In January 2015, three new free schools opened their doors to pupils for the first time.
As special free schools, they were able to open in January since they admit pupils through the allocation of a statement of special educational needs, rather than the usual schools' admissions timetable.
With these new openers, there are now 14 special free schools open across the country, with further eight approved to open from September 2015. Together they cater for a wide range of special educational needs and will offer a high quality education to thousands of young people aged 3-19.
All special free schools work with nearby local authorities to admit children most in need of their services and can only employ qualified teachers in their teaching staff.
The three new schools are:
- The Bridge Integrated Learning Space - a special school in Islington which caters for children with low incidence special needs that cannot be catered for in mainstream education. It will be a small school, with a capacity of 25 places to provide intensive support for those who attend it, and is open to children aged 7-19. The school has been started by The Bridge School, an existing 'Outstanding' special school nearby that also has Teaching School status and has the support of Islington Council.
- The NAS Church Lawton School - a special school in Stoke on Trent which caters for children with autism. The school will grow to offer 60 places to children aged 4-19 and operates a curriculum similar to that used in a mainstream environment, delivered through timetabling and teaching approaches which are specific to the needs of autistic pupils. It has been created by the National Autistic Society, which already runs a similar free school in Reading.
- Pentland Field School - a special school in Middlesex for young people who have severe to moderate learning difficulties. The school will grow to offer 140 places for children aged 4- 19, operating small class sizes of 6-10 to focus on each child's individual learning needs. The school integrates therapy programmes into the classroom and works closely with families to support them. It has been created by The Eden Academy, a family of five special free schools in the area that already deliver high quality provision for children with a wide range of special educational needs.
Commenting on the opening of the new schools, New Schools Network's Director, Natalie Evans, said:
"I am delighted to welcome three new schools into the growing family of special free schools. Across the country, free schools are transforming opportunities for children, especially the most vulnerable, and I am confident that these new schools will do the same".