Trust sought to run new special needs school

Northumberland has come a step closer to having a new special school for secondary age young people who have autism and social, emotional and mental health needs.

The county council’s cabinet has agreed to begin a formal competition for a trust which would run the school, as required by the Department for Education.

The authority submitted a bid last October for an 80 place secondary school as part of the Department for Education’s Special Free School initiative.

The council was successful in its bid to establish a new school in Northumberland  and has received approval from Government to move to the next stage of the process.

Northumberland has seen a 50% increase in the number of children with complex needs since 2013 and the number of children and young people in maintained special schools has also increased by 32% in this period.

This resulted in demand for specialist educational places outstripping existing capacity. To meet this demand, Northumberland County Council has already created additional school places at Hexham Priory and Ashdale special schools.

Cath McEvoy-Carr, executive director of adult and children’s services at the council said:  “There is an urgent need to  further increase school places for young people with complex needs .  

“We were pleased to be able to take the opportunity to put in a bid to Government for a new special school and, having been successful, are now moving to the next stage of the process.

“In order for the project to go ahead we have to find a trust to run the new school, and the process of advertising the opportunity for potential trusts to apply will start now.

“We will be working hard to find a suitable partner organisation, as success in this project will make a huge difference to the lives of young people with special needs in our county, as well as to their families.”

A free school is a non-profit-making, independent, state-funded school which is free to attend but which is not wholly controlled by the local authority.  The council would still commission and fund the places required for young people from Northumberland.

The proposed site for the school is on the former Princess Louise First School site on in Blyth as, in order for the bid to be successful, the council had to identify a site which it owns and which could be leased on a peppercorn rent for 125 years to the trust.

The Government encourages local authorities to work together on joint bids and while Northumberland submitted this bid, if the project goes ahead there would be 30 places for pupils from neighbouring authorities of North Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead, making Blyth an ideal location for the school.

Bid documents will be available on the council’s website from Wednesday 10th April, with the deadline for applications Monday 30th September 2019.
 
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