Hinds announces SEND free schools

By Joanne Parkes

| 11 March 2019

Dozens of new schools are to be opened across the country to cater for pupils facing challenges in mainstream education, the government announced today.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds has announced 39 new schools will be created for children facing challenges in the mainstream

Around 3,500 places will be created at 39 schools catering for children with special educational needs (SEN) and other difficulties, according to Education Secretary Damian Hinds.

Under the programme, every region in the country will get a new free school for pupils with complex needs such as autism, severe learning difficulties or mental health conditions, and for those at risk of being excluded from mainstream schools.

The move follows Hinds' December announcement of £250m extra funding for local authorities' high needs budget, building on an additional £100m of capital funding for additional places and better facilities.

Hinds said: "We want every school to be a school for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

"That's why we are investing significant funding into special education needs units attached to mainstream schools and in additional support so children with education, health and care plans can access mainstream education.

"But we recognise some children require more specialist support. These new special free schools and alternative provision schools will make sure that more complex needs can be provided to help support every child to have a quality education."

The number of special free schools will total 125 upon completion.

The local authorities involved will now open applications to providers that will run the schools - including community groups, teachers, charities, existing education providers and other organisations.

Dame Christine Lenehan, director of charity Council for Disabled Children, welcomed the "new wave of special free schools and the extra choice they will bring to the system for children with special educational needs".

"We look forward to seeing them working in partnership with parents, children and local agencies to deliver the best outcomes for children," she added.

Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, highlighted recent media debate over the vulnerability of children with unmet needs, and added: "Today's announcement of a range of specialist provision in every region of the country is hugely welcome."

Lisa Capper, director of education and skills at social justice charity Nacro, noted that 85 per cent of young people within custodial settings in England have been excluded from school, and that their complex needs "require tackling head-on to prevent a downward spiral".

"At Nacro, we have seen first-hand that with the right educational interventions, this cycle can be broken, and young people can follow a path of positive behaviours for learning, leading them to achieve educational success," she added.

Two alternative provision free schools will provide more than 100 places in the West Midlands for children who have been, or are at risk of being, excluded from mainstream education.

Details of the other 37 new special free schools:

  • Three will be in the North East, providing more than 200 places mostly for children with social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH)
  • Six will be in the North West, providing more than 400 places including for children with SEMH, autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), severe learning difficulty (SLD) and speech, language and communication needs (SLCN)
  • Five will be in Yorkshire and the Humber, providing more than 500 places including for children with SEMH, ASD, SLD, profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) and SLCN
  • One will be in the East Midlands, providing 50 places for children with SEMH
  • Four will be in the West Midlands, providing more than 400 places including for children with SEMH, ASD and multiple learning difficulties (MLD)
  • Four will be in the East of England, providing more than 300 places including for children with SEMH, ASD and SLCN
  • Five will be in London, providing more than 400 places including for children with SEMH, ASD and SLCN
  • Three will be in the South East, providing more than 300 places including for children with SEMH and ASD
  • Six will be in the South West, providing 500 places including for children with SEMH, ASD, complex learning difficulties (CLD) and SLCN
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