Evidence of need for special schools

Demonstrating evidence of need is your opportunity to assure the Department for Education that your special school is needed by commissioners and young people in your area, and in doing so show that it would be financially viable.

The DfE criteria states that they will assess the level of demand for your proposed school by 'weighing up local authority and parent demand (or student demand for 16 to 19 places), the need for additional places catering for the specific type of need you have identified and the standards of schools in the local area catering for the same needs.' 

Pupils with an EHC Plan

For statemented pupils/ pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan), you need to:

  • Demonstrate written commitment from local authorities to commission a specific number of places at your school in its first two years of opening at the top-up fee you will charge. 
  • Show that parents of pupils (or students for 16-19 schools) would ask the local authority for your school to be named on their child's statement/ EHC Plan.
  • Show that parents and local authorities have made an informed decision when choosing your school.
  • Make a case for a need for more high quality places in the local authority or neighbouring local authorities for pupils with the specific needs that your school will cater for, based on a need for more places or low standards in existing providers.

Pupils without an EHC Plan

If your school will admit non-statemented pupils/pupils without an EHC Plan, you also need to:

  • Explain how you would ensure these pupils had the needs your school is catering to - e.g. through professional advice from an education psychologist
  • Show that parents (or students for 16-19) would choose your school for their child
  • Show that parents (or students for 16-19) have made an informed decision about your school.
  • Show that pupils (or students for 16-19) have the same primary SEN designation that your school would cater for.
  • Demonstrate that demand for these places is not short-term (catering for those who are going through the assessment process for a statement/EHC Plan), but is for a longer period
  • Show that there is a shortage of high quality places for students with these needs in the LA or neighbouring LAs.

Further guidance

Further guidance on what should be included in this section of the application can be found in the following documents:

Other useful resources:

  • Our data sources page has a wide range of some of the data sources free school groups use in compiling their application, relating to projected need for more school places in an area, underperformance in schools and other relevant areas.
  • Preparing your press release explains how to ensure that the message you are getting across to the press and the public is accurate, of interest and casts you in a positive light.
  • Using Facebook Ads - our guidance on how to use Facebook Ads to promote your school.
  • Application resources outlining how to present information in your application form.