'Inadequate' Ofsted report exposes bullying at doomed UTC

Bullying – some of it racial – is rife at a university technical college that announced plans to close earlier this week, according to a damning Ofsted report which rated the school ‘inadequate’.

UTC@Harbourside, a 14 to 19 school with a vocational focus in Newhaven, East Sussex, broke “too many promises”, inspectors said. It is the third UTC to have been labelled ‘inadequate’ in the space of a week, and the tenth overall.

“Bullying, especially in key stage 4, is frequent,” the report said. “Some of it is racial. Adults do not act decisively enough to stop it and prevent repetition.”

Some pupils in year 10 have a “miserable time” at the UTC “due to bullying, some of a persistent nature and which results in a few pupils being isolated”.

Pupils in this age group are “very clear that the size of the cohort means that relatively minor disagreements too often get blown out of proportion,” inspectors noted.

According to 2018 school census figures, the school had 130 pupils on roll in 2017-18, down from 141 in 2016-17.

Safeguarding arrangements at the school are deemed to be “not effective”, while pupils are “hugely disappointed” with its “failure to live up to their expectations”.

“Too many promises made by the UTC have been broken too often,” inspectors said. Furthermore, learners on 16 to 19 study programmes feel like they were “lied-to” by the UTC to get them to enrol, but “have been let down since”.

Outcomes for these pupils  are not good enough, and many do not feel “challenged to excel”.

Teachers frequently teach outside their specialism due to budgetary constraints, and only some have the correct technical knowledge to deliver their subject accurately.

Senior leadership is described as “chaotic”. The school’s “substantive principal” was not present during the inspection.

“The deputy principal is determinedly trying to rescue the UTC,” inspectors noted.

UTC@Harbourside’s governors said in a statement they were “disappointed” by the report but that they “fully accept the findings of the inspectors” and are implementing the recommendations in the report for pupils who will remain on roll until the school closes in August 2019.

An acting principal, Lisa Jepson, “has already started to address the issues raised in the report”.

“We will continue to work closely with Ofsted to secure improvements and guide our current year 10 and 12 students to successfully completing their courses in July 2019,” a spokesperson said.

The UTC model has faced substantial problems since its inception in 2010. Many have struggled financially after failing to attract the right number of pupils, as well as with quality.

On Monday, UTC@Harbourside became the ninth UTC to announce plans to close. The school failed to recruit enough pupils to become “financially stable”.

It also the tenth to have received Ofsted’s lowest rating, and third in the space of a week – after Derby Manufacturing UTC on June 28, and Health Futures UTC on July 3.

In January, it was revealed that UTC@Harbourside was one of three UTCs to have agreed to pay back over £500,000 to the government after over-estimating pupil numbers.