The government has announced that thousands of new school places will be created, as they plan to open up to 75 new free schools and sixth forms.
As part of the government’s levelling up plan, children who are living in disadvantaged areas, have special educational needs and disabilities, or require alternative provision, will be able to access new school places. Being implemented in England, this plan is part of the government’s plan to level up 55 Educational Investment Areas. These are the local authorities where outcomes for pupils are deemed to be the weakest in the country and it will help students get better opportunities and fulfil their potential.
This move comes part of the commitments set out in the government’s recent education reforms which include the Schools and Levelling Up White Papers and the SEND and AP Green Paper. These aim to drastically improve the national average attainment in English and maths, whilst investment and energy will be focused on the areas of the country that are falling behind the rest. This will also end the postcode lottery in the SEND system.
Nadhim Zahawi, Education Secretary, 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.”
60 special and alternative provision free schools will begin opening from September 2025 as part of the first wave and will create approximately 4,500 new places. These new alternative provision schools will help maintain engagement with those children who have been excluded, or are at risk of exclusion, as well as offering more mental health and behaviour support.
Pupils with autism, sever learning difficulties or social, emotional and mental health conditions will be able to get specialist support from special schools that can be built to be more accessible. This will include ceiling hoists, wheelchair ramps and acoustically adapted classrooms.
From the levelling up angle, it is important to note that local authorities will be able to bid for the specialist schools and the funding needed will be allocated according to the need for specialist places and where free schools are need the most.
When it comes to alternative provision free schools, the government will be focusing on local authorities where none of the existing alternative provision schools are rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, or where no alternative provision schools exist.