NSN welcomes approval of 37 new special and alternative provision free schools

The Department for Education today announced the approval of 35 new special free schools and two new alternative provision free schools. These schools will provide much needed new state funded places for the most vulnerable pupils.

These schools were approved as part of a free school wave jointly led by the DfE and local authorities, which closed in September 2019.

Unity Howard, Director of New Schools Network, said:

“This announcement is fantastic news for families across the country. Special and alternative provision free schools are some of the most innovative and successful providers, and I am delighted to see more of them will be opened. Children with complex needs are the most vulnerable in society and the Government’s commitment to ensuring their opportunities and experiences are levelled up is very welcome.

"We hope to see a new alternative provision wave, delivered by the DfE, in the very near future, so that the positive increase in free schools for young people with special educational needs and disabilities is replicated to provide a second chance to those young people struggling to thrive in a mainstream setting.

"New Schools Network looks forward to working with these groups to ensure their free schools open successfully, joining the other 148 special and alternative provision free schools already adding much-needed capacity, innovation, and aspiration to the sector.”

NSN supported 19 of the successful proposals through its Development Programme. Successful applications include: 

Maiden Erlegh Trust

Having opened Maiden Erlegh School in Reading in 2015 and with a further secondary in the pipeline, Maiden Erlegh Trust is now looking to build on this success by offering specialist provision for 150 pupils with complex needs; 10 places will be made available to 16-19 year old students who are not yet transition-ready, due to a variety of factors from anxiety to having had significant gaps in their education. The trust’s aim is to provide distinctive, inclusive and excellent schools in the communities it serves.

Paradigm Trust

Paradigm Trust will be opening a new 60 place, age 9-16, complex communication and interaction (C&I) special school in Suffolk. The curriculum will be based on the trust’s knowledge-based curriculum, with a range of adjustments, to enable students to achieve outcomes comparable to their mainstream peers. The school will foster strong working relationships with a variety of services to ensure that the curriculum is tailored to meet the needs of all pupils.

James Marks Academy

Roman Fields is a maintained school currently offering Outstanding education to pupils with ASD and SEMH in Hertfordshire. They will be establishing a new academy trust building on existing practice, to open the James Marks Academy, named in honour of a former pupil. The new free school will offer places to pupils aged 11-18 with ASD and SEMH in Hertfordshire

The Rivers C of E Academy Trust

Rivers Church of England Academy Trust was established in October 2014 and is a family of Good and Outstanding schools spread across Worcestershire, all varying in size, economic and social backgrounds and religion. The trust is an approved academy sponsor and has a Teaching School, and aims to share a culture of collaboration. CEO Kate Brunt has extensive experience of leadership in a range of alternative provision settings. The trust will open a new alternative provision in Worcestershire for pupils aged 4 to 11.

Wave MAT

Wave MAT, a trust comprising 11 academies across Devon and Cornwall, have been approved to open a 120 place, age 5-16, special school for pupils with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs in Somerset. The curriculum will prepare pupils for adulthood by developing confident individuals, successful learners and responsible citizens. The school will adopt the trust’s Trauma informed School (TiS) approach to support pupils to develop skills in emotional literacy.

The Bridge London Trust

The Bridge London Trust is an inclusive family of schools. The trust is expanding beyond London to open a new 4 to 19 special school for pupils with Cognition and Learning needs in Norfolk. The trust currently runs four schools, three special schools and a mainstream primary school, and The Bridge London Teaching School. They are committed to innovation and research in education.

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