Councils paid £100k to write to parents about UTCs

The government has handed out more than £100,000 in funding to councils to enable them to write to parents promoting post-14 education options like University Technical Colleges.

A new rule requiring councils to make parents aware of schools with ‘atypical points of admission’ came into effect on February 14, and councils have now received funding equivalent to 20p per pupil to pay for the administrative cost of the requirement.

It comes after parliament voted to force schools to let UTCs, colleges and apprenticeship providers promote their learning opportunities to pupils, and follows a long-running dispute over the effectiveness of careers advice in schools.

Under the new regulations, councils must write – either by post or email – to parents of pupils due to move into year 10 in September and must outline the other post-14 study options in their area.

In a model letter sent to councils by the Department for Education, both UTCs and studio schools are mentioned specifically, and parents are advised to urge their child to speak to a careers adviser in their school or college.

Councils are allowed to decide which institutions to promote. In guidance to the authorities, Mary Pooley, deputy director of the Education Funding Agency’s free schools group, said councils should take into account the fact that pupils “often travel further” for schools with an atypical admission age, and hence may wish to promote specialist schools from further away than a usual catchment area.

Pooley denied the requirement to send the letter was “unfair” to other local schools, despite acknowledging concerns raised in a consultation on the matter which said it would be.

“We are clear that the effect of this requirement will be to ensure that parents are aware of schools with atypical points of admission within a reasonable travelling distance to which their children may be able to apply.”

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