THE head of a major educational charity has urged Portsmouth’s further education college and university to settle their differences so a technical school can be set up in the city.
Peter Mitchell, of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust (BDT), which promotes university technical colleges (UTCs), is frustrated at Portsmouth’s failure to get its act together.
Following a visit with Lord Baker 18 months ago, Mr Mitchell said he was convinced a UTC – which give youngsters vital work skills – or something similar was needed in the city.
But a clash between the two crucial players – the University of Portsmouth and Highbury College, who both insist on leading the project – has resulted in two separate and unworkable bids.
Mr Mitchell said: ‘They both want to be leaders.
‘If they work together they could be far more persuasive. It’s a shame. I’d hope they could sit down and work things out.’
Earlier this week, The News revealed how a £10m bid by the university for a technical academy for 11 to 19-year-olds on the site of City Boys School was withdrawn.
That was because there was no government funding available for anything other than a school for 14 to 19-year-olds.
Now The News can reveal that a separate bid by Highbury College for a school for 14 to 19-year-olds has been put on the back burner because the college can’t get the university’s backing.
Paul Whittle, who helped draw up Highbury’s bid, admits he had been in talks with universities outside the city to complete the picture – but ‘cooled off’ the idea so as not to upset local people.
He said: ‘This is a classic example of Portsmouth as a city losing out. It’s what we owe our young people but we are letting them down.
‘We need to put our differences aside and do what is being encouraged by people in high places.’
He added: ‘We believe passionately because of Highbury’s track record of success that we should be in the driving seat. Educating 14-year-olds is not what a university does.’
Mr Whittle suggests the reason why the university’s 11-19 bid has the backing of schools is that an exodus of pupils from secondaries could result in a school closure due to a surplus of places.
He said: ‘Secondary schools are protecting their interests.’
Prof John Craven, vice-chancellor of the University of Portsmouth, maintains his belief in an 11-19 rather than a 14-19 model and says he will no longer pursue the bid as there is no funding.