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University Technical College programme to grow again

The national family of 44 University Technical Colleges (UTCs) will be welcoming its next generation after the government today announced approval for two new UTCs in Southampton and Doncaster, in confirmation that UTCs have now come of age.

Today, over 80% of UTCs are judged ‘Good’ or better by Ofsted, and student enrolment has jumped by about a third in the past three years, reaching 20,000.

These two new UTCs in Doncaster and Southampton will have the most up-to-date and innovative technical and digital equipment to provide their students with the skills for their future work.

Both UTCs received strong support from local employers, universities, chambers of commerce, local authorities, and Members of Parliament. Both will be developed by the teams behind successful UTCs, UTC Portsmouth and Doncaster UTC which have been graded as ‘Outstanding’ and ‘Good’ respectively and are now heavily over-subscribed in their local communities. The latter’s success is particularly noteworthy as it is the youngest UTC, having only opened in 2020. The two have also developed strong links with local employers.

Doncaster and Southampton UTCs are two of only six new schools announced today, out of a total of 15, that will include pre-16 provision.

The resumption of growth for the UTC programme results from the recent period of strong performance.

Our students, parents, and stakeholders recognise that UTCs have established a strong track record for leavers progressing into apprenticeships. While an average of 50% of UTC students head to university each year, 25% become apprentices, compared to a national average of just 4%. Many leavers take up skilled jobs locally and help their local community and economy to grow.

Skills minister Robert Halfon MP spoke approvingly of the UTC programme’s success at the Baker Dearing Educational Trust’s Summer Conference for UTC leaders last month, saying he had:

“Always believed in the UTC programme because I feel UTCs provide that vital technical education that we need and it’s a ladder of opportunity for local young people.

“I want to thank all the teachers and support staff in UTCs up and down the country for the hard work in making this happen and for believing in the opportunities that technical education offers young people.”

The extra space and resources afforded by the two new institutions will allow the UTCs to serve more families in their local community and expand the pipeline of talent into local employers.

Former Education Secretary Lord Kenneth Baker, who chairs the Baker Dearing Educational Trust which supports the UTC network, has called today’s announcements “fantastic news”.

Responding to the two successful applications to open new UTCs, Baker Dearing Educational Trust chairman Lord Baker commented:

“It is fantastic news for Southampton and Doncaster that they will each have a new University Technical College.

“Students will have the most-up to date innovative technical and digital equipment, which will help them become apprentices, to study a STEM subject at university, or to find local, skilled employment.

“I very much welcome education secretary Gillian Keegan’s enthusiastic support for UTCs.  By becoming the first secretary of state who left school to become an apprentice she has shown that apprenticeships are pathways to success. I greatly appreciate the well-founded faith that the Department for Education has now placed in the UTC programme and are also thankful to the local politicians and stakeholders who have supported this application.

“The two new UTCs that have been announced are further proof of the success of the UTC concept, as more and more students, parents, and stakeholders come onboard the programme.

“With an expanding network of UTCs, and the number of our leavers who are progressing onto apprenticeships and technical university degree courses far outstripping the national average, we confidently argue that University Technical Colleges – and the new UTC Sleeves within existing secondary schools – are the best means by which to expand the UK’s professional and technically-skilled workforce.”

Baker Dearing Educational Trust chief executive Simon Connell commented:

“Each UTC student is provided with a high-quality, careers-focused, technical education, which is part of what makes our offering so attractive to young people and their families.

“I would like to thank the Department for Education for today’s announcement, which demonstrates our shared vision to grow technical schools to meet the future skills needs of the country.

“A crucial element in UTCs’ successful delivery of technical education is the pre-16 starting age. It is interesting that just six of the new schools announced today will cater to pre-16 and a reflection, perhaps, of changing demographics.

“However, it is important that technical education remains open to students below Key Stage 5. This will be achieved through the UTC network, however it also requires schools to have adequate funding to deliver more specialist and resource-heavy subjects.”