The Baker Dearing Educational Trust’s mission is to provide all young people with a relevant, career-focused education in a fast-changing world and, in doing so, to provide employers with the skilled workforce needed for UK industry to thrive. Our priorities are focused on achieving this aim.
Global events have highlighted the value of practical STEM skills, and has accelerated the need for technicians with digital skills. A UTC education is now more relevant than ever.
High-quality technical training is at the centre of a UTC education. Students spend more than one-third of their time studying the technical specialisms offered. Unfortunately, government policy has de-emphasised technical education within schools (for example, the design and technology GCSE has seen entries halve in just five years), during a period of rising demand and need in the jobs market. As a result, access to the right level and type of expertise is often difficult.
The Baker Dearing Educational Trust’s small team of highly experienced staff help UTCs directly, or through the commissioning of support from others across the network, to deliver a high-quality technical education. This is achieved through the provision of training and the sharing of advice, which are increasingly offered online.
Employer and university engagement are integral to the success of UTCs. Employers themselves engage students through project-based learning; this brings ‘real life’ workplace challenges into the classroom as part of the curriculum. They also offer mentoring and provide work experience to UTC students. Employer and university involvement helps nurture the necessary attitudes and attributes for UTC students to become ‘work ready’.
The Baker Dearing Educational Trust assists UTCs directly to provide employer and university engagement activities for the benefit of their students. We also work with large employers to introduce programmes of teaching and learning across multiple UTCs.
UTCs are relatively new schools, with a distinct curriculum and with student recruitment taking place at the age of 13 or 14. Promoting the value of a UTC education to parents and students requires extra funding and expertise, both of which are not commonly found within the state education system.
The Baker Dearing Educational Trust directly, and through third-party agencies, provides tailored support to help UTCs enhance student recruitment. We offer UTC access to centrally-produced marketing materials and data, as well as research and training in ‘best practice’. In addition, the charity ensures that government initiatives, such as the Baker Clause (which helps UTC staff to promote their school to others) and the Local Authority letter raising UTC awareness, are implemented effectively.
UTCs are still relatively new institutions. Despite their success to date (as measured by impressive student destinations), ongoing and targeted lobbying on behalf of the programme is needed to embed UTCs fully within the educational landscape.
Baker Dearing staff meet regularly with senior staff from various parts of the Department for Education (Policy, ESFA, regional school commissioner directorates, Ofqual, Ofsted), as well as at the ministerial level, to identify tangible initiatives to help UTCs. We also meet with individual Members of Parliament to promote UTCs at a local level.
The 44 UTCs across England provide a similar education and face the same opportunities and challenges. Furthermore, UTC principals, as do all headteachers, change relatively frequently, typically every 3 years.
The Baker Dearing Educational Trust runs a rich programme of online and physical events (over 50 per annum) to facilitate the sharing of knowledge amongst UTC principals, heads of specialisms, finance professionals, marketing and employer engagement leads, and chairs of governors. In addition, we produce regular reports and research specifically about UTCs.
UTCs have a STEM focus, which traditionally engages male learners more readily. An ambition of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust is to equalise the percentage of girls across the programme (currently just 30%) with that of boys, and we share ‘best practice’ on how best to achieve this aim. By enabling students to join at 14 years of age, UTCs also create ‘second chance’ opportunities to students who have been let down by the education system. Most of these students thrive once joining a UTC. Therefore, it is vital that all students who are disengaged with their studies, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, are aware of the opportunity afforded to them by UTCs.
Given the importance of science and engineering to our economy, and the potential skills shortage in these areas, the idea of a school like this is obvious and yet it takes someone to actually do it. That is the genius of the place, that someone has got the concept up-and-running and that they are delivering the curriculum in partnership with organisations such as the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
Over half of the roles in the Royal Navy are engineering. That’s why it’s great that UTCs provide an exciting environment for students to learn all aspects of engineering. We are privileged to be supporting young engineers. We need to encourage this area of expertise. If we do not get this right, we sink and we are not protecting the country. Engineering is our future and young people are our future.