University Technical Colleges

Cross Party Support but NUT opposed

No surprise there then


The new University Technical Colleges appear to be an exciting addition to the supply side in education, increasing choice, opening up more opportunities in practical education  and attracting cross party support. All UTCs are supported by a University and very often an FE college. The JCB Academy in Rocester, Staffordshire, which opened in September 2010, was the first of a network of UTCs. It offers high-quality engineering and business education  to students aged 14 to 19. There are now 16 new university technical colleges approved, and up to nine may open in September 2012.  It is estimated that 10,000 young people will be attending UTCs by 2015. The idea began with Lords Dearing and Baker and ,following the formers death, has been advanced by Lord Baker with considerable  determination and success.  Speaking in Parliament recently Stephen Twigg, the Shadow Education Secretary, said: “I congratulate the university technical colleges and free schools that have secured approval today. UTCs are an exciting innovation modelled, as he said, on the highly successful JCB academy in Staffordshire established under the previous Government.” Twigg will deliver his first speech next month at an event organised by the Charity Edge which promotes practical education  titled “Engaging pathways for all”    in which he is likely to  reiterate his backing for the UTC initiative. Significantly, this Government is building on two key initiatives  that began under the last Labour government-Academies and UTCs.

But no surprise that the NUT opposes reform, its what it does best . It  is the most reactionary of unions.  Christine Blower, the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, attacked the proposals for 16 new University Technical Colleges.  She said: “University Technical Colleges are extremely divisive and will force young people to make choices about the direction they wish to travel in at far too early an age. Separating ‘technical’ or ‘vocational’ education from mainstream schools will lead to a two tier system with technical schools being potentially seen as the poor cousin. We need an education system which opens up a range of different routes for young people to progress into further education, training and employment and keeps their options open, not closes them down at age 14 or 16.

“Breaking up state education into a patchwork system of providers will have severe consequences for everyone. Education should not be subjected to the ideology of the market place. We need to see a return to properly planned school place provision, based on clearly identified need and overseen by the local authority.”

Providing more choice for pupils  with practical skills  is surely a good thing providing that these  offer both core academic disciplines along with robust vocational  qualifications, which is the intention . Breaking up the state education system? I think not.


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