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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Tech transitions: UTCs, studio schools, and technical and vocational education in England’s schools

Supporters of England's growing range of institutions for 14–19-year-olds – mainly university technical colleges (UTCs) and studio schools – are increasingly being challenged by those who argue that, on the whole, they are not working for pupils. We explore developments in this landscape, the consequences for the wider education system and assess the performance of these institutions.

Since 2010, there has been a steady growth in the number of 14–19 education institutions in England – the two most common models of which are university technical colleges (UTCs) and studio schools.

Their recruitment of pupils at age 14 sets them apart from the rest of the schools system, where 11 and 16 are the established transition ages. They also seek to challenge how, and the extent to which, technical and vocational qualifications are delivered within upper-secondary education.

However, UTCs and studio schools are failing to meet their own stated aims. They are failing to recruit sufficient numbers of pupils, attract pupils with a broad mix of backgrounds and abilities, deliver a broad and balanced curriculum offer, and enhance pupils’ progress and performance.