This report provides a brief update in relation to the Waterfront UTC (previously Medway UTC) which was initially reported to this committee on 31 July 2018. The UTC’s Principal will be in attendance at the meeting to provide a short presentation and to answer questions from the Committee in relation to the improvement journey.
The Principal of Waterfront University Technical College (UTC), previously named Medway UTC, introduced the report and provided a presentation which summarised the background of the UTC, its improvement journey to date and future aspirations for the school. It included changes that had been made to the governance structure, the school day, interventions for students, training for staff, the curriculum, the strength of the student voice, the improvements in performance and in the school’s reputation.
Members then raised a number of questions and comments, which included:
· Intake at September 2018 – The Principal explained that the UTC had recruited 55 students into Year 10 and 25 students into Year 12 and added that the UTC was working hard to raise these numbers in future years.
· Entry points to the school – the Principal explained that from 2019 the school would be receiving students from Year 9, with a plan to move to taking students from Year 7 from 2020. The overall numbers at the school would be maintained and the Published Admission Number per year group would be reduced to accommodate the extra year groups. He added that it was now recognised nationally that the model of taking students in later years was difficult in terms of competing with schools where students have already established a solid connection.
· Opportunities for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) – in response to a concern raised that the UTC did not offer as many opportunities for children with SEN the Principal explained that 26% of the students at the school were young people with SEN, which was higher than the national average. He added that the building had a lift for use by students with a disability and confirmed that there were no restrictions for children with SEN to access the UTC.
· Partnership working – in response to a question about partnership working the Principal explained that the Governance of the UTC had been restructured. There was now a Governing Body in place focussing on education and an Advisory Board which focused on partner involvement from businesses. In terms of partnership working with the Council, he explained that further assistance in relation to raising awareness of the UTC would be most beneficial, explaining that the School Admissions Service already circulated a letter to prospective students informing them of the UTC and what it has to offer, although it had been reported that some families were not receiving this letter. Some schools were accommodating in allowing the UTC to provide advice to students about what it can offer, other schools were much less cooperative.
· Visit to the UTC – The Principal was very supportive of Members of the Committee visiting the UTC and the Democratic Services Officer was asked to liaise with the school to arrange this.
· Use of equipment – in response to a comment made that some of the equipment at the UTC was not available to be used by students, the Principal confirmed that this had been the case when he arrived at the school at the beginning of the year but that all equipment was now utilised and he also welcomed opportunities to link with primary schools or community groups to provide opportunities of using the facilities at the school.
· Class sizes – in response to a question about class sizes, the Principal explained that class sizes were small, ranging from 15 – 26 students per class. His ambition was to maintain small class sizes in order to maintain the quality of education provided to each student.
· Support for the students of the 2017 cohort who did not gain the required grades – in response to a question about how the students who did not receive the required grades in 2017 were being supported, the Principal explained that almost all of those young people moved into further study, an apprenticeship or employment.
· Financial viability – in response to a question about the schools financial viability, the Principal explained that the school was on a three year deficit plan, after which it should be financially secure.
· Signage of the UTC – in response to a comment about improved signage for the UTC to further promote it, the Principal explained there were plans in place to improve the signage, which permission was being sought for.
· Gender balance – in response to a question about gender balance of the students, the Principal explained that 20% of the students were girls. He added that the Assistant Principal was a great advocate for the UTC in promoting engineering and construction careers for females, being a female with a career in engineering herself. Further work was being done to raise awareness of the UTC and to recruit students of both sexes to the school.
· Curriculum – in response to questions about curriculum the Principal confirmed that the UTC would consider widening the curriculum as long as it was relevant in meeting the skill demand of the workforce locally. He also confirmed that as the school expands into accepting students in lower year groups it would be providing a wider range of subjects, such as languages and arts.
The Committee noted the report and thanked the Principal of Waterfront UTC for his attendance and presentation.