The number of University Technical Colleges (UTCs) has increased by 800%, announced Mr Gove
. And it’s true. The number has increased by 800% - from two to eighteen. Two UTCs are open, eight are due to open in 2012 and a further eight have been approved.
It’s a great soundbite – 800%. UTCs, the DfE says
, will increase choice for parents. But this will only be true if children live near one of them and want to leave their secondary schools after only three years. According to the DfE, UTCs “play an important role in ensuring that young people have the skills that employers demand” because they focus on a technical education. If each of these UTCs has 1,000 pupils, then only 18,000 of the 3.3 million pupils in English state secondary schools will eventually have the skills needed by modern business according to the Government.
Twenty-five years ago Lord Baker, who’s behind the UTCs, set up the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI). It was a laudable attempt to increase the profile of technical and vocational education in all secondary schools. It’s largely because of TVEI that the majority of schools now offer activities such as Industry Days, work experience and have links with employers. And many also have links with further education colleges. Yet the Government talks and acts as if this hasn’t happened.
Instead of praising what’s already there, the Government continues to promote the notion that UTCs are revolutionary. Instead of approving the technical examinations already offered by secondary schools together with GCSEs, the Government derides them while Lord Baker proposes a new examination, the technical baccalaureate,
despite concerns from Professor Alison Wolf, author of the Government’s review of vocational education, that it would usher in a new, two-tier system of education.