MPs from across the divide this week joined University Technical College leaders to celebrate ten years of the technical school programme, with calls for the Conservative prime ministerial candidates to stem the loss of technical and creative subjects in schools.
Wednesday’s celebration at the RIBA building in London, organised by UTC support body the Baker Dearing Educational Trust and sponsored by Pearson, had been delayed by two years owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the dinner, trust chief executive Simon Connell remarked:
“What makes a UTC a success? The causality of all the obvious factors – location, Ofsted outcome, demographics, the time of its opening, specialism – pale in significance compared to the people who are working in the UTC.
“Good people, good outcomes, whatever the setting. The UTC programme is thriving today because of the people in this room.
“So tonight is a celebration of your achievements.”
The trust has extended its thanks to the politicians and officials who attended the dinner. This included Education Select Committee chair and UTC programme champion Robert Halfon, Commons deputy speaker Dame Rosie Winterton, Conservative MP Paul Howell, Work and Pensions Select Committee chair Sir Stephen Timms, and Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman.
Speaking after the event, Connell said:
“It was great to see so many leading politicians at the dinner. We hope the message about the UTC programme gets out to the Labour Party and the Conservative leadership candidates.
“We can’t wait to welcome whoever is elected prime minister in September on a visit to our UTCs and hope they prioritise technical education.
“The new PM and education team should focus on re-introducing technical and creative subjects back into schools and bringing employers closer to the classroom.
“This, we know from the last 12 years, is what’s needed to better prepare young people for the arrival of T Levels.”
Guests at the dinner were also shown ‘Strike a Spark,’ a film demonstrating the positive impact of the UTC programme’s technical education-focused curriculum. The film followed three UTC alumni who have secured jobs in industry with key employer partners of the programme, as a result of them studying at a UTC:
- Simon Light, from UTC Reading, who now works for technology company Cisco
- Alex Burr, from Ron Dearing UTC, who is now with engineering company the Spencer Group
- Usman Mulla, from Aston University Engineering Academy, who now works for technical professional services firm Jacobs
After the dinner, guests heard from Baker Dearing’s chair and the UTC programme’s founder Lord Baker, who told them:
“You are the stars. I am merely the mouthpiece. You were the people who made this movement successful and I’m very proud of what you’ve done.
“We had some failures, there’s no question about that. But we learnt our lessons and triumphed against the odds.
“You made something which has improved the life chances of tens of thousands of young people. You’re getting them into apprenticeships, into universities, into jobs.
“So thank you all very much for what you do. You, ladies and gentlemen, are the stars.”
As he left the stage, the audience gave the former education secretary a standing ovation.
The dinner followed a day of conferencing where UTC and trust leaders shared experiences and best practice on a series of subjects, including the delivery of T Levels.