Thousands more school and sixth form places to be created as part of levelling up agenda

10 June 2022, 00:57 | Updated: 10 June 2022, 00:59

Thousands of new school places will be created as part of the Government's levelling up agenda.
Thousands of new school places will be created as part of the Government's levelling up agenda. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Thousands of new school places will be created by 2025 as part of the Government's levelling up agenda.

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Up to 75 new free schools and standalone sixth forms are set to be opened, with 14,000 extra school places made available, the Government has announced.

In 55 Education Investment Areas identified in the Levelling Up White Paper, councils will be prioritised for up to 15 new mainstream schools, including sixth forms.

It comes along with the first of a fresh wave of up to 60 special and alternative provision (AP) free schools, which will open from September 2025, creating 4,500 new school places.

The additional places build on commitments made in the levelling up and schools white papers, as well as the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and AP green papers, aiming to end a "postcode lottery" for pupils with special educational needs, the Department for Education said.

The AP schools will keep pupils who have been excluded or at risk of exclusion engaged with their education, as well as offering behavioural and mental health support.

Meanwhile, the special schools will offer support for pupils with needs such as autism, severe learning difficulties or social emotional and mental health conditions, and can be built to be more accessible through ceiling hoists, wheelchair ramps and acoustically adapted classrooms.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told LBC's Ben Kentish in an interview: "These are thousands of new school places that we're going to create for children in the areas which Michael Gove and I – through the White Paper – have identified need that additional high quality education.

"So 15 new mainstream free schools and up to 60 special and alternative provision free schools will begin opening from September 2025.

"This is the £2.6 billion that we are investing in our education to make sure that in those areas of the country - places like Stoke-on-Trent and elsewhere - parents feel that they're getting that support if they have a child with special educational needs or in excellent high quality mainstream free schools where that child has the talent but doesn't have the opportunity of a great school with a great teacher in the classroom.

When asked what will be done to help special needs children in the meantime, Mr Zahawi said: "I made sure that, in the spending review, I went to Rishi Sunak and got an additional billion so the investment we're making in the day-to-day running of our special and mainstream education to support children is at £9.1 billion a year.

"What the Green Paper addresses is that postcode lottery where some parents just feel the support is just not there for them where they live.

"We've got to address that and this announcement is very much a part of that as well as the here and now."