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'We are a success': boss of new college hits back

PUBLISHED: 14:40 06 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:04 06 November 2019

Students study Science,Technology, Engineering and Maths at University Technical college Norwich.
Principal Alex Hayes.
PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Students study Science,Technology, Engineering and Maths at University Technical college Norwich. Principal Alex Hayes. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

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A Norfolk college boss has spoken out after investigators slammed a scheme which saw it and 57 other schools set up.

University Technical College Norfolk (UTCN) unveil a new board in honour of its industry liaison group, made up of employers who support the college and its students.
Students Lewis Moreton, Nathan King and Grace Pierson with Yvonne Mason (chair of ILG) and principal Alex Hayes.
Picture: Nick ButcherUniversity Technical College Norfolk (UTCN) unveil a new board in honour of its industry liaison group, made up of employers who support the college and its students. Students Lewis Moreton, Nathan King and Grace Pierson with Yvonne Mason (chair of ILG) and principal Alex Hayes. Picture: Nick Butcher

The National Audit Office (NAO) published a damning report last week on the £792m university technical colleges (UTCs) scheme, launched by the government in 2014.

Investigators said many of the 48 remaining UTCs were failing to meet progress standards for their pupils by the time they hit 16 and that a lower proportion were judged good or better by Ofsted compared with other secondary schools.

But Alex Hayes, principal at University Technical College Norfolk - East Anglia's only UTC - claimed the college has been unfairly marred by the failure of other UTCs.

He said the college, in Hall Road, Norwich, was performing better than many of its peers with a good Ofsted rating, sound finances and steady numbers of pupils achieving a pass in English and maths at GCSE, despite some having struggled academically before joining.

The new UTC building open for taster lessons before the new term starts in September. Principal Alex Hayes in the forum area. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe new UTC building open for taster lessons before the new term starts in September. Principal Alex Hayes in the forum area. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

It caters for students aged 14 to 18 and focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses with an emphasis on practical experience.

It has been praised for its industry liaison group, which comprises 44 employers including Anglian Water, Lotus and KLM.

Roughly 50pc of the college's students go on to apprenticeships or degree apprenticeships, 40pc go to university to study STEM courses and the remainder go into work.

Mr Hayes said: "We run a lot of courses that don't count in league tables because that is what the students need to learn.

University Technical College Norfolk (UTCN) in Hall Road, Norwich. Picture: UTCNUniversity Technical College Norfolk (UTCN) in Hall Road, Norwich. Picture: UTCN

"The question is, why are schools putting children through the English Baccalaureate and where are the opportunities for them? Not in Norfolk."

He added: "We are doing what we feel is the right thing to do and it is successful."

As the only school in Norfolk which takes pupils at 14 the college has experienced recruitment problems, but it is currently oversubscribed for the September 2020 year 10 intake.

Mr Hayes said: "We don't want to rock the system, we are not interested in poaching people. We want children who are interested in science. We have students from 47 high schools."

He added that the college had never had to ask for extra financial support from government and expected to have reserves of around £200,000 in 2019/20 which would be reinvested into the college.

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