The schools were approved through a new process called the Local Authority (LA) Commissioned Special Schools process. Local authorities invited special free school bids from proposer groups in 19 LAs across England. Their applications were assessed and approved concurrently by their LA and the DfE.
NSN supported 11 out of the 14 successful applicant groups.
The 14 new special schools will be vital to meeting a growing need for special school places. At present, there are 95,000 special school pupils across the country, with this figure forecast to jump to 108,000 by 2026. To date, 29 special free schools have opened across the country, with another 41 in the pipeline, working towards meeting this need with high-quality special school places.
Mark Lehain, Interim Director of NSN, said: “Today’s announcement is 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. We congratulate all the successful schools and look forward to helping them through the pre-opening process.”
The full DfE release is available here. Among the successful schools are:
Two Bridges Academy
Two Bridges Academy will be an all-through special school for pupils with Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD) and Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) in South Gloucestershire. The school will work closely with parents and the curriculum at Two Bridges Academy will be personalised to ensure all pupils achieve positive outcomes in cognition and learning and holistic development.
The school is being established by The Enable Trust, which is a new multi-academy trust founded by South Gloucestershire special schools New Siblands School (Outstanding, 2017) and Culverhill School (Good, 2016). The trust has a strong track record providing education for children aged 2-19 with complex learning difficulties including SLD, PMLD and autism. The trust’s vision is to have local and regional impact by supporting other settings as a centre of excellence and expertise in SEN education.
The Axis Academy
The Axis Academy will be a new special free school for 40 pupils 4-16 in Cheshire East with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs. It will use its individualised learning approach to support pupil development across all key stages and aims for all students to gain relevant qualifications that will aid them in their post 16 destinations.
The school is being set up by the East Cheshire Youth Achievement Free School Trust which runs The Fermain Academy, an AP free school which opened in 2015 to support young people 11-16 who have become disengaged with education. The trust operates with an ethos that raises pupils’ aspirations, supports them to realise their potential and recognises their achievements through an individualised whole-education approach. It has national recognition as an IQM Centre of Excellence for inclusivity.
Catch22 is a charity and social business that works at every stage of the social welfare cycle delivering children’s social care, education and training, employability and apprenticeships, National Citizen Service, and social justice and rehabilitation services. Catch22 delivers alternative education through their independent schools and the Catch22 Multi Academies Trust.
The Catch22 Multi Academies Trust runs Alternative Provision (AP) and special schools in Suffolk, Hampshire, Northamptonshire, and Devon for students with a range of special educational needs, including SEMH and autism.
Building on their existing good practice in serving young people with SEND in these areas, Catch22 MAT has been approved to open a new school in Hampshire. The school will offer 125 places to students aged 4-16 with Speech and Communication Needs and with Autism. It will make use of a relationship based approach, where time is taken to understand the potential of each individual child, so that students can be at the heart of their learning in a safe and supportive environment.