4th December 2015 at 00:00
Trusted with a lot of cash

Technical problems

Lord Baker’s flagship university technical college (UTC) programme has won the support of influential policymakers in 10 Downing Street, with David Cameron announcing plans in April for one to be opened “in reach of every city” .

But it’s fair to say that UTCs have perhaps not quite had the impact some expected. Back in September, TES revealed that £15 million had been spent on four UTCs that closed, or never opened in the first place. Officials in the Department for Education are known to have had concerns, with one revealing in 2013 that the department was “slowing the programme down so that they can get it right”.

Now, a parliamentary question by shadow education minister – and former college principal – Nic Dakin has revealed how much money has been given to the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the organisation created by the former education secretary, which provides support to UTCs.

The department has given the organisation £785,579 since 2011 to allow it to “provide pre-approval support to groups that wish to apply to the department to open a university technical college”. The trust received £151,923 in 2011, rising to £213,191 in 2014. Between January and the end of September this year it had received £116,912.

The response by skills minister Nick Boles also reveals that the first grant “was awarded directly to the trust”, while “subsequent grants have been awarded after a competitive tender process”.

This sounds intriguing. FErret is planning to put together a bid for 2016 to pay off the bill for this year’s Christmas presents.

The missing billions

Hurrah for the apprenticeship levy. As chancellor George Osborne announced in last week’s spending review, it is expected to raise £3 billion a year. The money should certainly help to pay for the 3 million apprenticeships the government wants to create in the current Parliament.

Except that most of the cash won’t go towards the apprenticeships. Documents published alongside the chancellor’s statement reveal that providers “will be able to benefit from the significant increase in apprenticeship spending of almost £900 million by 2019-2020”. So what about the other £2.1 billion?

It seems likely it will end up in the Treasury’s back pocket, rather than funding the expansion of the scheme…

More than a Little proud

Never let it be said that City of Glasgow College is coy about its achievements. The college found itself centre of attention at the Skills Show in Birmingham, picking up an impressive haul of 23 medals.

Principal Paul Little has a reputation as a man who is not backwards in coming forwards. Perhaps this is what he learned on his £50,000 advanced management programme at Harvard Business School earlier this year. In any case, Mr Little was so keen to share the news of his college’s success, he sent out an email to partner organisations, FE contacts, business leaders, the woman who runs the newsagents around the corner and pretty much everyone he’s ever met – including the principals of the other colleges left trailing in his institution’s wake.

He writes of his “great pride”, saying: “I hope you agree, it is truly a world-class achievement by everyone.”

Yes, yes, Paul, we get the message. Only his email contains one slightly unfortunate spelling mistake. He highlights the fact that 13 Scottish competitors have won places in “Squat UK”. We’re pretty sure it’s usually known as Squad UK…

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