71% of UTCs rated less than Ofsted 'good' in the last year

More than two thirds of the university technical colleges visited by Ofsted in the last year are ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’, according to Schools Week analysis.

But the organisation that oversees UTCs claims the watchdog’s inspection regime is not designed to measure their performance in the most accurate way possible.

Of the 14 UTCs inspected by Ofsted between February 2017 and February 2018, just four, or 29 per cent, were rated ‘good’. None at all were rated ‘outstanding’.

Meanwhile, 10, or 71 per cent, were ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

The Baker Dearing Trust told Schools Week that UTCs are “new and innovative” colleges which are inspected “before many of them have a settled position in the local education landscape”.

Its spokesperson claimed that the trust hopes that “over time”, the “outstanding destinations” found at UTCs will “carry more weight” in Ofsted reports.

A total of 29 of the 14-to-19 technical institutions – including several which have since closed – have now been inspected, of which 17 (59 per cent) had the lowest two grades. This is compared to just 11.6 per cent of schools.

Baker Dearing pointed out that if only the 23 UTCs that are still open and have had inspections are taken into account, 52 per cent are at grades one or two.

The organisation, which seeks to champion and promote UTCs, said its objective is to have every UTC rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, and claimed it works “closely and constructively” with those that have yet to reach the benchmark.

UTCs are new and innovative colleges which are inspected before many of them have a settled position

The brainchild of former education secretary Lord Baker (pictured), the UTCs programme was launched in 2011 by the then-education secretary Michael Gove.

However, it has recently emerged that Gove was forced to create the institutions by George Osborne and David Cameron. David Laws, who served as schools minister in the coalition government from 2012 to 2015, told Schools Week last month that Gove had “never liked” the policy, but had it “imposed” on him by the former chancellor and prime minister.

UTCs have attracted strong criticism over the years as many have struggled to recruit the right number of pupils at the age of 14.

Many of the scheme’s critics, especially those in the schools community, say that pupils are not ready or inclined to move to a different school at the end of year nine. In response, some UTCs have since sought to admit 13-year-olds, while eight have either closed completely or become 11-to-18 schools.

The most recent inspection reports into UTCs, at the institutions in South Devon and Buckinghamshire, both produced ‘requires improvement’ ratings.

For Buckinghamshire, it was the second ‘requires improvement’ in a row. The college had just 147 students on roll, despite a capacity of 600, in the last academic year.

Inspectors who visited in January said that overall progress in English, maths and science has been “well below” the national average for the last three years, and the quality of teaching is “inconsistent”.

South Devon UTC was inspected for the first time in January. The college currently has just over 200 pupils, but senior leaders were criticised because they have “not secured consistently effective” teaching as it has grown in size.

An investigation in January by FE Week revealed that almost every UTC missed their recruitment targets last year, leaving them with combined debts of over £11 million.

The ESFA is trying to retrieve cash from 39 of 44 UTCs still open in 2016/17.