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Revealed: The 20 AP free schools approved by ministers

Twenty areas will get new alternative provision free schools, the government has finally announced, but more than half of those that applied were rejected.

Delta Academies Trust has secured all four free schools it applied for, but others such as Unity Schools Partnership, in Suffolk, have been snubbed. All three bids in Nottinghamshire were rejected.

Just 20 schools out of 43 applications were approved (see full list below).

The announcement was made alongside the spring budget today, however it was due to be confirmed in autumn last year.

It comes amid a places crisis for AP, with a Schools Week investigation finding excluded children in a third of areas were stuck on waiting lists for specialist provision .

In budget documents, the government said these new schools will provide more than 1,600 extra spaces and “support early intervention, helping improve outcomes for children requiring alternative provision, and helping them to fulfil their potential”.

Delta has been approved to open schools in Barnsley, Calderdale, Kirklees and Stockton-on-Tees. 

However, some areas have been snubbed entirely. Nottinghamshire had none of its three bids accepted, likewise in Sefton, which applied for two schools. 

Suffolk had one bid approved for 14 to 19 provision, but a 7 to 16 school run by Unity Schools Partnership didn’t make it through. 

Reach South Academy Trust aims to open a new AP school in Wiltshire by September 2025. Half of the 80 places for 5 to 16-year-olds will be based at an existing school in Calne and the other half in Salisbury.

Dean Ashton, trust chief executive, said it will “provide early intervention in mainstream schools and a key part of what we offer will focus on provision that will help prevent escalation to suspensions or permanent exclusions which we know are so damaging to young people’s futures”.

The schools form part of the £2.6 billion capital pledged in the 2021 spending review. All bids had to be “partnerships” and involve at least one council.

The Department for Education previously said it would prioritise applications in areas with no ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ AP schools, or where no AP schools exist.

Applicants must have also shown the free school would reduce a council’s high-needs deficits and “contribute” to the wider aims of the SEND and AP reforms.

No dates are given for when the schools will open. Schools Week previously revealed how opening special free schools can take years, with many delayed.

The full list of successful bids:

Council Name of proposed school Age range
Barnsley Delta Barnsley AP Free School 8 to 16
Bath and North East Somerset Sulis Academy 4 to 16
Blackpool Blackpool AP Medical Free School 7 to 16
Calderdale Delta Calderdale AP Free School 8 to 16
Cheshire East The Engage Academy 11 to 16
Cumberland Cumberland Alternative Provision 11 to 16
East Riding of Yorkshire Turning Point 7 to 19
Kent Jude’s Academy 11 to 16
Kirklees Delta Kirklees AP Free School 8 to 16
Nottingham Bowden Academy 7 to 16
Redcar and Cleveland River Tees Academy Redcar and Cleveland 11 to 16
Sheffield Minerva AP Free School 4 to 16
Stockton-on-Tees Delta Stockton AP Free School 11 to 16
Stoke-on-Trent The Link Academy 10 to 16
Suffolk SENDAT New AP Suffolk Free School 14 to 19
Thurrock Olive AP Academy – Tilbury 11 to 19
Tower Hamlets Mulberry Learning Village 5 to 19
West Sussex Kithurst Academy 9 to 16
Wigan Impact Academy Wigan 11 to 16
Wiltshire Alternative Free School for Wiltshire 5 to 16

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