New special free schools get go-ahead from DfE

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Plans for 14 new special free schools to create more than 1,100 places for children with autism, mental health and additional needs have been approved by the Department for Education.


DfE approves new special schools for children with autism and other additional needs

The new schools include several that will cater for nursery-age and primary school children.

The Astrum Multi Academy Trust, which runs the outstanding-graded Newbridge School will build a 64-place special free school for children aged two- to seven-years-old with speech, language and communication needs, and social, emotional, and mental health needs in Redbridge, Ilford.

In Croydon, the Orchard Hill College Academy Trust will open a 150-place special free school and nursery for 2- to 19-year-olds. The trust also runs several schools for children with autism and learning difficulties across the south-east of England.

The Samuel Ward Academy Trust, which already runs 19 schools, some of which are outstanding, had been approved to open two new special free schools.

In Romford the trust will open a school for children from three- to 16 for children with communication and interaction needs and social, emotional and mental health needs. It has also been approved to open a 60-place special free school for children from eight- to 16 with autism and social, emotional and mental health needs in Ipswich.

The DfE has also published data on the new Education, Health and Care plans, which shows that nearly 222,000 children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) have had their care reviewed as part of the plans to replace Statements of SEN.

EHC plans provide tailored support for children and young people with SEND bringing together education, health and social care support for the first time.

The total number of statements of SEN reviewed under the new system by the 31 March statutory deadline will be published next month. The DfE will also publish the annual SEN2 data in late May, which will show the total number of SEN and EHC plans as of 18 January 2018.

The Government has also launched a national trial to give the SEND Tribunal new powers, which give parents and young people the right to appeal decisions on the social care and health parts of their plan alongside their existing rights on education.

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said, ‘We want every child to have the support they need to unlock their potential, whatever their background and no matter what challenges they face. Our new Education, Health and Care Plans are putting the views of young people with special educational needs and disabilities and their families at the heart of the process so they can help shape the support they receive.

‘It’s been a huge task to transfer every young person to one of these plans but local authorities have risen to the challenge with almost 222,000 cases reviewed and I congratulate them for it. We are now working with councils to make sure they carry out the remaining reviews and the new EHC plans are of the highest quality.

‘To complement this work we are also opening new special free schools across the country that will provide tailored support for over a thousand children to ensure they have access to the excellent education that every child deserves.’

Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children, said, ‘As the SEND reforms enter their next critical phase the Council for Disabled Children is particularly keen to support the SEND Tribunal national trial. We have long believed that a single EHC plan will be most effective combined with a single route of redress. We see the trial as being a real opportunity to develop a baseline for clear and effective inter agency responsibilities and this alongside the promotion of some excellent joint commissioning models, in partnership with families, as a powerful way of embedding the cultural change, which will make the reforms a success.’

The DfE will continue to monitor councils’ implementation of EHC plans, and said it will provide ongoing support through funding, advice and training and resources for education, health and social care professionals.

The department said it had recently given £29 million to support local authorities with ongoing implementation and is also providing £200,000 for local authority regional SEND coordinators.

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