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Sunday, 29 January 2012 16:53

Controversial new School proposed for Medway

Medway Council is bidding to create one of the 24 new University Technical Colleges (UTCs) to be set up by government, which would be based near the University of Greenwich site. I wrote and published here, the article you will find below, in October. All that has changed is that Medway Council is developing the idea and has set up an email consultation, which will form the basis of demonstrating whether parents want a University Technical College in Medway. You can respond to the survey here.  Whilst a site has not yet been chosen for the proposed College, Medway Council suggests it could be at an unused block at Brompton Barracks. You can find fuller information at the Medway Council website. Two of the pieces of information missing are the views of the current Medway secondary schools, some of which would be seriously damaged by the proposal (see below), another is Medway's best estimate of the collateral damage to other schools, and which school the Council considers would be at greatest risk of closure if the proposal goes ahead. 

Yet another Medway School, Barnsole Junior in Gillingham, has been failed by OFSTED, maintaining the proportion of Medway primary schools that have failed in the two years I have been monitoring outcomes at 21%. This appalling record is underlined by the fact that not a single Medway primary school has been found Outstanding in this time, although nationally the figure is running at 6% (just another 6% failing). 

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University Technical Colleges are planned to "offer 14-19 year olds the opportunity to take a highly regarded, full time, technically-oriented course of study. They are equipped to the highest standard, sponsored by a university and offer clear progression routes into higher education or further learning in work". To quote David Cameron:.......

 

"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.  

Last modified on Thursday, 18 October 2012 23:03

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