The first of the new wave of up to 60 special and alternative provision free schools will begin opening from September 2025, creating approximately 4,500 new places. The new alternative provision (AP) schools will help keep those who have been excluded, or are at risk of exclusion, engaged with their education, as well as offering more behaviour and mental health support.
These school places build on commitments set out in the government’s recent education reforms, including the Schools and Levelling Up White Papers and the SEND and AP Green Paper, which aim to end the postcode lottery in the SEND system.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said:
“All children have the right to a high-quality education. Parents should feel confident that their local school works for their child, no matter where they live or their ability. From mainstream education which can provide for every need, to specialist teachers and equipment in tailored settings, our new schools across the country will continue to make sure that every child, in every corner of the country, gets the support they need to succeed.”
Following these initial 60 schools, which were commissioned in 2018, LAs across England will be able to bid for new special schools as part of a £2.6 billion investment of funding for more specialist places and support for children with SEND over three years. Funding will be allocated according to demonstrated need for specialist places, and where new free schools are most needed. Alternative provision free schools will be prioritised in areas where none of the existing AP schools are currently rated ’Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, or where no AP schools currently exist.
While these schools will contribute to meeting current needs, it is imperative that we continue to support ALL schools to be more accessible and inclusive so that more needs can be met within mainstream education.