New Free school for special needs pupils could be built in Bedford borough

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A new 200-place Free school for children with special needs could be built in Bedford borough.

The town is among 19 local authorities chosen by the Department for Education to open a new special free school for pupils aged three-19.

The borough council has welcomed the news and yesterday announced it will begin taking applications from sponsors interested in running the school to provide places for pupils with a range of special educational needs.

The initiative is a part of a government proposal to provide more than 1,600 new special free school places across England.

It will mean 19 new schools, providing high quality provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities, will be built through the government’s ambitious free schools programme that provides choice, innovation and higher standards for parents.

Organisations ranging from successful Multi-Academy Trusts to specialist charitable organisations can now apply to the 19 local authorities, setting out how they will be able to meet the specification for each project. Criteria have been developed by the local authorities, in conjunction with the Department for Education, to ensure they meet the needs of each local community and provide much-needed places for special educational needs and disability (SEND) pupils.

The special free school specifications published include:

> A 200-place school with both early years and post-16 places for pupils between the ages of three and 19 in the Borough of Bedford.

> A 100-place school with post-16 provision for pupils between the ages of five to 19 with complex communication and interaction needs, Autism spectrum disorder and other social and mental health needs in Doncaster.

> A 125-place school for pupils between the ages of four and 16 with social communication needs and Autism spectrum disorder in Hampshire.

> A 150-place school with early years and post-16 provision for pupils between the ages of two to 19 with Autism spectrum disorder in Croydon.

Schools System Minister, Lord Nash, said: “Free schools are providing many good new school places in response to the needs of communities across the country. This process will give local authorities the chance to identify expert organisations with proven track records in SEND provision to run special schools that will help hundreds of children fulfil their potential.”

The new schools are part of the most-recent wave of free schools approved in April, and are separate from government plans to open 30 free schools in partnership with local authorities – as recently announced by Education Secretary, Justine Greening.

Applications close on November 24.