Technical school programme celebrates 10 years amid calls to prioritise tech subjects

The numbers of students taking design and technology at GCSEs halved during the last decade, recent research shows

University Technical College (UTC) leaders were joined by MPs to celebrate 10 years of the programme, with calls for the next Conservative prime minister to tackle the loss of technical and creative subjects at GCSE. 

The chief executive of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust (BDT) said it was vital the UK increased the supply of green and digital skills. 

A recent Education Policy Institute report ‘A spotlight on Design and Technology study in England, found that the number of students taking a design and technology GCSE halved between 2009 and 2020, from 44% to 22%.

The celebration was organised by the BDT, which supports a nationwide network of around 50 UTCs and advocates for technical education. Formed by Kenneth Baker, education secretary from 1986 to 1989, and Ronald Dearing, a former civil servant, BDT owns the UTC brand and trademarks and licences their use. 

BDT chief executive Simon Connell said: “We hope the message about the UTC programme gets out to the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Conservative leadership candidates.

“We also hope the new PM and education team focus on re-introducing technical and creative subjects back into schools and bringing employers closer to the classroom.

“As we look back on 10 years of the UTC programme, with all the successes we’ve seen from giving pupils a technical education option, it is disappointing that other children and young people are missing out on those opportunities.

“Without a grounding in technical subjects and exposure to the world of industry, they will not have the knowledge or confidence to consider careers in these sectors. With green and digital skills already in high demand, we need to start training the workforce of the future right now.

“With 12 years’ experience under our belts, we know that giving educators the resources to deliver technical education will be essential if we are to make the arrival of T-Levels a success, and if we are to keep the UK economy on the up-and-up.

“We can’t wait to welcome whoever is elected prime minister in September on a visit to our UTCs and hope they prioritise technical education.”

research report by Ofsted, also published in March 2022, found there were “inequities” in the provision of computing education. The number of pupils entering A-level computing is still much lower than the number entering subjects like biology, chemistry and physics.

The dinner followed a day of conferencing where UTC and trust leaders shared experiences and best practice on a series of subjects, including the delivery of T Levels.

Read more: UK could be ‘sleep-walking towards a net zero engineering skills shortage’


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