Baker Dearing Educational Trust

The Baker Dearing Educational Trust (BDET) is a charity established to develop and promote the network of 44 University Technical Colleges (UTCs) across England, which cater to some 19,000 students and are supported by more than 400 employers and universities. UTCs pioneer a new type of local employer-led technical education for 14-19-year-olds that combines practical and academic learning.


Since the coalition government introduced them in 2010 under the free schools programme, 58 UTCS have opened. 11 have subsequently closed, and four have moved away from the UTC model.

Since their introduction, the overwhelming majority of UTCs have flourished, forging partnerships with local businesses and universities while delivering pioneering career-focused education to their students.

However, some UTCs faced challenges recruiting and retaining students in their infancy, partly due to the non-traditional entry points and competition with other types of schools. In some instances, this led to some facing financial difficulty, while others struggled to meet the Trust's expected standards. Combined, these factors led to the closure of UTCs the network saw, particularly in its infancy.

The UTC network has demonstrated significant progress since these closures. UTC aggregate enrolment rose 8 percent to 18,736 students in 2022. Meanwhile, recent Ofsted data shows 78 percent of the colleges are rated 'good' or 'outstanding', with none 'inadequate'. Historic coverage, particularly in the sector press, was dominated by these failings.

Bridgehead Education was retained by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust to showcase to the sector and potential business and university partners a more accurate representation of where UTCs are now and the value they have to offer to students, employers and universities.

Another objective was to promote 'UTC Sleeves'. The model involves a secondary school offering the technical education curriculum, including T Levels, used in UTCs alongside their usual academic pathway, developed with the help of an employer board. Students would enter the sleeve at age 14 and leave at 19, like a normal UTC.

Lastly, we were also retained to provide crisis and reputation management support to the UTC network as a whole, which resulted in us coordinating the media response surrounding the ultimate closure of Watford UTC.


Following our initial discovery meeting, we were able to learn more about major upcoming BDET initiatives, such as UTC sleeves, as well as a landmark partnership agreement between BDET and the NHS to train 30,000 'digital health' professionals by 2030. We then drafted a series of press releases and opinion pieces to promote these initiatives.

We also monitored the news daily and identified vital dates, such as GCSE results day, that would serve as relevant 'hooks' through which we could place comments from the BDET leadership team highlighting the Trust's key messages.

We also generated our own thought leadership that we could use to generate coverage to promote UTCs.

Finally, we arranged one-to-one interviews with the BDET senior leadership team to highlight the value UTCs deliver and their role in addressing key skills and challenges facing the country.


Our engagement campaign was very successful. We delivered 47 individual pieces over coverage read by an estimated 91,000 readers.

Notable highlights included securing a speaking slot for Lord Baker on Times Radio and coverage in The Daily Telegraph. They extended favourable coverage in FE Week, which had to date been critical of UTCs. We also delivered coverage with key manufacturing, science, and technology titles, such as 'The Manufacturer' and 'The Foundation for Science and Technology', highlighting the benefits to manufacturing employers partnering with UTCs that are local to them.

We also organised a journalist visit to a UTC to show them, first hand, the positive work they are doing.

We also coordinated the stakeholder engagement and communications surrounding Watford UTC's closure. This included drafting letters to students, staff, and parents and handling all media enquiries.

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