Skip to main content

Thousands of new special school places to be created

DfE announces details of the 39 successful bids for new special and alternative provision free schools

raised hand

DfE announces details of the 39 successful bids for new special and alternative provision free schools

Thousands of school places will be created for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or those who have been excluded from mainstream education.

A new school will open in every English region, including 37 special free schools and two alternative provision free schools.

The Department for Education says this will create about 3,500 new places and boost choice for parents.


Quick read: Northern councils in urgent call for more SEND funding

Quick read: SEND funding crisis 'close to risking school safety'

Quick read: 'We need sustainable SEND training more than ever'


The schools will provide specialist support and education for pupils with complex needs such as autism, severe learning difficulties or mental health conditions, and those who may have been or are at risk of being excluded from mainstream schools.

Education Secretary Damian 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 DfE said in December that all "high-quality" bids for special free schools would be approved. The details of the bids released today show that the government received 65 bids – meaning 26 bids were not approved.

In the 39 successful local authorities, community groups, teachers, charities, existing education providers and other organisations will now be asked to apply to run the schools. 

'Hugely welcome' announcement

Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, said: "These additional school places will enable children with special needs and those facing difficulties to have access to high-quality education provision.

"Over the past week, there has been much debate in the media about children and young people whose social, emotional and behavioural needs make them vulnerable.

"Today's announcement of a range of specialist provision in every region of the country is hugely welcome."

The announcement comes as the Commons Education Select Committee continues to hear evidence on the state of SEND provision in England. Last week, committee chairman Robert Halfon said that funding for SEND was "like the Wild West" and health minister Caroline Dinenage said that there was "no doubt" that funding pressures had made life "very difficult for local authorities and schools”.

The areas where new special free schools are due to open are: Bexley, Bromley, Bury, Cornwall, Dorset, Essex, Halton, Hartlepool, Hertfordshire, Kent, Kingston upon Hull, Kingston upon Thames, Leeds, Leicestershire, Newham, Norfolk, North Lincolnshire, North Somerset, North Yorkshire, Northumberland, Oxfordshire, Plymouth, Reading, Richmond upon Thames, Rochdale, Salford, Sandwell, Sheffield, Shropshire, Solihull, Somerset, Stockport, Stoke-on-Trent, Suffolk, Tees Valley, Warrington and Wiltshire.

The new alternative provision free schools will be in Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you