Tory grandee Lord Baker has hit out at Michael Gove, saying his views on technical colleges are “ill-informed rubbish.”
The Thatcherite education secretary, who designed University Technical Colleges (UTCs), told The Telegraph that Mr Gove “doesn't understand technical education”, adding: “he never like them and is just waiting for them to close”.
Last week week, Mr Gove wrote that that UTCs were a failure, arguing that Government needs to “go back to the drawing board” on technical education.
Mr Gove's comments came as it emerged that a technical college in Manchester is to close after none of its pupils received a grade C or above in their GCSE exams.
The college, based in Oldham, will be the seventh college to fold since the project was launched in 2010 as part of the free school project.
UTCs were designed as a way for 14-18 year old students to combine academic studies with more vocational training for engineering in science.
Writing in The Telegraph today, Lord Baker said that Mr Gove “now presents himself as a former champion of UTCs” despite having never wanted them in the first place.
Lord Baker said that Mr Gove only visited one college in three years, adding that this was a week before he was found another job.
“Gove now presents himself as a former champion of UTCs so that he can ‘admit’ that they have failed. But from the beginning his embrace of them of was that an undertaker,” Lord Baker wrote.
Lord Bakers said he disagrees with Mr Gove’s arguments that UTCs became a destination for underperforming children and lacked “academic rigour".
He said that last year, across all UTCs, we had 1,292 leavers at 18, only five of whom became “neets” – that is, unemployed and not in any further education.
Lord Baker added that 44 per cent went to university - compared to a national average of 38 per cent- while 29 per cent became apprentices, while the national average is 8.4 per cent.
“The unemployment rate for 18-year-olds is unfortunately still 11.5 per cent. For graduates of UTCs it is 0.5 per cent," he said.
Lord Baker gave numerous examples of the successes of UTCs, highlighting how integral organisations such as the Royal Navy and GCHQ value the programme.
He added that the Education Secretary, Justine Greening is commitment to UTCs and has described the innovative colleges as “brilliant” and “phenomenal” places of learning.
The former Conservative Party chairman admitted that a number of UTCs have had to close but blames this on a “failure in leadership by Principals and governing bodies.”
He insisted that his team had spotted the weaknesses early on, but had not had the power to force changes. “If we had, we would certainly have saved four of them.”