Exclusive: UTC to close ahead of Ofsted report

Pupils who were due to start in September at the UTC in Sussex will now be moved to other schools

UTC@ Harbourside in Newhaven, East Sussex is set to close

UTC@harbourside has announced it will close – just days before its first Ofsted inspection will be published.

The University Technical College (UTC) in Newhaven, East Sussex, opened in September 2015 and has just 128 pupils, well under its capacity of 600. Its latest Progress 8 score is “well below average” at -1.52.

It was inspected by Ofsted last month with the report due to be published later this week, according to the educational establishment’s governors.

UTCs, which provide a mix of technical and academic education for 14- to 19-year-olds, were introduced by the coalition government to help bridge the skills gap facing business. However, they have been hit by a number of problems, including closures, under-recruitment and poor Ofsted judgements.

Financial and recruitment problems 

In a statement, the UTC's governors said they had “not been able to recruit enough students to become financially stable and to deliver fully on its educational vision.”

They continued: “The governors have decided that the best way forward is to propose the termination of its contract with the Department for Education.”

A “discovery day” for new Year 10 pupils was due to be held on Wednesday, but instead, they now face being moved to a new school.

'Deeply disappointed'

The UTC was served with a financial notice to improve by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in March for failing to produce a balanced budget and failing to submit its audited financial statements to the funding agency.

The college will remain open to its current Year 10 to 12 pupils until they complete their courses in July 2019. Governors have asked for the UTC’s contract to be terminated in August 2019.

Staff have now been advised to seek advice from professional organisations. The governors said: “We recognise that this decision will cause concern for members of our staff team at the UTC. The management team are having discussions with both teaching and support staff and are encouraging staff to contact their professional bodies and trade unions for advice and support.”

The “deeply disappointed” governors said they hope a “more successful” future can be found for the building.

'Phased closure'

A spokesperson for East Sussex county council said: "We are aware of the decision to close UTC@Harbourside in August 2019 at the request of the governing body, and understand that all students offered a place in September have been informed of the decision.

“This would be a phased closure, meaning anyone currently studying at the college would be able to continue until the end of their course.

“UTC@Harbourside accepts students from Year 10. Anyone currently attending a local secondary school who has been offered a place at UTC@harbourside for September 2018 will be able to continue at their current school, as they remain on the roll. Anyone moving into the area will need to apply for a place at an alternative school."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Ministers have agreed to terminate the UTC@Harbourside’s funding agreement on 31 August 2019, following a request from the trust.

“This will allow existing pupils to complete their studies, and we are working with the local authority to ensure pupils due to join in September secure a place at a nearby school before the academic year begins.”

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George Ryan

George Ryan

George Ryan is a further education reporter for tes