Pupils were “sold a dream” and had their “confidence and aspirations knocked” by a university technical college that has been slammed by Ofsted.
Bolton UTC received the lowest possible grade in all areas by the education watchdog in a damning report from the education watchdog, based on an inspection at the end of February.
The verdict, which has been published by Bolton UTC but not yet by Ofsted, makes it the sixth such institution to have been handed a grade four out of just 23 published inspection reports.
Pupils in years 11 and 13 – who started at the 14 to 19 institution when it opened in September 2015 – told inspectors they had been “’sold a dream’ and that they are now very disappointed with the reality”.
It said: “They say they were promised high-quality education but teaching was very poor and they made little progress.”
“Pupils have been on courses that were not appropriate for them” and consequently “the confidence and aspirations of pupils have been knocked”, the report said.
A “growing tension” throughout the UTC’s first year between the former principal, who resigned in December, and the chief executive “had a detrimental impact on the leadership of the college”.
“Staff morale is low because they lack trust in the effectiveness of the most senior leaders,” the report said.
Governors were also slammed for presiding over a “failing college”, and for failing to hold the chief executive to account in the UTC’s first year.
A vice-principal, Liam McDaid, was appointed in June 2016 and had been acting as interim headteacher since the departure of the principal, the report said.
It noted that “in the very short time he has been in post, the vice-principal has been very effective in improving teaching and pupils’ level of achievement”.
But it found that “college improvement has not been fast enough” as senior leaders “have too little time to fulfil their responsibilities”.
Safeguarding was also found to be “ineffective”.
Leaders were also criticised for giving “too little thought of the needs and abilities” of its first intake of learners.
“Many pupils were placed on unsuitable A-level courses” without the “prior understanding that would have enabled them to cope”, the report said.
Pupils in the school’s first year made “inadequate progress” because the “management and organisation of teaching, and teaching itself were inadequate”.
While pupils were making “better progress” this year “it is not good enough to mitigate the considerable weaknesses of the previous year”, the report said.
Students on 16 to 19 study programmes “underachieve in both academic and vocational courses”, and “very few” took part in “high quality external work placements”, it said.
Bill Webster, Bolton UTC’s chair of governors, said: “We fully accept the findings of the inspection and are taking significant steps to deal with the highlighted issues as quickly as possible.”
These included the appointment of two new governors to strengthen the board.
“UTC Bolton is working closely with the Regional Schools Commissioner, Department for Education, Baker Dearing Educational Trust and the University of Bolton, and they remain highly supportive,” he added.
Mr McDaid said Liam McDaid, Acting Principal at the UTC Bolton, said the UTC had taken “swift action” to address the safeguarding issue highlighted.
“The wellbeing and safety of our students is our highest priority,” he said.
“I am committed to working with governors, staff, students and parents to ensure that the UTC Bolton delivers the first class education that it has been designed for,” he added.
A spokesperson for the UTC said that its proposals to take on pupils from year 7, which FE Week reported on in October, were not being taking forward following consultation.
Charles Parker, chief executive of the Baker Dearing Trust, an organisation established to develop and promote the concept of UTCs, described Bolton’s Ofsted rating as “disappointing”.
“The issues highlighted in the report are important and need to be addressed rapidly,” he added.
FE Week reported in March that just nine out of the 20 UTCs to have been inspected to date had been rated good or outstanding – while six had been rated as ‘requires improvement’ and five had been graded ‘inadequate’.
Since then both Heathrow Aviation Engineering UTC and Lincoln UTC have been graded as requires improvement.
Along with the Bolton verdict, this means that the proportion of the institutions rated good or outstanding has dropped to just 39 per cent.