UTC sponsor pulls out over low pupil numbers

Wigan UTC, Parson's Walk
Wigan UTC, Parson's Walk

Wigan UTC has been handed back to the Government and the search is on for a new sponsor after the chain previously supporting it pulled out.

Bright Futures Educational Trust confirmed it is no longer involved with the facility as the low student numbers there made it financially unsustainable and has passed it to the Deparment for Education (DfE).

The Trust said it was proud of its investment in the UTC, which provides a mixture of A-level study and technical skill development, but regretted the fact its model did not seem to have found favour among the borough’s parents.

The venue hit the headlines earlier this year after satirical and investigative magazine Private Eye said only 14 per cent of places had been filled, a claim which was firmly rebuffed by the college.

The end of Bright Futures’ association comes as the academy chain is itself under fire, with Manchester City Council keen to take back control of two of its colleges amid concerns about poor exam results and low standards.

A spokesman for the Trust said: “We’re extremely proud of our association with Wigan UTC and the improvement the Trust has brought to educational standards and attainment at the college in the past two years.

“We were asked to support this new format of college with those specific goals in mind, and while we have been successful in cultivating highly positive reviews from Ofsted, low student recruitment levels have meant that our continued financial support would be unsustainable.

“The concept of a university technical college is still in its infancy and, though our existing cohort is benefitting greatly from it, its adoption by the local community has proved disappointing.

“The DfE recognises this and, as such, we are in ongoing discussion with them about the future management of the college.

“While we would wish to continue on this journey with Wigan UTC, it is in the best interest of all parties that we transition to the DfE or another sponsor with greater links to feeder schools in the area.”

Earlier this year the UTC said it was on course to run at 95 per cent capacity in the academic year which began this week.

The UTC has been rated good with outstanding features by Ofsted and the college is continuing to develop links with Wigan Youth Zone and Wigan Council as well as finding ways to improve student recruitment.

The deal to hand it back to the DfE was agreed following discussions with the schools commissioner.

The UTC was unavailable for comment yesterday.