Last Updated October 2015
You will find information about the government 's philosophy towards University Technical Colleges here.
Leigh University Technical College: Building work has now started on Kent’s first University Technical College, opened September 2014, on the old Joyce Green Hospital site in Dartford. Leigh UTC will be open to students aged 14-18, and will specialise in Engineering and Computing. It is part of the Leigh Academies Trust. The college day will be from 9 until 5, with no homework, and the college is already building strong links with local businesses and Greenwich University. There will eventually be 600 students, drawn mainly from local schools, and it is reported that students within 30 minutes travelling time will be eligible for admission. The UTC website originally stated that in the case of oversubscription, places will be awarded by a process of random selection, so there is no criterion of aptitude for the specialisms. This section has been removed as the UTC has plenty of vacancies and these are still being considered. The new college is still accepting applications from prospective students from Lewisham to Gravesend, and at Longfield in the south. This suggests that no individual school will suffer too much from losing students, although those which are currently struggling for numbers probably have most to fear. I am hearing that, unsurprisingly, local schools are discouraging their students from applying, citing a number of reasons, including uncertainty, although with the buildings heading for completion and strong backing from the Leigh Academy Group and local industry, I think the future is secure.
Medway UTC, specialising in engineering and construction opened in September 2015. Its site will be part of the Chatham Waters development at the former dockyard and has technical specialisms in Engineering and Construction & the Built Environment. The College will cater for students from ages 14-19.Students in Years 10 and 11 will follow a programme that includes both of these technical areas (they will be able to choose to specialise in either one of them in the Sixth Form). There is no aptitude requirement for admission, and if places are oversubscribed, then after Looked After Children, 90% of places are allocated randomly in three defined catchment areas, the remaining 10% for children outside the three areas, also allocated randomly.The College is sponsored by the University of Greenwich, Mid Kent College, Medway Council and BAE Systems, along with other local employers.
It also states that: 'An important principle of UTCs is that they do not judge students on their past performance. Students are given new opportunities and new ways of learning which allow them to realise their potential'. It remains how these aspirations are to fit into the School Admissions Code which forbids any form of selection apart from in existing schools, and what purpose is to be served by the interview process.
In Medway, the students will come predominantly from eleven non-selective local schools, probably weighted towards those already least popular and least able to hang on to their students. Medway is already in the grip of rapidly falling pupil numbers in the secondary age group with one of those schools being over half empty in the new Year 7 intake, another three having over 20% vacancies, all figures likely to rise sharply after successful appeals and waiting list allocations to more popular schools. Currently, there were some 430 vacancies forecast for September 2015, a figure that will surely rise. In any case, the way that polarisation of choice works, the schools that will be most hit by what will inevitably be a popular option are those at the bottom of the pile. The concept of the UTC looks excellent and belatedly fills a gap created by the abolition of technical schools in the 1970s and 80s. However, if it is to recruit across a smaller urban areas such as in Medway it needs to be an integral part of a planned structure of schools, which appears not to be the case here.