Reading is first UTC to get coveted ‘outstanding’ grade

Reading’s University Technical College (UTC) has become the first in the country to be graded “outstanding” by Ofsted as the debate about the success of the programme rages on.

In a report which will be released by the watchdog on Monday, the science and engineering specialist 14 to 19 college has been praised by Ofsted and given a coveted grade one rating in every category – leadership and management, behaviour, quality of teaching, achievement of students and sixth form provision.

Inspectors praised the “inspiring leadership” of principal Joanne Harper, and said the UTC’s governors and business partners, which include Cisco, Microsoft, and Network Rail, were “knowledgeable and highly effective”, which contributed to the “outstanding achievement” of learners.

The UTC, opened in December 2013 by Activate Learning, the firm behind Reading College, City of Oxford College, Banbury and Bicester College and another UTC in Didcot due to open in September, was also praised for its business-like ethos, which meant learners were “prepared exceptionally well for their future lives”.

Activate Learning chief executive Sally Dicketts (pictured) said: “Prior to the launch of UTCs young people had to make a choice between school and college.

“UTCs now combine the best of vocational and academic learning, providing students with a curriculum that develops higher-level thinking and applies it in a practical setting.

“This unique offering adds real value and choice to our educational system and UTC Reading is an excellent example of the model.”

Principal Ms Harper said the UTC was “characterised by excellent working relationships with its industry partners”, giving learners the “best possible foundations for their future careers”.

She added: “Our partners have helped to shape the curriculum and continue to work with us to set projects, offer work experience and providing mentoring. This is what sets the school apart and we are delighted that this has been reflected in the comments from the Ofsted inspectors.”

It comes as a debate over the strength of UTCs, the pet project of former Education Secretary Lord Baker, rages on after attendance and recruitment problems were identified at several of the 30 currently open and after two UTCs – Black Country and Hackney – confirmed they would close this summer.

It also comes despite the fact UTC Reading was running at 44.5 per cent of its capacity in April of this year.

Lord Baker said: “Ofsted rightly say that it is an outstanding school – one that provides an excellent technical education for aspirational young people that fits very well with the needs of local employers.”

Picture: Sally Dicketts at Reading College.

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