Academies

SEND, AP and ‘elite’ sixth forms prioritised in next free schools wave

DfE opens applications for up to 75 free schools with as many as 14,000 places

DfE opens applications for up to 75 free schools with as many as 14,000 places

10 Jun 2022, 0:01

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The government has pledged to create up to 14,000 school places in up to 75 new free schools, including new special schools, alternative provision and “elite” sixth forms.

In the next wave of free school applications, the Department for Education said it would approve up to 60 special and AP free schools to open from September 2025, creating around 4,500 places.

Another 15 mainstream schools – including “a number” of “high-quality” standalone sixth forms – will be targeted in the government’s 55 education investment areas.

It follows a pledge by the government to open “elite” sixth forms in left-behind areas. Ministers want to emulate the success of existing institutions like Harris Westminster Sixth Form and Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form Free School in Norwich.

Star Academies and Eton College recently announced plans to bid to open three academic sixth form free schools in Dudley, Middlesbrough and Oldham.

free schools
Zahawi

The DfE said the sixth forms would be “designed to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds fulfil their potential”.

Councils will be able to bid for new special schools, while AP free schools will be prioritised in areas where no existing AP is rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.

Expressions of interest are being sought for new mainstream schools in areas where there’s a “clear demographic need for additional places”.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “All children have the right to a high-quality education. Parents should feel confident that their local school works for their child, no matter where they live or their ability.

“From mainstream education which can provide for every need, to specialist teachers and equipment in tailored settings, our new schools across the country will continue to make sure that every child, in every corner of the country, gets the support they need to succeed.”

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