Can UTCs survive?

Schools Week, the respected education newspaper, is reporting Michael Gove as saying that the UTC programme has failed.  http://schoolsweek.co.uk/michael-gove-utcs-have-failed/ This will be bad news for Lord Baker whose brainchild the idea was in the first place. UTCs were Lord Baker’s second attempt to kick-start a technology sector in schooling in England, after the limited success of his City Technology College programme initiated when he was Secretary of State for Education.

Mr Gove’s comment will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog. A thriving technology sector is probably a good idea for schooling in England, but to create a new type of school for some, but not all, pupils at age 14 was asking for trouble. To compound the recruitment problems facing these new schools by using the market model of either compete and succeed or fail and die was to demonstrate why Tory market economics finds it hard to work in education.

Incidentally, closure is a feature of market economics, as even Waitrose has apparently found out recently, with the announcement of the closure of five of its branches.

So, where does technology education go from here? The easy answer is to let the existing UTCs and their companion Studio Schools limp on, with some making a go of it where there is local support and others failing to recruit sufficient students to be financially viable. A better answer, and one that should be welcomed by the clutch of former accountants currently running the DfE, would be to call in the receivers and see how the assets can be best used for Schools England. Will the current Secretary of State have the courage to take this radical approach? We will see.

With the raising of the learning leaving age to eighteen, the break at fourteen for some pupils was always going to look out of line with the idea of a common curriculum up to the age of sixteen, even with those pupils that would benefit from a fresh start at fourteen. My guess is that the promoters of UTCs and Studio Schools didn’t plan effectively for the type of pupils other schools would encourage to switch in an era where cash rules and pupils come with a price upon their heads.

If UTCs are going to be a short-term feature of our education scene, could the Secretary of State please now pay attention to the fate of Design and Technology in all our schools? Post BREXIT we will need those with the skills and interest in the whole gamut of design and technology to help create our future wealth. Sadly, the subject has been ignored by the DfE for too long and the limp approach to the D&T teacher shortage adopted in the recent Migration Advisory Committee report didn’t receive the rebuke it deserved from the business community.

We need a thriving design and technology sector in our schools, please will someone now come up with a credible plan to help us achieve that aim?

 

Is Design & Technology dying by default?

Over the past few years Design & Technology has consistently failed to recruit into training the number of teachers identified as being needed to staff our schools. The DfE uses the Teacher Supply Model to calculate an annual training number. Recent figures showing the following pattern of recruitment are in the Table.

courses starting in Number Recruited TSM Number Shortfall
2016 423 1034 611
2015 526 1279 753
2014 450 1030 580
2013 391 870 479
2012 710 825 115
2011 1970 1880 -90
2010 2940 2560 -380
2009 3100 2700 -400
10510 12178 1668

The over-recruitment (minus number in final column) of the period 2009-2011, a period when the economy was deeply mired in recession, has been replaced by five years of failure to recruit to what have been much lower targets. Indeed, the total number of new trainees recruited between 2012 and 2016 are in total less than were recruited in either 2009 or 2010.

Now it can be assumed that with falling rolls in secondary schools and a reluctance to cut back on training numbers during the period of the Labour government, too many Design & Technology teachers were probably being trained in 2009 and 2010. That cannot be said to be the case today. Demand, as measured by TeachVac, has outstripped the supply of teachers of Design & Technology in both 2015 and 2016, more notably in 2015 when the numbers in training were lower than were looking for teaching posts in 2016. The fact that the number of trainees recruited in 2016, as measured by the ITT census, is the lowest recorded since 2013 doesn’t bode well for schools looking to recruit Design & Technology teachers for September 2017 and January 2018.

Of course, Design & Technology is a portmanteau subject which, as the footnote in the ITT census explains, ’includes food’. By this, I think they mean teachers of food technology, the former home economics that emerged from the historical domestic science term used for those that taught ‘cooking and needlecraft’ in schools. Sadly, it looks as if there is no record of either the demand for teachers of the different aspects of Design & Technology or of the numbers entering training with the different backgrounds and skill sets. Perhaps there are enough trainees in food technology, but not in resistant materials? Perhaps, the position is the other way around.

Since starting this blog post, it has been pointed out to me that the numbers in Table 1a of the ITT census don’t seem to add up. There are 169 trainees shown as in higher education; 66 on courses in SCITTs and 117 on School Direct Fee courses. The numbers on the School Direct salaried route and Teach First are each hidden behind an asterisk. This normally means too few to report, so we can assume not more than 20 across both routes. By my mathematics this makes between 352 and 372 trainees and not the 423 reported in the census. The other 71 might be on undergraduate courses, but that column isn’t shown by subject in the Table, only an overall total of 243 undergraduates across all subjects. Looking back at 2014 undergraduate numbers, an assuming a three year degree course, entrants were 32 to Design & Technology undergraduate courses in 2014. Thus if all remained, an unlikely outcome, the number entering the labour market in 2017 will be 352 postgraduates (minus any that don’t complete the course – let’s say 30), so 322 postgraduates plus 32 undergraduates to a maximum of 354, the lowest number for many years.

Such numbers, and the trend over recent years does leave one to wonder why trainees in Design & Technology with a 2:2 degree don’t receive a bursary whereas those in Biology (a subject that over-recruited this year) will receive £10,000 in 2017, and those that started courses this September with a 2:2 in biology received £15,000.

But, then the distribution of bursaries has always been a mystery to me. Perhaps it has something to do with the value of the EBacc in the curriculum compared with Design & Technology.