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First UTC rated outstanding by Ofsted

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University Technical College Reading has become the first UTC in the country to be given an outstanding rating by Ofsted.

The UTC, which opened in September 2013 and specialises in computer science and engineering, is judged to be outstanding in all areas in the report published today.

Inspectors, who visited the school in May, praised its “business-like ethos”, and said students were prepared “exceptionally well for their future lives”.

The report’s findings will come as a relief for the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which promotes and supports UTCs, following the recent news that Black Country UTC was to close after Ofsted judged it to be inadequate.

That announcement led to calls for an independent review into the UTC programme. Last week skills minister Nick Boles told the House of Commons it was important ministers asked “is this programme as successful as it can possibly be before we launch ourselves into the process of opening more institutions like this.”

The Conservatives pledged a “UTC within reach of every city” in their election manifesto.

Sally Dicketts, chief executive of UTC Reading’s lead sponsor Activate Learning, which opens a second UTC in Didcot in September, said: “Prior to the launch of UTCs young people had to make a choice between school and college.

“UTCs now combine the best of vocational and academic learning, providing students with a curriculum that develops higher-level thinking and applies it in a practical setting. This unique offering adds real value and choice to our educational system and UTC Reading is an excellent example of the model.”

Principal Joanne Harper, whose leadership was described as “inspiring” by Ofsted, said the report recognised the high standards achieved in a relatively short space of time.

“Our partners have helped to shape the curriculum and continue to work with us to set projects, offer work experience and providing mentoring,” she said. “This is what sets the school apart and we are delighted that this has been reflected in the comments from the Ofsted inspectors.”

Lord Baker, chairman of Baker Dearing Educational Trust, said UTC Reading was an “excellent example” of the new breed of 14-19 institution. 

“Ofsted rightly say that it is an outstanding school – one that provides an excellent technical education for aspirational young people that fits very well with the needs of local employers," he said.

There are 30 UTCs now open across the UK, designed to provide students aged 14-18 with a technical education matched to the skills needs of their local area.

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