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University Technical Colleges gathering support to create new hubs of technical education excellence

A leading education charity is gathering support for expanding a new technical education pathway within existing schools, based on the successful University Technical College (“UTC”) model.

The Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which supports around 50 UTCs across the country, has launched a consultation on the UTC Sleeve initiative, seeking support from stakeholders that will reinforce the trust’s advocacy for the initiative with the Department for Education.

Sleeves are designed to provide a technical education curriculum, built by employers and incorporating both technical and workplace skills such as communication and team-working, for students aged between 14 and 18 as part of an existing secondary school.

Following the successful founding of a UTC Sleeve in Bristol, the trust is looking to gauge support for opening new sleeves in secondary schools around the country.

Technical education sleeves will explicitly prepare students for work

At pre-16, UTC Sleeves will offer an integrated path of study – rather than a discrete selection of subjects – with students being prepared for T Levels, which the sleeve will offer at post-16.

Each sleeve will also replicate the other vital characteristics of a UTC curriculum including employer-based projects which aim to develop employability skills such as team work, communication, resilience, and adherence to professional standards.

The development of a UTC Sleeve, including its curriculum, will be informed by an employer board of representatives from local companies. That curriculum will be based on skills specialisms which are in short supply locally, as identified through the government’s Local Skills Improvement Plan for that area.

UTC model provides blueprint for technical education excellence

These features replicate the model of existing University Technical Colleges. It is a model which is generating excellent results, with one quarter of UTC leavers aged 18 progressing into apprenticeships last summer, six times the national average. An Ofsted report, published last month, described Scarborough UTC as “a school of opportunity,” with “strong and supportive” links with industry.

Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove said during a recent visit to UTC South Durham: “Over the past five years there has been a clear transformation in the UTC programme, and it is now delivering against the original vision.

“Our country needs more skilled professionals and UTCs are an excellent example of how the education system can prepare young people for careers in engineering, digital, and healthcare.”

Schools already interested in setting up UTC Sleeves

Abbeywood Community School is already running a UTC Sleeve and several multi-academy trusts have expressed their interest in the initiative.

The Baker Dearing Educational Trust will be supporting each application to the Department for Education to open a UTC Sleeve by assisting with the production of applications, recruiting employers, and sharing best practice from the UTC programme.

For a school to apply for a UTC Sleeve, they will need to meet several criteria. This includes being part of a strong MAT, already having a ‘good’ UTC within their trust or being able to form a close partnership with a ‘good’ UTC. The school must be able to evidence local skills needs and willing employer and university partners.

A consultation document has been produced by Baker Dearing, which can be found here. Interested parties have been asked to read the document before completing the consultation form, here.

Baker Dearing Educational Trust chief executive Simon Connell commented:

“Schools, students, parents, and employers are eager for a careers-focused technical education which gives young people the skills they need to take up fulfilling careers in industries in dire need of fresh talent.

“This consultation should be seen as a rallying cry for educationalists and stakeholders to show their support for the UTC Sleeve initiative – which will create hubs of technical education excellence within successful schools.

“In addition to the new UTCs which have been put forward in the latest free schools round, the sleeve initiative demonstrates educators’ and employers’ appetite for technical education which is built by employers with students in mind.”

Abbeywood Community School headteacher Benjamin Dilley commented:

“We have both enjoyed and benefited from operating a UTC Sleeve at Abbeywood Community School. Students have really engaged with the specialist curriculum and greater focus on preparing them for the world of work and the specialist pathway is complementing their other subjects.

“It has helped us offer a wider array of options to students and families in our community and encouraged those with an interest in engineering to join our school. Meanwhile, our employer partners have been supportive in discussing our curriculum and we look forward to working more collaboratively to design an even more bespoke curriculum. Our employer partners are excited by the possibility for a pipeline of young, work-ready talent.

“We would encourage anyone who is interested in opening a sleeve, or who is supportive of greater technical education, to engage with the consultation.”