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Medway UTC branded 'inadequate' by inspectors

By Nicola Jordan

The future of Medway’s flagship multi-million pound specialist college looks uncertain after a damning Ofsted report.

Inspectors have branded the University Technical College ‘inadequate’ across the board and accused governors and leaders from the education and business sector of failing in their responsibilities.

It is the first Ofsted report since the secondary for 14 to 19 year-olds opened in September 2015 amid widespread enthusiasm from councillors keen to nurture Medway’s strong links with construction and engineering.

Medway UTC has been branded inadequate
Medway UTC has been branded inadequate

“But the £12m government-funded college, which can take up to 600 pupils, currently only has 278 on the roll.

“Former principal Dr Karon Buck has left and the deputy head of the Howard School in Rainham, Paul Cottam, is acting as interim head.

“The national regulator’s verdict comes after the former chancellor and UTC champion, George Osborne, said the new style of vocational learning had not worked.

UTC were set up as part of a a national initiative to fill the skills gap between employers and school leavers.

Among the sponsors at Medway are BAE Systems, Delphi Systems, The Royal School of Military Engineering, University of Greenwich, MidKent College and Medway Council.

Signs of improvement have emerged since external consultants from The Howard Academy Trust took over three months before the inspection in March.

New ideas and resources have been introduced but it was too early to see an impact of pupils' progress.

Former principal Dr Karon Buck
Former principal Dr Karon Buck

Among the key findings were "turbulence in staff", "a culture of low expectation", "disruptive and poor behaviour in class", and development plans were not fit for purpose.

While core GCSE and A-level subjects were taught, the curriculum was too narrow with a computing course cancelled.

The provision of physical education and religious studies fell short.

HRH the Duke of York at the official opening of the Medway UTC
HRH the Duke of York at the official opening of the Medway UTC

Inspectors strongly recommended the school, in South Side Three Road, Chatham, should not seek to appoint newly-qualified teachers until further notice.

Students did not take pride in their work and parents had also expressed concern about lack of progress and staffing levels.

The report said: "Governors came with a wealth of useful knowledge and experience from their businesses and educational backgrounds.

"However, they have failed to adequately track or challenge the standard of education with the school since it opened.

"Consequently, they have presided over a failing school."

Cllr Andrew Mackness, Medway Council's portfolio holder for children's services, said: "I am very disappointed with the outcome of the inspection and in the performance of the UTC under previous leadership.

"There is now a new leadership team and we look forward to seeing the UTC progress and improve.

"We will be challenging the school, alongside the Department for Education, to see improvements.

"We're keen for all schools and colleges in Medway to thrive and we are committed to ensuring all pupils in Medway receive the best appropriate education possible."

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