The School Report talks technical with Peter Wylie, Director of Education for The Baker Dearing Educational Trust

The School Report Blog

The School Report talks technical with Peter Wylie, Director of Education for The Baker Dearing Educational Trust

Peter Wylie manages the Baker Dearing Field Team. Peter started out in secondary teaching, moving on to Local Authority roles from 14-19 Education Officer through to Assistant, Deputy and Director of Education roles with Cleveland, East Sussex, Birmingham, Leicestershire, Knowsley, Islington and Croydon, where he was Director of Education and then Director of Children’s Services from 2003 to 2008. He has also worked for the Audit Commission. Peter has an extensive knowledge of education delivery in different contexts, strategic vision and how to organise services for improved outcomes. Peter is a Governor of the BRIT School, where he chairs the Curriculum Committee. Since retirement from his LA role, Peter has taken advisory and consultancy roles on school improvement programmes and is supporting Southwark Diocese in challenging schools in need of transformation.
Now he talks to The School Report about the merits of a technical education.

University Technical Colleges (UTCs) were inspired by Lord Baker and the late Lord Dearing in response to repeated demands from industry for more well educated, work-ready young people. Employers have complained for decades that many children leaving school do not have the attitudes, skills and knowledge required to make a successful start to working life. This demand for high quality technical education has been consistently unmet since the abolition of technical schools in the 1960s. UTCs are now leading the way for technically minded students that want an education that will give them the skills and attitudes employers need and a clear route to their chosen career.

This initiative has been strongly supported by ministers, and senior figures from all parties and is seen as a key element in improving our economic performance.

UTCs are publicly funded free technical secondary schools for 14-19 year olds and offer a combined curriculum with the opportunity to study for academic and technical qualifications. There are 49 UTCs across England, each teach one or more technical specialisms that meet the skills shortages in their region. These include engineering, manufacturing, health sciences, cyber security and digital technologies.

The UK needs more advanced technical skills at all levels if we are to prosper in the 21st century. We need more people who can develop new products, stretch and reuse existing resources, and meet all the skills requirements of the jobs of the future. However we face a huge challenge. The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that by 2020 we will need to find more than a million more scientists, engineers and technicians.

UTCs are set up where employers need them most and where there are pronounced skills gaps. Studying at a UTC provides your child with the opportunity to gain an academic, technical and practical education and prepares them for whatever they choose to do next – higher education, starting apprenticeship or getting a good job with training.

Each year, there are up to 40,000 jobs available that require skills in science, technology, engineering and maths. UTCs build their pupils’ expertise in these subject areas working closely with employers on real-life technical projects. These build students’ communication and team working skills – essential for the workplace. Employers also mentor students and provide opportunities for work experience and work place visits.

The curriculum at a UTC is integrated so that academic subjects relate to and reinforce the technical specialism. In order to have time for this curriculum UTCs have a longer school day. A university and local employers sit on the board of governors at a UTC. They contribute their unique perspectives on the curriculum in terms of skill requirements in both education and work related pathways.

Many universities and employers help with curriculum design, sourcing equipment and involving their staff in teaching and mentoring. This offers UTC students an opportunity to see what they are learning in the work place, visit a university campus and to get an insight into university life.

More than 1900 young people left UTCs in 2017 at 18 years and have secured a range of impressive destinations. In all 97% of students have stayed in education, begun an apprenticeship- often a higher apprenticeship- or started a job. Of the others, 2% took a gap year and only 1% were NEET (the figure for NEETs nationally is 12%).

Many UTC students have selected the apprenticeship route. 26% started apprenticeships, which is three times higher than the national figure (7%). The number of Higher or Degree apprenticeship was also much higher than the national figure, 37% at UTCs but only 6% nationally.

17% of UTC leavers also started jobs and 8% pursued other forms of education.

Jake Stuchbury-Wass, who left UTC Sheffield City Centre last year, secured a place at the University of Cambridge. Speaking about his time at the UTC, Jake said:

“Studying at the UTC has really prepared me for my longer term university and career ambitions.”

Lucy Doran, who left UTC Oxfordshire last year, secured an apprenticeship with Culham Centre of Fusion Energy and said:

“I can’t believe how much experience I’m taking with me from my two years at the UTC. The employer led projects, the workshops, the chance to network with employers; it’s all given me an insight into jobs in the engineering industry and I can’t wait to begin my apprenticeship.”

To find a UTC near you, please visit:

Peter Wylie

Director of Education for The Baker Dearing Educational Trust.