Thousands of places created in new special free schools

Up to 3,000 new school places are to be created for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), providing tailored support and specialist equipment.

Staffed by specially trained teachers, the 35 new special free schools are expected to open in September 2022 to give pupils with complex needs access to equipment that supports their individual needs such as sensory equipment and communication aids.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced he has approved 33 school trusts to open and run 37 new schools, two of which will be solely for children who have been or are at risk of being excluded from mainstream education, to level up their educational outcomes and to keep them engaged in learning. The remaining 35 will help drive up standards in special education, providing specialist support and teaching for pupils with complex needs such as autism, severe learning difficulties or mental health conditions.

The announcement builds on the success of the free school programme, which promotes innovation, with more than 500 already open across the country, including 44 special and 47 Alternative Provision (AP) free schools. These new schools will take advantage of the freedoms and opportunities provided by the free school system to ensure that children with special educational needs and in AP are receiving the tailored support they need to fulfil their potential.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Now more than ever we need to make sure we are putting our most disadvantaged and vulnerable children first, including those with complex needs.

“We need to be more ambitious for these children, which is why we are delivering on this Government’s manifesto commitment to deliver more school places for children with complex Special Educational Needs. This will make a real difference, giving these young people the opportunity they deserve for tailored support in school that responds to their individual needs, making them confident learners and engaged students.

“At the same time, I also want to transform the experience of children who have been permanently excluded or are disengaged and at risk of being removed from the classroom. These 37 new schools, adding to the network of excellent free schools around the country, will help level up opportunities for every single child, from any backgrounds, so they can all receive a world class education.”

Last month the Prime Minister set out a transformative ten-year rebuilding programme for schools across England, aimed at driving opportunity and prosperity through improvements to the country’s education system. This will start in 2020-21 with the first 50 projects supported by over £1 billion in funding.

The new schools will be open to some of the most vulnerable children in the country – including those with education, health and care plans, whose needs have been prioritised throughout the pandemic, with nurseries, schools and colleges remaining open for them where appropriate. Charity grants have also been provided to families on low-incomes with disabled children, to pay for specialist equipment required during the lockdown period.

The Government has also taken urgent action to keep children at risk of harm or exploitation safe during the coronavirus outbreak, investing to expand the work of charities on the front line.

Today’s announcement builds on measures announced by the Department for Education to place social workers in more schools to help teachers identify those at risk, and to make £7 million available to pupils leaving AP after their GCSEs this year to help their transition to further education, employment or training.

Of the new free schools: six will be in the North West, providing over 400 places, including for children with SEMH, Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Severe Learning Difficulty (SLD) and speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN).

Shaw Education Trust, which provides education in Greater Manchester has been chosen with, plans for a new school to open in Bury in 2022.

Shaw Education Trust CEO, Jo Morgan, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Bury Council to provide pro-active support and appropriate provision for learners in the borough.

“We will extend our work with those parents and young people who require specialist learning, to enable them to access inclusive, high quality schooling.”

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