University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are a newcomer to the educational and landscape, and we are aware that there some misconceptions about them. Our colleges have been set up by employers seeking a pipeline of new talent with the work-place skills, industry knowledge and technical experience required. Government funded, UTCs offer a real alternative to the traditional education system that exists by allowing students to have an active role in choosing their future.

Since opening the doors to our £10m college in September 2016, UTC Warrington recognises there are some common misconceptions around what we and other UTCs provide for young people.

To provide a clear perspective into the exciting STEM pathways available at UTCW, we have put together this Myth Buster to help answer your questions.

UTCs are not suitable for high achieving academic students.

Our students have gone on to study high quality STEM degrees in some of the UK’s leading universities, including Manchester, Southampton and Lancaster, alongside those graduates have secured STEM apprenticeships with companies including Wood Plc, Cavendish Nuclear, Nuvia and Kier Construction.

At UTCW, all of our students complete GCSEs that include Maths, English, Science and a range of high quality engineering subjects that are shaped around employer demand – Design, Manufacture, and Construction and Built Environment. At Sixth Form, students choose a specialist technical pathway that has been tailored by STEM employers to offer the academic and technical knowledge, alongside the professional confidence to equip graduates for University or a high quality apprenticeship.

UTC graduates will struggle to find work.

Destinations (young people going on to meaningful next steps and careers) are the reasons for UTCs existing.  This focused approach to education was set up by employers and is common in the North West of England. Students, parents, and employers say that  young people leave UTC with strong workplace skills and a confidence that sets them up for future careers.

100% of our Year 11 leavers have a positive destination in education, employment or training with an above national take up of apprenticeship (7.41% compared to 6% nationally)

For our Year 13 leavers, over half secured Apprenticeships or employment, covering a wide range of sectors (including Nuclear Engineering, Manufacturing, Civil Engineering). The percentage of students securing a high quality apprenticeship (higher or advanced) is  over five times the national average.

UTC staff are ‘not proper teachers.’

Not only are the UTC’s teachers trained and qualified, they bring with them a wealth of industry-background and teaching experience. We are proud of our staff team; our parents say that teachers go above and beyond to help the students follow their aspirations and bring their careers to life both during the UTC curriculum and when they leave us.

With a smaller staff and student cohort, we build strong and positive relationships with our students. We have a dedicated pastoral team who oversee the welfare, development and progress of each student, and our teaching staff understand the strengths and barriers of each individual which creates a personalised learning experience.

UTC students are poorly behaved. 

This is not true. We have a robust behaviour policy that reflects the world of work and industry, which sees students given verbal and written warnings before being removed from routine lessons if they are persistently disruptive. Our parents and students say that this makes a more positive learning environment and greater progress is made in lessons.

Traditionally, careers in engineering and technology have been viewed as male-dominated. At UTCW, we work closely with our partner organisations to support female engagement in STEM, including specialist trips and lectures and our Women in STEM Events that are aimed at inspiring the UTC’s female students.

Moving to the UTC is a bad decision. 

Students benefit from regular input and mentoring by local employers and Higher Education partners, as well as an opportunity to focus on specialist subjects that they are passionate about.

14 is the typical age that students start their GCSEs. We believe young people are mature enough to understand what pathway they want to follow. By opting for focused STEM qualifications at UTCW, students benefit from a wealth of industry expertise, outstanding facilities and a strong rapport with the region’s leading business leaders.

Those who join us in Year 10 come from a number of different schools around Warrington and local towns. Our personal development programme brings students from all backgrounds together in a professional learning environment.

UTC qualifications are less valued than others.

Students who join us in Year 10 complete core national curriculum subjects, alongside technical specialisms such as Computer Science, Engineering Design and Engineering Manufacture. This offer has been developed with leading university and employer partners who are seeking a bespoke workforce with specific technical knowledge and skills.

At sixth form, our BTEC pathways mix technical learning with traditional academic subjects such as A Level Maths and Physics. In 2018, 100% of students who completed their BTEC Level 3 Engineering qualification passed and the average grade was a ‘distinction’. You can read more about our alumni on our dedicated alumni page. 

The UTC curriculum is too specialist. 

Whilst Engineering is one of the UK’s broadest sectors and employees in the industry can be some of the highest earners, UTC Warrington does not solely focus on one branch STEM subjects.

UTC’s are designed to build expertise in subject areas and our curriculum and business partners aren’t just from the Engineering sector. Students can opt to focus on science subjects at sixth form or study some of our technology courses that create our Cyber Pathways for Year 10 and Year 12 students.

Alongside prominent employer support from each sector, our students receive a well-rounded view into the future potential opportunities of employment, apprenticeships or continued study in the field of STEM.

Other FAQs

What are the advantages of going to a UTC instead of staying at their previous school?

Students benefit from regular input and mentoring by local employers and universities and can study  subjects they are passionate about, in a high quality facility that reflects the real work place, with teachers who have practical industry experience.

Why join the UTC at the age of 14?

11 is too early to choose a subject path to follow and by the time students are 16, if they know what they want to do, they often become bored at school and so underachieve. At 14, students can benefit from a more mature learning environment, specialist qualifications, and a unique learning experience.

What makes the UTC different?

Employers and Higher Education partners shape the curriculum and direction of the college. Our students benefit from that wealth of expertise in and outside of the classroom, alongside regular business project days, employer mentoring, work placements, enrichment opportunities and personal development experiences.

Why a UTC in Warrington?

A 2012 skills report highlighted a skills gap in school leavers, leading to local STEM employers developing a University Technical College in the town. Warrington is home to one of the UK’s largest nuclear engineering hubs in Birchwood Park and there are many opportunities within the STEM sector across the wider North West. There is also a  nationally recognised need for skills and career opportunities in a raft of specialisms offering fantastic routes for all young people.

Will free school meals continue to be available?

All students eligible for free school meals will retain their entitlement.

Does the UTC have a dedicated team of staff to support students?

The UTC has staff with expertise in special needs and additional support. As part of the transition process, we work closely with all schools involved to ensure a smooth transition to UTCW. Each student is assigned a PAT Tutor who works closely with the Progress Leader and Assistant Principal for Inclusion.

Does the current school need to be informed a student is leaving?

Once you have formally applied to the UTC and you have been offered a place, we will work closely with local schools to ensure a smooth transition. This will include meeting with pastoral leaders so that we can ensure any support required is in place.

Are there any entry requirements?

The UTC is open to students of all abilities. In Year 10, there are no formal entry requirements but an interest in Engineering, Science and Technology would be beneficial.

In Year 12, our BTEC pathways require a minimum of 5 GCSEs Grade 4 or above. For A Level subjects, a Grade 6 will be required.