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Ofsted: engineering and maths are “strengths” and project-based learning is “exceptional”

Ofsted has found that UTC Norfolk is excelling in the areas of engineering and maths following its first inspection of our school.  You can read the full inspection report here.

UTCN is delivering on our core remit

Inspectors say that “Engineering and mathematics are strengths of the school”, which is reflected in “above average results” in engineering: more than half of sixth form students achieved distinctions in engineering last year; and “almost a third of pupils attained the very highest grades for mathematics”.

Over and above the opportunity to combine GCSEs and A Levels with vocational qualifications in engineering, a highly distinctive feature of the UTC Norfolk curriculum is its Core Projects for students.  These see employers set students a project, usually lasting 5-6 weeks, which mirrors scenarios they will encounter working in industry.       

The inspectors were highly impressed by the Core Projects at UTC Norfolk, stating in their report that “Strong links with industry means that the quality of project-based learning in engineering is exceptional.”

Preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering and maths

Inspectors also recognised that the key focus of UTC Norfolk and its employer partners on STEM-based learning and career opportunities runs throughout the school.  The report says, “Pupils enthuse about [the school’s curriculum], describing it as the main reason for choosing the school. Excellent specialist facilities enable pupils to thrive in engineering.”

Thanks to UTC Norfolk’s links with employers, backed by “good quality advice and guidance”, its students have a “thorough understanding” of the career opportunities available to them, says the report. 

This is reflected in the outstanding progression made by UTC Norfolk students.  As the report acknowledges, 100pc of its Year 13 leavers last year progressed into higher education, apprenticeships or employment.

UTCN student experience and safeguarding

Students at UTC Norfolk are described as “well-behaved, mature and pleasant”.  The number of girls at UTC Norfolk is steadily growing and inspectors said that girls at the school “are welcomed…and cared for well. They appreciate the positive steps taken to raise the profile of girls, such as girls-only projects and events in science and engineering.”

Overall, our students are said to enjoy studying at UTCN and “They feel it is a safe, calm and friendly place to be.”  Safeguarding at UTCN is judged by Ofsted to be effective.    

Overall judgement and areas for improvement

The report says that UTC Norfolk ‘Requires Improvement’ (what used to be called ‘Satisfactory’) because the “good progress in engineering and mathematics is not matched in a range of other subjects.”  The inspectors also say that greater consistency is needed in teaching, in the use of questioning to check understanding, and in planning to ensure the needs and abilities of all pupils are met.

There is recognition of the “coherent leadership from school leaders” in establishing a new school promptly.  Despite a number of challenges encountered during its first two years of operation, inspectors says that UTC Norfolk “is clearly improving”. 

One key area for improvement is achievement at A Levels.  On this, the report states that “detailed plans” have been put in place and that “This is leading to improvement”, with current year data suggesting that “these strategies are working”.

Principal’s view

UTCN principal Alex Hayes says about the report:

“There is a lot in this report for the staff, students and employer partners of UTC Norfolk to be very proud.  Naturally, we are delighted that inspectors recognise we are doing very well in our areas of specialism.  UTC Norfolk has fantastic support from our employer partners, and it is particularly pleasing that the Core Project learning opportunities they provide for our students has been deemed to be ‘exceptional’.     

“UTC Norfolk is very different from a typical high school.  We offer a STEM-focused curriculum, unique in the county, which is designed to enable our students to thrive in science and engineering, and offering pathways to fantastic future employment opportunities.  Ofsted has confirmed that UTC Norfolk is meeting our core remit very well, which is an important achievement in our first 8 academic terms as a newly established school.  

“We recognise that the high standards and achievement seen by Ofsted in engineering and maths has not always been matched consistently enough in the rest of the curriculum.  Ofsted have acknowledged the measures and detailed plans we have put in place to address this, and other areas highlighted in the report, and we look forward to continuing and building on this improvement.”        

Have your say

We want parents/carers of UTCN students and our employer partners to be fully involved in the continuing improvement and development of our school.  If you have any comments, feedback or suggestions related to our Ofsted report, or indeed about any other matter at UTCN, then please do get in touch.  You can contact Alex Hayes directly at principal@utcn.org.uk or by calling UTCN on (01603) 580280.