The government has revealed the names of 39 areas that have successfully bid to get new special or alternative provision free schools.
Ministers say more than 3,400 extra places will be created at the new schools. A bidding process for community groups, teachers, charities, existing education providers and other organisations to open and run the schools in selected areas will now go ahead.
Last year, sixty-five local authorities bid for government support for a new school, and it was revealed today that almost two-thirds of bids were successful – 37 for new special schools and two for new AP schools.
The south west and north west will each get six new special schools, while London and Yorkshire and the Humber will get five apiece. The east of England and West Midlands will get four new special free schools each, while three will go to the south east and three to the north east. The east midlands will get one.
Two local authorities, both in the West Midlands, will get new AP schools.
It comes at a time of crisis for special educational needs education, with the government facing a High Court showdown over the legality of cuts to high needs budgets.
Last November, a Schools Week investigation revealed how the crisis was pitting parents and schools against councils, as town hall education chiefs warned of rising demand for SEND support but no money to spend on it. Headteachers have also described a £350 million SEND funding boost announced last year as “not enough”.
“Parents rightly want [the] choice of where their child goes to school and to know that the education and support they receive will ignite that spark of potential that exists in all of us, so they can go on and succeed,” said the education secretary Damian Hinds, who claimed the government had already invested “significant funding” into SEND provision and support.
“But we recognise some children require more specialist support,” said Hinds, adding that the new schools would “help support every child to have a quality education”.
Luke Tryl, the new director of free schools support charity the New Schools Network, said the announcement was “fantastic news for children and communities across the country”.
“It will also help save local authorities money by creating new state places, rather than forcing them to rely on costly private provision.”
The 37 areas earmarked for new special free schools
Kingston upon Hull
Kingston upon Thames
Richmond upon Thames
Stoke on Trent
…and the two that will get new AP schools