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Agenda item

Special Free School Bid to support Special Educational Needs and Disability Sufficiency

Report of the Strategic Commissioning Manager







The Committee considered a report of the Strategic Commissioning Manager seeking approval to submit a joint bid with Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, for a new special free school in Sheffield, ahead of the deadline on 21st October 2022.


This school would provide additional special school places for children and young people with needs relating to autism spectrum condition and communication/interaction.


To highlight the wider special educational needs and disability sufficiency position, ahead of a further report at a following committee date on this topic.









RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Education, Children and Families Policy Committee: -






(a) Approval of joint bid with Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council for new 200 place (100 places for Sheffield) primary-secondary special free school in Sheffield






(b) If a joint bid falls through ahead of the deadline on the 21st October 2022, a Sheffield only bid is submitted instead


(c) The committee endorses the principle of funding any abnormal site costs as a result of a successful bid from the High Needs Capital Allocation


(d) Further report on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities sufficiency to be presented at later committee






Reasons for Decision





The recommended option will deliver the following outcomes:-


·   It is proposed that the joint bid is submitted as a new school will help meet forecast demand. A joint bid maximises chances of success. Through the special free school opportunity, the school can be delivered at a lower capital cost than it would be if reliant on Sheffield funds only

·   Intended outcomes include increased availability of special school places, reduced inequalities and reduced reliance on high-cost independent placements.

·   It is also proposed that a further special educational needs and disability sufficiency report is presented at a following committee meeting.






Alternatives Considered and Rejected






Option One: No Bid






Not submitting a bid was considered, however this was discounted due to the level of need that is forecast, the limited existing space that is available, and the opportunity to secure additional capital funding.









Option Two: Sheffield Only Bid






A Sheffield only bid was considered, this would have the benefit of a higher number of places. However, this would also increase costs for the Local Authority. The chances of success of a Sheffield only bid would also appear to be significantly lower than a joint bit with Barnsley.






Therefore, whilst submitting a joint bid is a risk itself, as this has not been done before, it would appear to be a risk worth taking to increase chances of success.


If a joint bid falls through ahead of the deadline on the 21st October, it is proposed that Sheffield only bid is submitted instead.






Option Three: Post-16 Bid






A bid for a special free school to provide post 16 places was considered. However, this was bid was not developed as concerns were identified in relation to whether it would be successful.






Concerns included whether the Education Skills Funding Agency would support the bid, as they typically support use and development of relationships with existing post 16 providers, rather than development of new providers.


It is also less clear where the school would fit into Sheffield’s post 16 landscape, and more work is needed locally to improve this position. This links to the Accelerator Progress Plan following the local area re-inspection for special educational needs and disabilities in February 2022.


Further development of post 16 will be part of the wider sufficiency plan, presented to committee at a later date.






Supporting documents: