‘This damning report does not apply to Portsmouth’s University Technical College’

Astronaut Tim Peake and student Freddie Willoughby at the official opening of the UTC in December
Astronaut Tim Peake and student Freddie Willoughby at the official opening of the UTC in December
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PORTSMOUTH’s new University Technology College has responded to a damning national report about UTCs and said: ‘That’s not the case here’ 

A report released today by the Educational Policy Institute says that UTCs are struggling with intake numbers and have high levels of student drop-out rates. Figures indicated that 69 per cent of students studying occupation specific qualifications finished the course compared to 81 per cent nationally. 

UTC Portsmouth staff and students.

UTC Portsmouth staff and students.

Similarly it found 80 per cent of students studying A-levels at UTCs completed their final examinations compared to 94 per cent across the country.

However, its findings do not include Portsmouth as the college only opened a year ago.

UTCs are aimed at training students to be ready for work, and concentrate on Stem – science, technology, engineering and maths – subjects, with backing from local firms.

Portsmouth is backed by founding members including the University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth City Council, the Royal Navy, BAE Systems, QinetiQ and Salterns Academy Trust, and also has links to Raymarine, Airbus and NATS.

Chairman of UTC Portsmouth board of governors Rod Edwards said: ‘I am not entirely surprised by the report but the situation we have experienced here in Portsmouth is massively different.’

‘Our Year 10 entry intake is oversubscribed and since we opened last year we have not experienced anything like that level of student withdrawal. In many ways we face the opposite problem with more students wanting to enrol than we can currently take,’ said Mr Edwards.

Due to only being in its second academic year, students at Portsmouth’s UTC have not yet sat external exams on which to base any formal judgement of student achievement. However Mr Edwards is confident that ongoing college assessments and student monitoring suggests high levels of progress.

‘I am confident in our outcomes. Our projections indicate a very solid set of results with GCSE attainment higher than the majority of local schools,’ said Mr Edwards.

This is contrary to the national picture in which the report claimed: ‘Students in UTCs make poor progress across the board during Key Stage 4 (14-16), and post-16 academic study. Previously high attaining students make particularly poor progress.’

Mr Edwards believes one of the reasons for this is due a historically disproportionate number of less academic students being being directed towards UTCs after struggling in a school environment. 

‘If students aren’t going to perform well in schools then they will also find it difficult in UTCs,’ he said.

Linked to poor progress, a key finding of the research highlighted that a disproportionately high number of UTCs were categorised with poor Ofsted inspection judgements when compared to national outcomes. Currently one in five UTCs are rated ‘inadequate’, twice the national average with two out of five judged as ‘requiring improvement’ – four times the national rate. 

Mr Edwards believes this will not be the case for Portsmouth UTC.

‘We will probably get our first inspection in the autumn term. I am confident of a positive judgement and our aspiration is to be “outstanding”,’ said Mr Edwards.

‘Our experience locally is that we have some very hard-working, sensible and serious students who will be ‘work ready’ when they leave the college,’ he added.