Press release

First special and alternative provision free schools given the green light

The first ever special and alternative provision free schools have been approved to open from September 2012.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
  • Court houses and Department for Education offices could house new schools

  • Total number of new school applications approved reaches 87

The first ever special and alternative provision free schools have been approved to open from September 2012. Approved plans include a new school for vulnerable young people to be run by Everton Football Club.

The 8 new Free Schools - including 3 special schools and 5 alternative provision schools - join 79 others that are due to open from next year onwards.

Like Academies, Free Schools have greater freedoms than local authority run schools, giving teachers the power to make decisions that are right for local children. Free Schools will help raise standards for all children, particularly those living in disadvantaged communities.

Six government or publicly owned sites have also been identified as being suitable to house Free Schools - including 2 Department for Education offices and 4 court houses. They are:

  • Balham Youth Court, London
  • Haringey Magistrates Court, London
  • Mid-Sussex Magistrates Court, Haywards Heath
  • Sutton Coldfield Magistrates Court, Sutton Coldfield
  • Department for Education, Mowden Hall, Darlington
  • Department for Education, Castle View House, Runcorn.

Groups can apply to open schools in these - and other - government buildings that are surplus or under-used, where appropriate. The government also wants more surplus or under-used public buildings to make space available to Free Schools.

The first special Free Schools are being set up by passionate and talented groups, who want to improve state education provision and choice for families with children with special education needs (SEN) and disabilities. Too often, parents struggle to find a special school that meets the needs of their child.

New alternative provision Free Schools will allow more children, who would not receive the right education in a mainstream school, to get a good education. Pupils that attend alternative provision schools are some the most vulnerable young people in society. They include pupils who have been excluded, are ill, have been severely bullied or are teenage parents. Current provision is very mixed, and the vast majority of pupils leave alternative provision without the qualifications they need for employment or further study.

Three special schools and five alternative provision schools have been approved today. They are:

  • Rosewood school, Southampton (Age 2 - 19 special school)
  • City of Peterborough Academy special school, Peterborough ( Age 4 - 18 special school)
  • The Lighthouse School, Leeds (Age 11 - 19 special school)
  • Derby Pride Academy, Derby (Age 11 - 16 alternative provision school)
  • Harmonize Academy, Liverpool (Age 13 -19 alternative provision school)
  • Stone Soup Learns, Nottingham (Age 11 - 19 alternative provision school)
  • Everton in the Community Free School Trust, Liverpool (Age 14 - 19 alternative provision school)
  • East Birmingham Network, Birmingham (Age 13 - 16 alternative provision school)

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

No child - regardless of their circumstances - should be denied an excellent education that is close to home. An education where teachers are free to decide what is best and where standards are high.

Through Free Schools, we are breaking down barriers to make this a reality for some of the poorest and most vulnerable children in the country. The good schools lottery must end.

Recent statistics show that just 1.4 % of children in alternative provision in 2009/10 achieved 5 or more GCSEs at grade A*-C, or equivalent, including English and mathematics. This compares with 53.4 % in all schools in England.

Along with Free Schools, the Government’s behaviour adviser, Charlie Taylor, is also looking at other ways of improving alternative provision in England.

In addition, groups wishing to open Free Schools, University Technical Colleges (UTCs) and Studio Schools from September 2013 will be able to access the application form and guidance from the Department’s website from today. The New Schools Network is also on hand to provide support to Free Schools groups throughout the application process.

Successful Free School applications for those wishing to open from September 2013 will be announced in July 2012. Successful UTCs will be announced in May 2012.

David Moyes, Manager of Everton FC, said:

This would represent a fantastic opportunity for Everton Football Club and its charitable arm, Everton in the Community, to further extend its reach into a wide variety of communities across the Merseyside region. It would, unquestionably, provide a real chance for some less-privileged, less-fortunate children to embrace - and to benefit from - a high-quality education.

Barry Day, Chief Executive of the Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust, said:

We are delighted that this Special Free School application is proceeding to the pre-opening stage. The group greatly looks forward to offering a new special school, co-located with a mainstream school to support the Government’s agenda for further integrated special provision within other settings.

Notes to editors

  1. Free Schools, UTCs and Studio Schools are funded by the Government, but have greater freedoms than schools run by local authorities. Like Academies, they have more control over things like the length of the school day and term, the curriculum, and how they spend their money. They are not allowed to make a profit, and all funds raised must go back into improving education for pupils.

  2. The freedoms that Free Schools and Academies have allow teachers to make decisions which are right for local children. International evidence shows that giving teachers and heads more freedom in the classroom helps to raise standards in education.

  3. Free Schools and Academies can also prioritise the most disadvantaged children (those eligible for Free School Meals) in their school admissions. With children eligible for Free School Meals attracting additional funding through the Coalition’s Pupil Premium - worth £488 per pupil this year - there will be even more incentive for these schools to attract those pupils most in need of the high-quality education they will offer.

  4. The Department received 281 applications to set up a Free School in 2012. Of these, 20 groups applied to open special schools and 34 groups applied to open alternative provision schools. Information about the successful groups can be found on the Free Schools pages of the website.

  5. Information on successful applications to set up Studio Schools in 2012 will be announced in due course.

  6. Applications for mainstream, alternative provision and special Free Schools will be accepted between 13 and 24 February 2012. Applications for UTCs should be received no later than 17 January 2012. Applications for Studio Schools should be submitted no later than 24 February 2012.

  7. More information about how to apply can be found on the Free Schools pages of the website.

  8. Partnerships for Schools has carried out detailed feasibility studies on the publicly owned properties which are suitable for Free Schools. All buildings would be refurbished and remodelled to accommodate Free Schools. Any court houses used would not be in use as court houses. More information on the 6 buildings outlined in this press release can be found on the Free Schools pages of the website, including the size and type of schools they could accommodate. More information about the buildings.

  9. The written ministerial statement can be found on the Parliament website.

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Published 14 November 2011