15 February 2017
The announcement last week that the GM UTC in Oldham is to shut at the end of this academic year comes as a blow to education in Oldham. But the truth is that UTCs are a flawed model and part of the continued fracturing of our education system by a destructive government that is destroying our public services.
The GM UTC is the seventh UTC to close across England, all failing to attract the number of pupils expected. The first problem is that they recruit at age 14, an age where very few young people locally change schools. UTCs have to attract young people, but no secondary head teacher would promote the loss of good GCSE candidates, which would seriously affect the school's results and standing in the league tables. The GM UTC was below a quarter of its capacity when it announced it was closing.
£9 million of public money has been spent on the UTC, and this comes whilst money continues to be stripped from our schools budget. The NUT estimates that between 2013/14, when the UTC opened, and 2019/20, £17 million per year will be removed from the schools budget in Oldham – that's equivalent to over £400 per pupil, or about 45 teachers! We must campaign against these cuts to our children's education, but we also need to stop a limited education budget being used on pet projects such as UTCs and free schools which take money away from where it is most needed.
The Green Party sees that councils must still have a role to plan the provision of places and that public funds are spent on the educational buildings that are needed. We do not need gimmicks and unproven ideas. We need local democratic control of education and strong governing bodies made up of parents, staff, councillors and local businesses to ensure that Oldham's education system is something to be proud of.