UTC that ‘knocked pupils’ aspirations’ put in special measures

A university technical college (UTC) that knocked the confidence and aspirations of pupils after putting them on the wrong courses has been placed in special measures.

Ofsted rated Bolton UTC inadequate in all areas following an inspection in February, prompted by concerns over the effectiveness of safeguarding, and quality of leadership and management.

The college, which had consulted on plans to convert into an 11 to 18 academy, but has since abandoned its proposal, is the sixth UTC to be rated as inadequate by Ofsted.

Pupils at Bolton UTC told inspectors they had been “sold a dream” and had ended up “disappointed with the reality” after they were promised a high-quality education, but received poor teaching and made little progress.

“Pupils have been on courses that were not appropriate for them” and consequently “the confidence and aspirations of pupils have been knocked”, the report stated.

Pupils have been on courses that were not appropriate for them

Inspectors said many pupils were placed on “unsuitable” A-level courses without the “prior understanding that would have enabled them to cope”.

The report added pupils in the school’s first year made inadequate progress because the management and organisation of teaching and teaching itself were inadequate.

While pupils were making better progress this year, it was not good enough to mitigate the previous considerable weaknesses.

Inspectors also warned that the college’s safeguarding arrangements were not effective. For instance, written safeguarding records for vulnerable pupils were inadequate, and senior staff and governors did not know if “all is being done to keep pupils safe”, the report stated.

Governors were criticised for presiding over a failing college and for failing to hold the then chief executive to account in the UTC’s first year, and although acting principal Liam McDaid has been “very effective” in improving teaching and achievement, this improvement has not been fast enough.

McDaid said he was pleased Ofsted had recognised that progress had improved this year and said the UTC had taken “swift action” to address safeguarding concerns raised by inspectors.

“I am committed to working with governors, staff, students and parents to ensure that the UTC Bolton delivers the first class education that it has been designed for,” he said.

Bill Webster, Bolton UTC’s chair of governors, said the board fully accepted the findings of the inspection and was “taking significant steps to deal with the highlighted issues as quickly as possible”.

These steps include the appointment of new governors Jo Morgan, a headteacher and Ofsted inspector, and Ann Pilling, an education adviser who specialises in STEM.

Charles Parker, chief executive of the Baker Dearing Trust, an organisation established to develop and promote the concept of UTCs, described Bolton’s Ofsted rating as “disappointing”.

“The issues highlighted in the report are important and need to be addressed rapidly,” he added.

Just nine out of the 23 UTCs inspected to date have been rated good or outstanding. Eight are rated as requires improvement and six are inadequate.

Bolton UTC said its proposals to take on pupils from year 7, first reported in October, were no longer being taken forward following a consultation, but has not explained why.

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