Commenting on the Public Accounts Committee report on the University Technical College (UTC) programme, Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"This report vindicates the NEU’s longstanding concerns about UTCs. Significant resources have been ploughed into the programme despite serious flaws in the model and its poor record.
"The UTC model is clearly unsustainable. The Public Accounts Committee report shows ten institutions have closed and those that remain open are operating at 45% capacity on average.
"The Government has propped up this financial black hole for too long. Most of the additional £36.8 million Government paid between 2015–16 and 2018–19 will not be paid back.
"At the same time, public money has been syphoned off into the hands of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the private trust which owns the UTC brand. The report finds that the Government paid £893,000 to the Trust between 2012/13 and 2017/18 to support sponsors planning to open new UTCs. Each UTC also pays an annual licence fee to the Trust. The Trust increased this fee from £5,500 to £10,000 in 2019/20 – yet the Public Accounts Committee says that that the DfE could not even tell them what schools get in return.
"It is simply wrong that a private trust has received substantial amounts of public money for what is apparently no discernible benefit. These financial arrangements with the Trust should be cancelled immediately.
"Given the scale of financial and political support provided to UTCs by the Government since 2010, it is quite incredible that, according to PAC, the Department for Education has not been able to offer a distinction between UTCs and secondary schools in terms of what success looks like.
"The NEU has always maintained that the UTC model was poorly conceived and would not be sustainable, and this has now been proven to be the case. For many the damage is done - not just a loss of taxpayers' money, but disruption to education where UTCs closed.
"It is now time to abandon the UTC model altogether, ensuring that no further UTCs can open. Rather than look solely towards academy sponsorship, a serious plan for incorporating the existing institutions into their local family of schools needs to be developed."