Sponsors for 14 new special needs free schools revealed

The sponsors for 14 new special free schools have been announced, at a time when many special schools are struggling to meet high demand for places.

The new schools will create 1,100 additional school places for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, according to the Department for Education.

Schools Week has previously revealed how demand for autism-specific places in special schools has soared, leaving many schools overwhelmed by demand.

About 222,000 pupils have also had their care “reviewed” by moving from the old SEN statements to education health and care plans (EHCPs), new data released today showed.

The government has hailed the plans as evidence SEND pupils are now better able to access support – despite ongoing reports from teachers and parents about lengthy delays and complications in the process of securing one.

Schools Week has reported that an EHCP is considered a “golden ticket” to better support, but they can be difficult to obtain for pupils with identified needs. In the latest data, 242,185 pupils had a statement or plan, but one million are classified as needing “SEN support” only.

Parents and pupils will now be able to challenge the health and social care elements of their EHCP, and not just the education recommendations within it, the government also revealed today.

Finally, an additional £200,000 will be spread between the regional SEND coordinators in every local authority.

Nadhim Zahawi, the children’s minister, said the changes would be bolstered by the announcement of sponsors for 14 new special schools across the country.

Mark Lehain, interim director at the New Schools Network, which supports free schools to open, said the announcement was “great news for families across the country.

“This new wave of special free schools will offer students with SEND the opportunity to access an education that’s suited to their needs.”

The schools are:

  • Bedford Inclusive Learning and Training Trust, which will open a 200-place all-through special school;
  • the East Blackburn Learning Community trust will be created following the merger of two Ofsted ‘good’-rated schools, and will have 48 places;
  • the East Cheshire Youth Achievement free school trust, which will open a 40-place school;
  • the Edmonton Academy Trust, which will open a 70-place special free school in Enfield;
  • the Prospere Learning Trust, which will open a 100-place school in Manchester;
  • Astrum multi-academy trust, which will open a 64-place school in east London;
  • the Enable Trust will be created following the merger of the two schools and have 122 places in Gloucestershire;
  • the Orchard Hill College Academy Trust, which will open a 150-place special free school and nursery in south London;
  • the Nexus Multi Academy Trust, which will open two new special free schools in the region, together offering 160 places in Doncaster and Sheffield;
  • the Catch22 Multi Academy Trust, which will open 124 places in Hampshire;
  • the Samuel Ward Academy Trust, which will open two new special free schools at 120 places together in Romford and Ispwich;
  • and the Barrs Court Academy Trust, which will open a 50-place special free school in Hereford.