New special schools and alternative provision (AP) in England. What do you know?

please share your experiences on this subject

Peter Limbrick writes: In February of this year, I asked my member of parliament to pass a question about the proposed new 37 planned special schools to the UK Department of Education. It was about plans for children with SEND who for some reason cannot stay in their mainstream school. Part of the background to my question is the exclusion in recent years of children with SEND for reasons other than the child’s best interests. I had already learned that on exclusion the child will go to either a special school or an alternative provision (AP).

My letter was written on 23/2/20 and the reply from the department is dated 2/6/20. I feel it was a long wait for not very much but it does provide an opportunity for me ask TAC Bulletin readers to share their knowledge and experience on this subject.

My letter to my MP:

Dear Mr Norman, Thank you for forwarding the helpful letter from Gavin Williamson. I wish to deepen my enquiry in the light of that letter. (I am concerned for policy and practice across England and not only for my own locality.)

I understand that the 37 planned new special schools will reserve their places, largely, for children with EHC plans. This means that children with SEND excluded from (or having to leave for some reason) their mainstream school cannot transfer to one of the new special school unless they have an EHC plan.

It is common practice to group children with special needs and disabilities as having mild, moderate, severe or profound/multiple difficulties. Within the government’s joint special and alternative provision (AP) plans, can I ask, regarding children excluded from or having to leave their mainstream schools, what provision is envisaged for children in each of these four categories of need? I would appreciate a reply that focuses on each of these four groups separately because, while they all have special needs, they require different sorts of support.

The Minister’s reply:

Thank you for your follow-up letter of 24 February, on behalf of your constituent Mr Limbrick, regarding special schools and alternative provision (AP). I apologise for the delay in my response.

Where a child of compulsory school age would not receive suitable education for any reason, local authorities (LAs) have a duty to put AP in place. If a pupil is still registered at a school, but not receiving suitable education at that school, this duty still applies.

My department’s vision document, published in March 2018, set out the aims of ensuring the correct children are placed in AP, that they receive a high-quality education, and that they achieve meaningful outcomes after leaving AP. The document can be found here: tinyurl.comIY3vY7mYo . [P.L: This does not open for me. I have asked for clarification.) *

We launched a joint special and AP free schools wave in July 2018, where we asked LAs to make their case for why a new school would benefit their area.

As a result, we selected 39 LAs where we invited applications to establish a special or AP school. Both special schools and AP will continue to be integral parts of the free schools programme.

We are committed to expanding the number of special and AP places.

Information on future waves will be announced in due course, with details published on GQV.UK. Additionally, details on the implementation of AP reforms, including its expansion, will be outlined in due course.

Thank you for writing on this important matter.

Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP

Secretary of State for Education


* Note: Since writing the above piece, my MP's office has offered a new link to replace the one that does not open -


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share your information  Cartoon © Martina Jirankova-Limbrick 2011