Alternative provision

Revealed: The 20 new AP free schools approved by ministers

Leading academy trust secures four alternative provision free schools while others are snubbed

Leading academy trust secures four alternative provision free schools while others are snubbed

Twenty areas will get new alternative provision free schools, the government has finally announced, but more than half of those that applied were rejected.

Delta Academies Trust has secured all four free schools it applied for, but others such as Unity Schools Partnership, in Suffolk, have been snubbed. All three bids in Nottinghamshire were rejected.

Just 20 schools out of 43 applications were approved (see full list below).

The announcement was made alongside the spring budget today, however it was due to be confirmed in autumn last year.

It comes amid a places crisis for AP, with a Schools Week investigation finding excluded children in a third of areas were stuck on waiting lists for specialist provision .

In budget documents, the government said these new schools will provide more than 1,600 extra spaces and “support early intervention, helping improve outcomes for children requiring alternative provision, and helping them to fulfil their potential”.

Delta has been approved to open schools in Barnsley, Calderdale, Kirklees and Stockton-on-Tees. 

However, some areas have been snubbed entirely. Nottinghamshire had none of its three bids accepted, likewise in Sefton, which applied for two schools. 

Suffolk had one bid approved for 14 to 19 provision, but a 7 to 16 school run by Unity Schools Partnership didn’t make it through. 

Reach South Academy Trust aims to open a new AP school in Wiltshire by September 2025. Half of the 80 places for 5 to 16-year-olds will be based at an existing school in Calne and the other half in Salisbury.

Dean Ashton, trust chief executive, said it will “provide early intervention in mainstream schools and a key part of what we offer will focus on provision that will help prevent escalation to suspensions or permanent exclusions which we know are so damaging to young people’s futures”.

The schools form part of the £2.6 billion capital pledged in the 2021 spending review. All bids had to be “partnerships” and involve at least one council.

The Department for Education previously said it would prioritise applications in areas with no ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ AP schools, or where no AP schools exist.

Applicants must have also shown the free school would reduce a council’s high-needs deficits and “contribute” to the wider aims of the SEND and AP reforms.

No dates are given for when the schools will open. Schools Week previously revealed how opening special free schools can take years, with many delayed.

The full list of successful bids:

CouncilName of proposed schoolAge range
BarnsleyDelta Barnsley AP Free School8 to 16
Bath and North East SomersetSulis Academy4 to 16
BlackpoolBlackpool AP Medical Free School7 to 16
CalderdaleDelta Calderdale AP Free School8 to 16
Cheshire EastThe Engage Academy11 to 16
CumberlandCumberland Alternative Provision11 to 16
East Riding of YorkshireTurning Point7 to 19
KentJude’s Academy11 to 16
KirkleesDelta Kirklees AP Free School8 to 16
NottinghamBowden Academy7 to 16
Redcar and ClevelandRiver Tees Academy Redcar and Cleveland11 to 16
SheffieldMinerva AP Free School4 to 16
Stockton-on-TeesDelta Stockton AP Free School11 to 16
Stoke-on-TrentThe Link Academy10 to 16
SuffolkSENDAT New AP Suffolk Free School14 to 19
ThurrockOlive AP Academy – Tilbury11 to 19
Tower HamletsMulberry Learning Village5 to 19
West SussexKithurst Academy9 to 16
WiganImpact Academy Wigan11 to 16
WiltshireAlternative Free School for Wiltshire5 to 16

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