Kent’s two new special needs schools are “fantastic news.”

The Kent County Council (KCC) has received approval from the Secretary of State for Education to open two new special free schools within the county.

Students with Profound, Severe, and Complex Needs will attend both schools; 250 students will attend the Swanley location, and 120 students will attend the Whitstable location. The present Commissioning Plan for Education Provision of KCC contained the proposals.

As part of their Safety Valve proposal to the Department for Education (DfE) last autumn, the County Council included the bids. Only a few months have passed since construction on the unique school on Sheppey, which will be administered by the Sabden Multi-Academy Trust, got underway.

“This announcement by the DfE is fantastic news for Kent and for many parents of children who have profound Special Education Needs,” stated Cllr. Rory Love, the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills for KCC.

“The Swanley school is necessary since the population is growing and both of the North Kent schools providing these needs are now full.

The Whitstable school is necessary because local children who need special education placements are now commuting to Sittingbourne or Thanet.

“More kids will be able to attend a school that better suits their requirements in the vicinity of where they reside thanks to our winning bids. Local schools will lower transportation emissions, spare kids from having to travel needlessly for up to an hour each day, and lessen the financial burden of transportation on council taxpayers.
“It is a priority to ensure that children with special educational needs and disabilities receive an excellent education,” stated Claire Coutinho, Minister for Children, Families, and Wellbeing.

“Earlier this year, our Improvement Plan outlined systemic changes to guarantee that all children and young people, regardless of where they reside in the nation, receive consistently high-quality support.

“Today, we’re making sure that those reforms are shaped by real families’ experiences across the nation and filling thousands of new seats in staff training programs and specialized schools—both of which are essential to the success of our plan.”

“We are delighted that Swanley will be the home for a new school for children with profound special education needs,” stated Cllr. Julia Thornton, Leader of the Sevenoaks District Council.

“The children who currently do not have access to a special school or must travel far to one will have a better quality of life thanks to the new school, which will serve a large portion of the Sevenoaks District and beyond.”

KCC submitted a draft school specification paper outlining the salient features of each school along with their application for the new special free schools in Kent.

Publicizing the chance for trusts to submit applications to open the new schools is the next step in the procedure. The DfE will oversee the evaluation of trust applications centrally, with some participation from local authorities.

“The Secretary of State has the final say over whether to open any free school,” Cllr. Rory Love continued. We applaud the DfE’s goal of appointing only the best trusts to oversee these institutions.

As part of our efforts to produce applications of the highest caliber, we will be planning engagement events. KCC will explain our vision for the crucial role Kent’s schools will play at these events, as well as provide more information to potential applicants about the local SEND provision context.

The deadline for proposer organizations to submit their proposals is November 3, 2023. Department representatives will keep collaborating with KCC to find locations, conduct the required surveys, and move the project’s feasibility phase forward.

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