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UTCs are more than just a school

UTCs are more than just a school. Alongside a strong grounding in English, Maths and Science, students achieve sought-after qualifications in areas like digital and engineering.

A regular comment heard during the current pandemic is “how quickly the world has changed in a short period of time”. In education, the move to home-schooling, the government’s creation of a new online academy in just a month, and the reinvention of GCSE and A Level assessments are good examples. Necessity really is the mother of invention.

This is all the more impressive as change doesn’t come naturally to our education system. Indeed, the first national secondary school curriculum, introduced over one hundred years ago, looks almost exactly the same as the ‘Ebacc’, the government’s target curriculum requirements today: maths, English, sciences, a foreign language, and a humanity.

Whilst virtually no one would argue that English, maths and sciences aren’t core to any curriculum, the absence of any formal requirement to take a creative or technical subject seems at odds with what is increasingly relevant to most careers today. Furthermore, it is well documented that a purely academic curriculum increases the risk that young people become disengaged in their studies.

We created a national family of UTCs to address this concern. Like all other government-funded schools, UTCs prioritise and ensure a strong grounding in English, maths and sciences for our students by requiring GCSE and A Level courses. However, in addition UTC students achieve highly regarded qualifications in vital technical and creative subjects such as digital, engineering, health and media. To accommodate this, and to prepare young people for the world of work, UTCs run a longer school day, often finishing after 4pm. Of course, by having more hours in the school day, there is also time to study for GCSEs in other subjects such as history, geography, or a foreign language.

The choice of technical subjects and qualifications depends on each UTC’s employer partners. Typically, UTCs have two specialisms aligned to the skills requirements of local companies; these companies work with UTCs to ensure that the curriculum offered is relevant, engaging, and meets their needs. Employer support doesn’t end with curriculum development: UTC employer partners provide mentoring to students, offer work experience, and bring real-life industry challenges of their own into the UTC for students to help to solve.

We ask a lot of the 400+ employer partners across the UTC programme, but in return they get to know and ultimately hire these talented professionals of the future through their on-going relationships with our students, who therefore have the qualifications these employers need.

Change in education requires careful consideration, as young people only get one chance at the high quality experience they deserve. However, as we have learned during the current crisis, change is often necessary and, whilst not without its challenges, is often easier to achieve than expected, especially if it is the right thing to do. By changing an outdated purely academic curriculum to a relevant blend of academic and technical subjects, UTCs are leading by example, and our students are seeing the benefits. Others should follow suit.