Blackpool in line for new school places as part of government plan to level up education provision

Blackpool is set to be prioritised for new school places, as part of Government plans for thousands of new places across the country, including for children who are living in disadvantaged areas, have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), or require alternative provision.

By Simon Drury
Friday, 10th June 2022, 9:46 am
Updated Friday, 10th June 2022, 9:47 am

As one of the Government’s 55 Education Investment Areas - the local authorities where outcomes for pupils are currently weakest - Blackpool will be prioritised with a total of 15 new mainstream free schools to open nationally. This will include a targeted number of high-quality, standalone sixth forms, designed to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds fulfil their potential.

The first of a new wave of up to 60 special and alternative provision free schools across England will also begin opening from September 2025, creating approximately 4,500 new places across the country, and boosting choice for parents.

The new alternative provision (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.

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

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These school places build on commitments set out in the government’s recent education reforms, including the Schools and Levelling Up White Papers and the SEND and AP Green Paper, which aim to radically raise the national average attainment in English and maths, with investment and energy focused in areas of the country previously left behind, and to end the postcode lottery in the SEND system.

Through these reforms every young person will be supported to gain the education and skills they need to get a good job and help the economy to continue growing.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “All children have the right to a high-quality education. Parents in Blackpool 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.”

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.

Julie McCulloch, policy director at the Association of School and College Leaders, said that while headteachers welcomed the creation of new school and sixth form places, “we would urge the Government against creating super-selective standalone sixth forms”.

“As the chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Katharine Birbalsingh, said on Thursday in her inaugural speech, social mobility should not be just about making elite pathways for a few but should work for a wider range of people.

“The danger of super-selective sixth forms is that they will simply take the most academically able young people from existing sixth form provision with consequent damage to those institutions and a demoralising impact on other young people who do not make the cut,” she said.

For Labour, shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “Ensuring every child can learn in a suitable environment is the minimum we should expect, but after 12 years of Conservative governments the SEND system is broken.”