North Yorkshire Special Free School

Contextual information for applicant groups applying to open a new Special Free School in Northallerton.

The Department for Education is inviting applications from proposer groups to open a new special free school in North Yorkshire.

Applicant groups can access the key school specification information, along with the full ‘How to Apply’ guidance, on GOV.UK. You should read these documents carefully before completing mandatory pre-registration.

The school specification document sets out the key factual details about the proposed school, including the proposed size, SEND designation, age range, suggested top-up funding, and proposed site.

 Download the North Yorkshire Council Special Free School specification (pdf / 181 KB).

This page provides applicant groups with additional contextual information provided by North Yorkshire Council, which includes:

  • the rationale, context and need for the school
  • details on the commissioning of places, including the involvement of any other LAs commissioning places
  • a brief description of the existing provision in the area
  • future expected growth in pupil numbers
  • how the LA expects places within the school to be filled

Rationale, context and need for the school, including proposed commissioning arrangements

Strategic planning discussions within North Yorkshire have established that we estimate we will require approximately 350 places over the next three to five years to ensure that our supply of specialist provision places, matches our anticipated demand for places. The anticipated demand is predicated upon existing trend data, and our judgements about the extent to which we can reasonably manage demand for new education, health and care plans (EHCPs) in the future. Within our assessment, two overarching priorities emerged for new provision within the local authority area – namely social, emotional and mental health provision (SEMH) in the north of the county (centred on the Hambleton and Richmondshire area), and a provision for secondary aged pupils with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) need located in the central part of the county (to maximise its reach across what is an extremely large local authority area).

Given that we considered that we had identified a site with significant potential, located in the appropriate area for our key target population, we have determined to submit an application in respect of the social, emotional and mental health provision (SEMH) provision in the Hambleton and Richmondshire area. As well as having a site, which until recently has been deployed as a secondary school site, the site possesses school buildings which we feel could be useful to the project (but fully recognise that this will be assessed by the Department for Education).

The location in Northallerton will provide good transport connectivity to all the main conurbations across Hambleton and Richmondshire, including Bedale, Catterick, Richmond, Thirsk and Stokesley. In addition, because of the adjacency to the A1, the location will be within reasonable travelling distance of Ripon, Knaresborough and Easingwold. Whilst we would want the school to be able to support pupils from other local authorities, we have not sought to develop a joint commissioning arrangement because of the travelling distances involved. Our assessment is that this geographical footprint enables the school to operate without adversely impacting upon the commissioning arrangements for our two existing social, emotional and mental health provision (SEMH) schools within the county.

Existing provision, expected future growth in pupil numbers, and how places in the new school will be filled

North Yorkshire currently support 10 special schools, and as at January 2023, we will have brought onstream 10 Targeted Mainstream provisions (in line with our SEN Strategic Plan objective to seek to develop up to 31 such provisions across the county.

The current network of special schools support a range of specialisms, and there is a particular challenge in a local authority the size of North Yorkshire (where the maximum distance from point to point within the authority is circa 110 miles) in ensuring accessibility to specialist provision for all young people who would benefit from the highly supportive learning environment that special schools can provide.

Our assessment is that over the course of the next 3 to 5 years, we will need between 350 and 400 additional specialist places, taking into account our forecast rate of growth in EHCP numbers (our overall pupil population in North Yorkshire is relatively stable, and other than developments in the Selby area, is forecast to remain so). In addition, given the particular profiles of our existing schools, we have identified that social, emotional and mental health provision (SEMH) provision in the north of the county, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) provision in a central location in the County would be the two new larger scale provisions we would want to develop to achieve a more comprehensive provision map. Our data regarding new independent sector placements affirms our evidence that these are the two areas where we face the greatest challenge in currently securing appropriate specialist provision placements – with approximately 90% of our new placements over the last three years involving cases where the primary need of the young person was either SEMH or ASD.

In terms of filling places, we can already see significant pressure points through Key Stage 3 in identifying young people with SEMH who would benefit from specialist provision – and we would anticipate that in the early years of the new school’s operation, that this will be the pinch point for new admissions. However, we do promote early identification with our primary schools, and we are hoping that as out mainstream resource bases evolve, they can also assist in identifying pupils who would benefit from a place in the new provision at an earlier stage.