North East Devolution and Levelling Up
Penshaw Monument

North East in line for new free schools

Six North East councils will be among those eligible to apply for new mainstream free schools announced today by the Department for Education (DfE).

The six are among 55 education investment areas (EIAs) prioritised for up to 15 of the new schools, which will include a targeted number of high-quality, standalone sixth forms, designed to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds fulfil their potential, said the Department for Education (DfE).

The six are County Durham, Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, South Tyneside and Sunderland, which this website reported on March 28 to be among the new EIAs in England.

The DfE also announced today that the first of a new wave of up to 60 special and alternative provision (AP) free schools will begin opening from September 2025, creating approximately 4,500 new places, and boosting choice for parents.

The new AP schools will help keep those who have been excluded, or are at risk of exclusion, engaged with their education, as well as offering more behaviour and mental health support, said the DfE.

The special schools will offer specialist support and education for pupils with needs and disabilities such as autism, severe learning difficulties or social emotional and mental health conditions. The schools can be built to be more accessible, including with specialist fixtures like ceiling hoists and wheelchair ramps, or acoustically adapted classrooms.

According to the DfE, today’s announcement forms part of a £2.6bn investment in more specialist places and support for children with special educational needs and who will benefit from AP over three years, and follows continued increased investment in local authority high-needs funding worth £9.1bn overall for 2022-23.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘All children have the right to a high-quality education. Parents should feel confident that their local school works for their child, no matter where they live or their ability.

‘From mainstream education which can provide for every need, to specialist teachers and equipment in tailored settings, our new schools across the country will continue to make sure that every child, in every corner of the country, gets the support they need to succeed.’