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Investigation into University Technical Colleges – Sector Response
November 1, 2019

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published an “Investigation into UTCs” report on university technical colleges. UTCs are a type of free school that focus on providing technical education, mainly to students aged 14 to 19.

This investigation sets out the facts about the UTC programme. It covers how the programme has progressed and the financial and educational performance of UTCs. The investigation also examines the Department for Education’s plans to improve UTCs.

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Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said:

“£792 million pounds has been spent but UTCs are running under capacity, often perform less well than other secondary schools and just under half of those inspected either require improvement or are inadequate.  

“UTCs were set up to improve technical education but 17% of UTCs that opened have since closed, leaving hard-pressed local authorities to find alternative places for the students affected. 

“This report provides further evidence as to why the Department for Education is my top department of concern.”

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UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

‘In too many cases, University Technical Colleges have proved to be expensive failures that took funds away from the further education sector at a time when it most needed support.

‘If the government really wants to improve the standing of technical education, it must ensure that the further education sector as a whole is well-supported to deliver it. That means building capacity across the board because without proper investment, this perennial conversation about the problems facing technical education is doomed to repeat itself.’

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Lord Baker, Chairman Baker Dearing Educational Trust said;

“This report records the price of everything and the value of nothing. UTCs should be judged by the success of their students becoming apprentices, studying STEM subjects at a University and getting a job as a technician or an engineer. For that we have the best destination data of any schools in the country.

“Because of this the Department has encouraged us to make applications for new UTCs and we are working with local employers and universities for the next round in November.”

The key findings of this report relate to:

  • The number of UTCs that have opened, and the number that have subsequently closed as UTCs
  • What capacity UTCs are operating at
  • The financial position of UTCs and formal intervention by the Education and Skills Funding Agency
  • How much has been spent on the UTC programme
  • How Ofsted rates UTCs compared with other secondary schools
  • What proportion of students from UTCs go on to become apprentices, compared with other secondary schools
  • What the Department for Education’s plans for improving UTCs are
Impact of New Career Hubs

New Career Hubs are driving accelerated improvement in careers education, improving the job opportunities of young people across the country, according to new research published by the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) today (29 Oct).

Launched only last year, schools and colleges in Career Hubs have seen dramatic improvements in careers education in just 12 months, significantly outstripping schools and colleges that are outside the new careers network.

Careers Hubs are centres of careers education excellence across the country. Established by CEC, there are currently 20 Career Hubs across the country.  They are local partnerships bringing a group of 20 schools and colleges together with business and community organisations to focus on improving outcomes for young people.

Such is their success, a further 20 Hubs have been launched this year meaning 1,300 schools and colleges – a quarter of the state sector – will be part of a Career Hub.

Careers education in schools linked to Hubs is performing better and improving faster than in schools and colleges outside the new careers network.

Key research findings are:

  • 95% higher standard of performance in schools linked to Hubs over schools that are outside the careers network established by CEC.
  • Two third of schools and colleges in Hubs run regular encounters with employers, compared with just over a third (36%) in schools and colleges outside the network
  • Nearly three in five schools and colleges in Hubs run work experience compared to around a third (35%) outside the network
  • Nearly two thirds of schools and colleges in Hubs are learning about careers direct from the jobs market compared with only 3 in 10 schools outside the network.

Key factors in the success of Careers Hubs are they create local networks to share and implement best practice and their foundation in the community, enabling guidance and support to be shaped by local knowledge and expertise

The new approach places regular meetings with employers to learn about the world of work at the centre of careers education.

Examples of good practice are evident across the country. The Tees Valley Hub now has a pool of 600 employers working with the 60 schools and colleges. In Lancashire, Worcester and the Black Country, the proportion of young people meeting an employer every year is now over 70 per cent, an increase of a third in just the last year. In Blackpool it is over 90 per cent.

Regular meetings with business are a proven way for young people to become better prepared for the world of work and improve their career choices and life chances as they move from education into employment.

Career Hubs are delivering a world-class approach to careers education based on a new set of standards known as the Gatsby Benchmarks.

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John Yarham, Interim Chief Executive of The Career & Enterprise Company said:

“Career Hubs are proving a powerful driver of accelerated performance in careers education across the country.

“It is exciting and encouraging to see the difference these new dynamic hubs are starting to have on the life chances and job choices of young people.

“Today’s generation now have the opportunity to be better prepared for and informed about the world of work as they prepare to make the move from education into the employment.

“In just 12 months we seen these new career hubs flourish into centres of excellence, forging powerful partnerships in local communities.  We look forward to fostering their continued development.”

Kay Vaughan, Careers Hub Lead from award winning Lancashire Hub said:

“The new Careers Hub model has helped us build a more strategic approach to careers education for our local community.  It’s encouraged collaboration across a wide range of schools, colleges and employers and helped us all learn and improve together through sharing good practice.

“The Careers Hub has supported a transformation in careers education and enabled us to improve the impact we are having on the ambitions and aspirations of the young people in our community.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“We want to support all young people to make informed career choices. Careers Hubs are one part of a growing package of support available to schools and colleges to meet the Gatsby Benchmarks of good careers guidance.

“Hubs work within The Careers and Enterprise Company’s existing Enterprise Adviser Network. Through this nearly 2,300 schools and colleges have been matched with a senior business volunteer to build relationships with students and introduce them to career opportunities.

“The network is working: 94% of schools and colleges say they are happy with the support provided.”

Cllr Kevin Bentley, Chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said:

“Councils want to ensure every young person realises their full potential. 

“Two years ago the Government’s Careers Strategy pledged to provide an improved service that supports people of all ages. Instead, careers provision in England is becoming ever more fragmented and complex.

“Too many young people are not receiving the high-quality, impartial and personalised careers advice they deserve and this is a disservice to them. This leaves too many youngsters making unsuitable career decisions, which have a potentially devastating impact on their future.

“Councils are best-placed to tackle this. Devolving careers advice, post-16 and skills budgets and powers to local areas, would allow councils, schools, colleges and employers to work together to improve provision and match young people with employment routes that actually exist within their local communities.”

Career Hubs are a core part of the Government’s Careers Strategy launched in 2017.  Their success shows the money invested in the new approach to careers education is having a real impact – improving the opportunities and life chances of young people – and delivering value for money for taxpayers.

The new approach is delivering significant levels of improvement in performance, standards and results in return for relatively modest levels of investment.