following problems attracting learners, and Black Country UTC shut last summer after a “disappointing” Ofsted inspection and, again, low student numbers.
FE Week also reported that, shortly before Central Bedfordshire UTC announced that it would close, Mr Boles informed UTC chairs and principals of a “new centrally funded package of educational and financial support”, which will be accessible to UTCs in their early years.
It will be available to those that have not yet been judged ‘good’ or better by Ofsted, but not to those that are subject to intervention.
But in February, FE Week revealed ongoing problems for UTCs, finding that 40 per cent of those that opened between 2010 and 2013 saw student numbers fall for the current academic year.
Exclusive research through Freedom of Information requests found that six of the 15 UTCs opened between 2010 and 2013 saw their learner numbers decrease for 2015/16.