A new choice of school (1986)

In this glossy brochure, published in October 1986, Margaret Thatcher's government set out its proposals for city technology colleges.

The text of A new choice of school was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 1 November 2017.

A new choice of school (1986)

Department of Education and Science
London: 1986
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.


[page 1 (unnumbered)]


This booklet describes my proposals for City
Technology Colleges. This initiative will give parents a
new choice of school. Its purpose is to create fresh
opportunities for the children of our cities.

The Rt. Hon. Kenneth Baker MP
Secretary of State for Education and Science

[page 2]

A new choice of school


The Government is working with interested individuals and organisations to establish with financial assistance from the Department of Education and Science a network of City Technology Colleges (CTCs) in urban areas. Their purpose will be to provide a broadly-based secondary education with a strong technological element thereby offering a wider choice of secondary school to parents in certain cities and a surer preparation for adult and working life to their children. It is in our cities that the education system is at present under most pressure. This booklet outlines what is proposed.

[page 3]


The Government's central aim for school education, which is widely shared, is:

"to improve standards in schools, using the available resources to yield the best possible return so that schools more effectively help all our children and young people to become responsible and law-abiding citizens, to bring enterprise, versatility and application to their employment, and to foster those qualities and attitudes which will enable them to develop their talents as individuals and as valued members of society."*
The Government believes that this aim will be achieved more quickly and more effectively if parents have a greater say in, and can feel more responsible for, their children's education. Such responsibilities can be exercised more effectively if parents have greater choice about their children's school and about the nature of the education they receive.

The Government's aims and the aspirations of parents are relevant throughout the country. But it is in the cities that these aims and aspirations often seem furthest from fulfilment. There are many examples of good schooling offered by committed teachers in the cities. But many families living there who seek the best possible education for their children do not have access to the kind of schools which measure up to their ambitions.

The Government believes that there is, in the business community and elsewhere, a widespread wish to help extend the range of choice for families in urban areas. What is required is a programme which builds upon the lessons of the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative and of successful secondary schools generally. The plans set out in this booklet offer such a new approach. They describe a basis for establishing, on a pilot basis, with financial assistance from the Secretary of State for Education and Science, a number of City Technology Colleges alongside secondary schools maintained by Local Education Authorities (LEAs).

The Secretary of State for Education and Science has discussed these proposals with a number of individuals and organisations, in the business community and elsewhere, who share the Government's concerns and who wish to help improve education in the cities. He is inviting them to work with the Department on the detailed arrangements for establishing a network of City Technology Colleges.

*Better Schools Cmnd 9469

[page 4]


The main characteristics of CTCs will be these:

  • they will normally cater for 11-18 year-olds;
  • they will be registered independent schools, subject to inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate;
  • they will charge no fees;
  • the promoters will own (or lease) and run them, and receive grants on conditions agreed with the Secretary of State;
  • the promoters will make a substantial contribution towards the costs;
  • they will offer a broad curriculum, with the strong technical and practical element which is essential preparation for the changing demands of adult and working life in an advanced industrial society;
  • they will seek to develop the qualities of enterprise, self-reliance and responsibility which young people need for adult life and work and for citizenship;
  • they will be set up in urban areas, including the disadvantaged inner cities;
  • they will aim to secure the highest possible standards of achievement, both academically and in other ways.

[page 5]


Each CTC will serve a substantial catchment area. The composition of their intake will be representative of the community they serve. They will not be neighbourhood schools taking all comers; nor will they be expected to admit children from outside the catchment area. Their admission procedures and catchment areas will need to be defined in such a way as to give scope for selecting pupils from a number of applicants. The precise arrangements will need to be decided case-by-case but a typical catchment area is likely to contain at least 5,000 pupils of secondary age, from whom 750-1,000 pupils will be admitted.

CTCs will be required, as a condition of grant, to aim at admitting pupils spanning the full range of ability represented in the catchment area. Pupils will be selected by the Head and the Governing Body on the basis of their general aptitude, for example as reflected in their progress and achievements at primary school; on their readiness to take advantage of the type of education offered in CTCs; and on their parents' commitment to full-time education or training up to the age of 18, to the distinctive characteristics of the CTC curriculum, and to the ethos of the CTC. As described below, education in a CTC will demand considerable effort from pupils and from their parents. A prime consideration in the selection of pupils will be whether they are likely to benefit from what the CTC offers. All will have some of the positive qualities which will help them to succeed.

Admission to CTCs will not be subject to any denominational tests.

It will be an objective of the scheme to balance provision for boys and girls. Provided this condition is satisfied single sex CTCs will not be excluded.

[page 6]


The Secretary of State is issuing a general invitation for potential promoters of CTCs to come forward. He looks to industry and commerce, educational trusts, charities, and other voluntary organisations to consider sponsorship of CTCs.


The Secretary of State will expect promoters to meet the costs of buildings and equipment or to contribute a substantial part of those costs. The Secretary of State will pay the CTCs' running costs in accordance with the number of pupils, at a level of assistance per pupil comparable with what is provided by LEAs for maintained schools serving similar catchment areas.

The promoters will own (or lease) the CTCs, and run them. They will be responsible for employing teachers and other staff. Their grant from the Secretary of State will be paid on conditions agreed with him.


As the CTCs will have a charitable character, they will not be profit-making. The resources required, both for capital expenditure and for managing the CTCs, will be substantial. Promoters will be making a long-term investment in the adult and working population of the future. Their reward will be richer opportunities for good education in the cities and an enhanced contribution to the vigour and prospects of the communities there.

It is in that spirit that the Government is inviting potential promoters to come forward with proposals, and all those working in the education service to help make the initiative a success. The following paragraphs explain various aspects of the . Government's plans for CTCs.

[page 7]

How CTCs will work


CTCs will offer a curriculum in line with the Government's policy for setting high standards in the maintained sector. There will be a large technical and practical element within the broad and balanced curriculum which the Government advocates for all pupils up to the age of 16. The importance of doing and understanding as well as knowing will be emphasised throughout. Pupils of all abilities will be challenged to the limit of their capability In addition:

  • there will be strong emphasis on self-discipline and positive attitudes. The school day and the school term are likely to be longer than the minimum required by law for LEA-maintained schools. All pupils will be expected to honour the requirements for homework and to participate in extra-curricular activities including residential field trips with physical as well as intellectual challenges. Work experience will also form an integral part of education at a CTC.
  • CTCs will where possible also be used to establish the value and effectiveness of equipping a secondary school with Information Technology hardware and software on a scale more extensive than is normal in the maintained sector.
The range and balance of the subjects which might be provided in a CTC is illustrated in the curriculum model set out in Annex A. It shows what could be offered in an 11-18 school of 1,000 pupils with a pupil teacher ratio (15.4: 1) which is in line with current good practice for an inner city school. In this model, technological emphasis is achieved by giving pupils relatively little choice in the subjects studied in years 4 and 5. This will be unusually directive. Parents and pupils will need to take this into account when they apply for a place in a CTC.


The staff of CTCs will be employed by their Governing Bodies, which will be free to negotiate pay and conditions of service, on the understanding that the Secretary of State's contribution to running costs will broadly reflect salary levels current in LEA-maintained schools.

The Secretary of State will generally require Governing Bodies to employ as teachers those who have 'qualified teacher' status although exceptions may be made on the recommendation of the Governing Body for individuals with other relevant background or experience. Governing Bodies will also be expected to match the qualifications and experience of teachers to the subjects taught.

Governing Bodies will be free to decide on staffing levels and on the balance between teaching and non-teaching staff, on the understanding that the Secretary of State's contribution to their running costs will assume a pupil:teacher ratio which moves in line with good practice in LEA-maintained city schools.

[page 8]


The Government is prepared to fund up to 20 CTCs. It intends that these should be established in a number of urban areas, some of them suffering acute social deprivation and receiving attention in other ways through the Inner City Initiative. CTCs are unlikely to be established outside large centres of population The first CTCs are likely to serve catchment areas drawn from the areas listed in Annex B.


The principle of funding will be that the promoters will meet all or a substantial part of the capital costs. Some assistance may be available to help meet repayments on loans raised for this purpose. Promoters will receive a grant which will be sufficient to meet all items of current expenditure which would fall on an LEA for one of its own schools (including expenditure on the repair and maintenance of the buildings). The conditions of grant will be agreed between the Secretary of State and the promoters.

Promoters will be invited to provide an endowment to enable their governors to meet the costs of additional facilities or replace obsolescent equipment. Grant may in certain circumstances also be available to cover a proportion of the repayments on loans incurred by promoters to finance their contribution to the initial capital expenditure. Additional grant may be earmarked to cover expenditure on equipment, as well as software, for Information Technology, broadly on the lines of assistance offered through the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI).

The level of annual grant to CTCs will be determined on the basis that it should cover what might reasonably be spent on LEA-maintained schools serving similar localities.


Promoters will own (or lease) and run CTCs. The conditions of grant agreed between the Secretary of State and the promoters will set out the aims and objectives of the institution and will establish, among other things, the nature of the curriculum, the approach to the selection of pupils, arrangements to ensure the financial accountability of the Governing Body and provision for the Secretary of State to monitor the educational performance of the school.

[page 9]


CTCs will be a distinct category of provision within the education system. They will not be answerable to LEAs. It is desirable that LEAs and promoters of CTCs should work together for the benefit of the communities they will both serve. For example, the Secretary of State will encourage the Governing Bodies of CTCs to share their buildings and facilities, as far as is practicable, with pupils from other schools and to make them available to the wider community outside school hours.


The Government expects that preliminary discussions between the Department and prospective promoters will be completed within a few months, and that the first CTCs will come into operation in 1988. It is confident that the number of institutions and the number of pupils will build up rapidly thereafter. The Government intends that 20 CTCs should be in operation by the end of the decade.


Individuals and organisations interested in the scheme are invited to contact the CTC Unit at the Department of Education and Science. The address is:

CTC Unit
Department of Education and Science
Elizabeth House
York Road
London SE1 7PH

[page 10]

An Illustrative Curriculum

The curriculum offered in these colleges will need to conform broadly to the principles set out in the White Paper Better Schools and in DES policy statements on subjects of the curriculum and the curricular criteria for the extension of the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative:

"The individual programmes made available to students through the structure and application of common cores and option choices should be broad and balanced. They should be related to experience and aim to stretch all pupils to the full potential of their abilities. Students should be enabled to acquire a proper balance of knowledge, understanding, attitudes and skills including practical applications. The aim of the curriculum should be to develop the potential of all students as a preparation for adult life, including employment and the responsibilities of citizenship. This involves attention to the content of programmes, to the learning and teaching approaches used and to progression and continuity within courses and from year-to-year; particularly where what is done post-16 needs to start from what has been learnt before. It also involves the provision as far as practicable of programme patterns and choices which allow equal opportunity to boys and girls, to students from ethnic minorities and to students with special needs."*

The models that follow sketch out only one way in which the principles mentioned above might be translated into the actual curriculum provided by an 11-18 college. Some of the schools, after considering the curriculum as a whole, could adopt or develop more radical ways of meeting the objectives of the initiative and individual schools would be encouraged to develop curricula which reflect the strengths of their teachers and the opportunities provided in the local area. Schools will need to prepare guidelines for the subjects of the curriculum which ensure that cross-curricular themes such as health and environmental education and the development of study skills are properly dealt with, and also fully reflect the intentions of the initiative.

*Part of the Ministerial Statement of Curricular Criteria for the extension of the TVEI, 1986.

[page 11]

Illustration of a possible curriculum for
years 1-3

1 To include English, history, geography and RE, taught separately or in various combinations.

2 A sequence of modular courses, to include in each year elements of business understanding, moral and health education, tutorial work including study skills and aspects of personal development.

3 To include music and drama.

4 To include art and design, CDT and home economics.

Note Approximate time-allocations over the three years might be in the region of 25 per cent (mathematics and science), 20 per cent (design and its realisation), 25 per cent (humanities subjects) and 30 per cent for other courses. Variations within this overall pattern might exist both between and within years. The curriculum would be differentiated within this common provision in accordance with the needs of individual children.

[page 12]

Illustration of a possible curriculum for
years 4-5

This is largely a directed, 'common core' curriculum with limited optional choice. Within this framework, the curricula of individual pupils will need to be differentiated according to abilities, interests and needs.

1 Science occupies 20 per cent of the week; it might be taught as separate subjects, in an integrated way or as double science.

2 The open option will include a wide range of subjects, which will vary with schools' particular strengths: eg, history, geography, RE, a second foreign language, music, home economics, computer studies and economics.

3 The design and technology course will include elements of CDT, technology, art, computing and Information Technology.

4 This course will be organised on a basis of units or modules including industrial design as well as the financial and economic aspects of industry and commerce.

5 This option will include subjects such as economics, geography and history.

Note Except for the double science allocation, all subjects/courses will receive an allocation of approximately 10 per cent of the week.

[page 13]

Illustration of a possible curriculum for
years 4-5

1 Students will be able to take:

i. one-year courses leading to Royal Society of Arts (RSA), Certificate of PreVocational Education (CPVE) or General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) qualifications;


ii. selected one- or two-year vocational courses leading to Business & Technician Education Council (BTEC) or City and Guilds of London Institute (CGLI) qualifications. These courses might need to be run in association with other providers of vocational education and training;


iii. two-year courses leading to General Certificate of Education qualifications at Advanced (A) and Advanced Supplementary (AS) levels.

It will be possible to take various combinations of examinations.

2 All students will participate in general studies, careers and guidance and recreational courses.

[page 14]

The CTC and the education system

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[page 15]

Possible Locations

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