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NAO Report on UTCs demonstrates the DfE’s commitment to technical education 

The NAO Report released today provides an analysis of mainly publicly available information and provides little in the way of new insight into the UTC programme. Unfortunately, the report does not consider the programme’s significant value to the 30,000+ students, who have benefited from a UTC education over the past ten years. None of the 400+ employers and universities, who have backed UTCs from the start, and benefit from UTC leavers taking jobs, apprenticeships and university places into hard-to-fill areas of the economy, were approached to provide feedback on this report.

It is well documented that technical education costs more money to deliver than general secondary education, and the OECD highlighted recently that the UK is one of just six countries globally spending less on this form of education than general secondary education. In this context, Baker Dearing welcomes the DfE’s commitment to school-age technical education through its investment in the UTC programme. However, excluding capital funding and start up grants, which all free schools are entitled to, the report highlights that the DfE has only invested an additional £50m into the UTC programme over the past ten years. This represents about 0.01% of the dedicated schools grant over the same period. With a national skills’ gap for level 3 engineers estimated at 200,000, and rising, and three times this for digital technicians, it is vital the DfE redoubles its commitment to all forms of technical education.

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.”

UTCs offer choice for many young people by providing a unique and relevant approach to education, which meets the changing needs of students and employers in the 21st Century. While Baker Dearing recognises that more can be done to increase student numbers at some UTCs, the strong track record of students destinations after leaving all UTCs is proof that the programme is working: UTC leavers are 5x as likely to progress into advanced and higher apprenticeships, and almost twice as likely to take STEM courses at university. As the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson said earlier this month;

“We should never underestimate the importance and the power that technical vocational qualifications have in terms of driving our economic performance. And UTCs, (such as this one in Plymouth) are a perfect exemplar of what more we need to be doing in the future.”