Inadequate Plymouth UTC plans to offer places to 13-year-olds

Janet Downs's picture

Poor enrolment in 2017 blamed on ‘demographic dip’

Plymouth University Technology College (UTC), judged inadequate in April 2016, is planning to reduce its ‘normal point of entry for key stage four’ from year 10 to year 9.  

The UTC admitted no Year 10 pupils in September 2017.  Accounts* blamed the poor enrolment on a demographic dip in Plymouth…and increased competition for student places.’

But enrolling pupils at age 13 will mean these young people will have to decide future career direction during their second year at secondary school.    It also ignores warnings from Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman about shortening Key Stage 3.

Deficit and ‘increased liabilities’

The UTC had a deficit at end of August 2017* and admitted ‘increased liabilities.’  These including repaying a grant from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).   The repayment was ‘on-hold’ pending the UTC’s rebrokerage.

Re-designated ‘newly opened’ as UTC changes hands

Plymouth UTC opened in 2013.  But according to the Government’s schools’ database** it closed at the end of September and re-opened for a ‘fresh start’ after being transferred to Reach South, a ‘sister trust’ to the rapidly-expanding Reach2 multi-academy trust.

Now deemed to have no Ofsted record

Ofsted’s website for the apparently newly-opened UTC says it has no report because it’s a ‘newly-registered school [which] hasn’t been inspected yet.’

Reach South also takes over Portsmouth free school

Reach South also takes over the struggling Parkfield School, an all-through free school opened in Portsmouth in 2013, Schools Week writes.    Parkfield has had a troubled history.   Its relocation from temporary accommodation was repeatedly postponed.  It has twice been rated requires improvement.  It was without a sponsor from November 2016 until September 2018 when it transferred to Reach South.  A mooted take over by Ambitions Academy Trust fell through.

Opening of Parkfield created places which were not needed

Like Plymouth UTC, Parkfield School opened where there was no need for extra school places locally.   Some neighbouring secondary schools are under capacity.  Yet the DfE has still given permission for Aspirations Academy Trust to establish a new all-through free school, Livingstone Academy, in Bournemouth.  

It’s hoped Livingstone Academy will open from 2020 in refurbished accommodation at the former Law Courts and a Police Station.  

Inspection history wiped

Like Plymouth UTC, Parkfield School was closed and reopened when it transferred  thereby wiping out its inspection history.

Plymouth UTC and Parkfield expose flaws in DfE policies

Plymouth UTC and Parkfield School reveal flaws in the UTC and free school policies.  The UTC age-range of 14-19 is out of kilter with normal secondary and post-16 education in England.  Many UTCs have struggled to recruit especially at 14.   The history of Parkfield shows the dangers of opening free schools where places are not needed.  This is especially true when the free school opened in unsuitable and/or temporary accommodation.


*year ending 31 August 2017 available from Companies House


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Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 08/10/2018 - 14:10

You reveal yet more Academy and UTC abuses helped along by DfE. Admitting pupils at 13 is a really terrible idea, but other local Academies will love it. A DfE approved justification for getting rid of their less able students will work wonders for GCSE results and local league tables.

Weeding out the 'less academic' at KS4 was bad enough, to do it at the start of Y9 is shocking. It is all very well for the Chief Inspector of Schools to 'disapprove' of the idea, but what will she do about it?

Don't hold your breath.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 08/10/2018 - 15:16

Roger - Ofsted criticism of Plymouth UTC included the observation that Key Stage Four had a large number of pupils who had had issues with schools.  This suggests the UTC had been used as a dumping ground for pupils other schools didn't want.  And it would be all too easy, as you say, for schools to tell low-achieving pupils they might be 'better off' in a school offering a more vocational curriculum.

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