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£9M FOR SCHOOL CHOICE ADVISERS

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Local authorities across England are set to share in over£9m funding for the creation of a network of choice advis...
Local authorities across England are set to share in over£9m funding for the creation of a network of choice advisers who will support parents in choosing the right school for their child.

From this September, local authorities will start to use choice advisers to provide practical support targeted at those parents most likely to need extra help with the school admissions process. The schools white paper, Higher Standards Better Schools for All, said that every local authority will have established a network of choice advisers from 2008.

Choice advisers will:

* provide independent advice, support and guidance to parents on accessing information about schools ie achievement and attainment tables, Ofsted reports, and school prospectuses;

* offer group and one-to-one sessions for parents as appropriate, tailoring advice to individual needs and circumstances;

* enable all parents to make well informed choices about the school they choose to send their child.

Schools minister Jim Knight said:

'Every parent wants their child to attend a good school. We are determined to give all parents the support they need to make the best choices for their child.

'More good schools are the key to making choice a reality. Rising standards means we are delivering on that, but more support is also vital. Parents need clear accessible information to help them choose primary and secondary schools.

'A wide variety of information is already available to help parents make decisions but we know that not all parents are accessing this and many still find it difficult to navigate the admissions system - particularly when it comes to finding a secondary school. Choice advisers will have a real impact on ensuring that all parents are armed with the information they need to find the right school for their child.'

Research shows that nationally 76% of parents with children in state schools want genuine choice over what school their child attends. It is also known however, that those parents who make most use of performance information, Ofsted reports and other data, tend to be the educated middle classes. Choice advisers will redress this imbalance by supporting parents who may benefit from extra help in navigating the admissions process successfully.

Every local authority will receive a minimum of£15,000 per year for the next two years, topped up with an additional sum allocated according to deprivation. The funding will be ring-fenced for use on the choice advice service.

Choice advisers will build on the improvements to the admissions system that have been made in recent years. The new coordinated admissions arrangements introduced in 2004 have simplified the process of finding a school place making it easier for parents to exercise choice and reducing the unacceptable circumstances where a child is left without a school place.

The improvements that have been made mean that in recent years the number of admission appeals has fallen as more parents secure places atthe school of their choice. Choice advisers will ensure that more parents can benefit from increased diversity and higher standards across the school system.

NOTES

This press notice applies to England

1. The Schools White Paper, Higher Standards Better Schools for All, published in October 2005, announced the government's plans to develop a national network of choice advisers who would give practical support to parents likely to need additional help in navigating the secondary schools admissions round.

2. The Education and Inspections Bill 2006 (clause 40) places a duty on local authorities in England to provide advice and assistance to parents of children living in the area of the authority to help them in the formulation of their preference on a school for their child.

3. Every local authority will receive£15,000 with an additional sum weighted on deprivation. The overall amount of funding recognises that, in most cases, this service will be seasonal and a development of targeting and outreach elements to work already underway in either admissions or parent, or children's services.

4. The Choice Adviser Grant will be ring-fenced for two years and paid as Standards Fund Grant 126. The rules governing the Standards Fund as set out in Section 2 of the Standards Fund Circular 2006-2008 will apply.

5. The work of the choice adviser will be supported by a Choice Adviser Support and Quality Assurance Network. This network will have a role in supporting Choice Advisers through developing choice adviser accreditation, regional events, sharing good practice and providing online support for queries. The network will also work with local authorities to ensure impartiality and quality-assure the work of choice advisers.

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