"The next great poverty-busting structural change we need – the expansion of University Technical Schools – offering first-class technical skills to those turned off by purely academic study". The problem in Medway is that Medway is still in the grip of rapidly falling numbers in the secondary sector, probably with one too many schools. Therefore the loss of students, many of whom will be well motivated, in the middle of their mainstream school course could well prove a terminal loss to one of the current schools. September intake figures for Year 7, the first relevant age group, show three Medway schools with a vacancy rate above 25%. It would certainly prove a major destabilisation as planned GCSE and A level courses suddenly become undersubscribed although, it may be that as nearly all Medway secondary schools are now academies, independent of the authority, it feels no responsibility towards them! In addition the schools would suddenly lose the money the students bring with them, which could precipitate a financial crisis. I can imagine the views of current Medway headteachers to this proposal, which I understand is shortly to go out for consultation!
You will find more details of the arguments for the proposal at the Medway Conservative Group website.
This may well be a good deal for the students, who would move into well resourced, well financed premises, with the support of industry and the university. Sadly, many mainstream schools have been attempting to create similar opportunities for years without the funding. In Kent, there are already such units integral to 11-18 schools, championed by the Leader of KCC, who has a strong commitment to vocational education. Thamesview School in Gravesend is one such and offers "opportunities for young people to combine academic study with practical learning, studying GCSEs alongside technical qualifications. They specialise in subjects requiring industry equipment, such as engineering and construction, and teach these disciplines alongside business skills and the use of ICT". Funnily enough this is a quote from the specification for UTCs, but is achieved without the massive disruption of an additional change of school being built into the system, for some students at age 14. What a pity, if Medway feels so strongly about the importance of technical education, it did not embrace the concept for one or more of its existing schools when there were funds available.