24 new technical colleges planned

Martha Linden,Pa
Wednesday 23 March 2011 15:55

The Chancellor George Osborne announced plans today to expand the university technical colleges programme to establish at least 24 new colleges by 2014.

The colleges, known as UTCs, will provide technical training opportunities to 11 to 19-year-olds and will be funded through partnerships between universities, colleges and businesses.

But the expansion was greeted with concern by the University and College Union (UCU) representing academic staff in further education colleges and universities.

The union said it welcomed the announcement on funding new apprenticeships but it feared that the UTCs would divert money from further education colleges.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "We have real concerns about the increase in the number of UTCs.

"We fear they will divert money away from further education colleges, reintroduce selection at 14 and create a two-tier system in further education."

The National Union of Teachers also attacked the creation of 24 new UTCs as an "extremely divisive" policy.

General Secretary Christine Blower said: "It will lead to a two tier system with technical schools being seen as the poor cousin.

"It is unacceptable to force pupils into specific learning routes at such an early age which could restrict their future career or educational choices."

Sponsors of UTCs will help set the curriculum to match the needs of the local economy and of their sectors, provide high-quality work placements, and allow the colleges to use their specialist facilities under the plans set out by the Government.

The Budget comes as UCU members prepare to strike tomorrow over pay and pensions.

Ms Hunt criticised the Government for cutting corporation tax while presiding over cuts to public services.

"As tens of thousands of UCU members prepare for strike action across the UK, the Government has clearly set out where its priorities lie with this Budget," she said.

"As big business looks forward to tax cuts, the rest of the country has to try and cope with punishing cuts to vital services and their pensions."

Ms Blower said a Budget for growth would have included reversing the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

"If this were really a Budget for growth, the Chancellor would have announced a reversal of the Government's public sector cuts," she said.

"These include the abolition of the EMA, cuts to post-16 funding and job losses across the education sector. The Government's cuts are damaging growth and strangling economic recovery.

"Cutting taxes for big business, while axing public sector budgets, is a far cry from 'we are all in this together'."

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