The organisation behind the university technical college programme has claimed the number of 14-year-olds studying at the institutions is on the up – although its own figures show a different picture.
A spokesperson for the Baker Dearing Educational Trust told our sister title, FE Week, that year 10 recruitment at the 14 to 19 institutions had grown 40 per cent over the past two years, which “suggests students are interested in this form of education at a younger age”.
“This doesn’t suggest that the programme is struggling. Quite the opposite.”
But when pressed by FE Week, she admitted that this was the overall number of learners – which is likely to have gone up as more UTCs have opened – rather than an increase in each UTC.
Further analysis revealed that the average intake of 14-year-olds at each UTC has fallen this year.
The trust’s unpublished enrolment figures for 2018-19 reveal that each institution has an average of 82 year 10s, down from the 85 in 2017-18, as shown in school census data published by the Department for Education.
The spokesperson was responding to FE Week’s request for a comment on its analysis of learner numbers at established UTCs.
FE Week looked at the DfE’s school census data for the 33 UTCs to have opened in 2015 or earlier, and compared figures for 2017-18 with 2016-17.
There was a year-on-year drop in 19 colleges, with two-thirds of the 33 operating at less than half capacity.
Both UTC Plymouth and Sir Charles Kao UTC, now rebranded as the BMAT STEM Academy, had a more than 50 per cent drop.
Sir Charles Kao UTC, which opened in 2014, had the lowest enrolment of any UTC in 2017-18, with just 59 learners – down from 143 the previous year, a fall of 59 per cent.
Helena Mills, the chief executive of the Burnt Mill Academy Trust, which the UTC joined earlier this year, said the low numbers were due to a trust and DfE decision to halt recruitment of year 10 and year 12 students last year “because the future of Sir Charles Kao UTC was uncertain”.
Numbers at UTC Plymouth, which opened in 2013, fell by 52 per cent year-on-year, from 153 in 2016-17 to 73 the following year.
A spokesperson for the school attributed this fall to the school’s decision to not take on any 14-year-olds last year.
Both schools expect pupil numbers to grow in the future.