UTC Warrington has been warned its proposals to take in students from year seven are ‘fraught with difficulty’.

The UTC Warrington Trust Board is proposing a change in the admissions policy to allow key stage three students to join the site, on Dallam Lane, from September 2020.

The consultation launched on December 6 and ends on January 31 – with the new admissions arrangements due to be published on February 28.

The site currently takes in students at year 10, aged 14, and year 12, aged 16.

But the proposal is for the UTC to admit year seven students, aged 11, alongside year 10 and year 12 students.

Furthermore, if the proposals are brought in, all students will be admitted at year seven from the academic year 2023, with the exception of sixth form students.

The published admission number for year seven to 11 will be 100 students per year group – and for year 12 to 13 it will be 60 students per year group.

The council is co-ordinating the consultation.

Cllr Colin Froggatt, former portfolio holder for children and young people’s services, has raised concerns.

He said: “It’s sad for the students that the UTC hasn’t fulfilled its aspirations.

“The venture was initially promoted as a regeneration project by the council to help develop the Winwick Street area of the town.

“This was despite warnings from educationalists that there were already too many spare places in the town and not enough pupils to fill them.

“Competition from existing educational provision has proved too much for the UTC, as it has for the many UTCs which have closed across the country.

“This attempt to become an 11 to 18 school is fraught with difficulty as there is still spare capacity in the town’s schools illustrated by the way many have reduced their admission numbers to reflect the pupil/places ratio and could easily be raised again to meet demand.”

But Lee Barber, UTC Warrington principal and chief executive, has responded.

He said: “Two years in, we are already fulfilling our purpose by addressing the major skills shortage in the engineering sector, particularly in Warrington.

“Student destinations are outstanding, with almost all post-18 alumni entering a science, technology, engineering and maths-related degree, degree apprenticeship, apprenticeship or sustained employment in the engineering sector.

“Students also achieved the third highest engineering results across all UTCs and top 30 per cent nationally.

“Our GCSE students enjoyed similar fortunes, showing good progress from their starting points in year 10 when they joined us, moreover every student accessed further education, apprenticeships or employment at 16.

“Our proposals would simply allow us to inspire children who are passionate about science, technology, engineering and maths from the age of 11, which is a natural school transition point, rather than the current UTC model of 14.

“It would offer parents more choice about their child’s education.

“So far, we have received very positive feedback from parents and employers alike.”

Lord Baker, who founded the UTC programme alongside Lord Dearing, has described UTCs as ‘innovative’ and ‘disruptive’.

He added: “They don’t fit comfortably into the system.

“Politicians find it hard to accept that something so fundamental is needed in England.

“In spite of these headwinds, 50 UTCs are open.

“Just under 14,000 students are benefitting from a good quality technical education, with a clear pathway to the skilled jobs that employers find so hard to fill.”

The council says it is ‘not expressing any views’ on the proposals during the consultation.

A spokesman added: “We welcome any consultation which gives people the opportunity to have their say and to help shape important decisions and we await the outcome of UTC’s consultation with interest.”