Bradford Council has been unsuccessful in a bid to set up a new free school for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The council applied for funding from the government’s Special Free School programme but the Bradford bid was not among the successful 33 announced by the Department for Education this month.
The council had hoped for a new free school to be opened in Bradford, with 150 places for the district’s most vulnerable and complex children and young people. The school would have catered for autistic spectrum disorders including communication and interaction needs/challenging behaviours and social and emotional mental health needs.
The council’s bid clearly evidenced the rising numbers of children and young people in the district with SEND, the strain this is putting on existing schools, and that it means many children will have to travel to schools outside of the area because there are not enough specialist places within the district.
Of the 33 successful applications across the country, 25 are for schools with fewer places than would have been provided by the new school in Bradford District. This has left leaders dismayed that Bradford’s greater need has been overlooked.
Councillor Imran Khan, Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for education, employment and skills, said: “Considering we are the youngest city in the country with more children than other local authority areas this is bitterly disappointing. We applied for more places than 25 of the 33 successful bids which indicate how great our need is.
“The children and young people of our district deserved a new, state-of-the art, fit for purpose special school to meet their complex needs.
“It is particularly frustrating that our bid appears to have failed because of our continued hard work of creating additional specialist places. We have been punished for our creativity in creating new places and for our SEND budget not being as overspent as other local authorities.
“We will now refocus our continued efforts to create much-needed additional provision across the district for all our SEND children and young people in the most creative manner within the capital constraints.
“We feel our bid for a SEND free school was strong, robust and deserving of support. We have an increasing demand for SEND school places in Bradford District and we are a Priority Education Investment Area so the fact we have not been successful is hugely frustrating.”
A spokesperson for Bradford Council said; “We have worked hard to increase the number of specialist places – more than 1000 additional places for children and young people with SEND have been established in the past five years – but its bid was clear that this is still not enough to meet the rising number and increasing complexity of need of the district’s children, young people and their families.”