Special and Alternative Provision | newschoolsnetwork.org

Special and Alternative Provision

In summer 2018, the DfE will launch a process inviting local authorities to submit expressions of interest to commission new special and alternative provision free schools.  This process will be separate from wave 13 which is for mainstream applicants only.


The Department for Education (DfE) have said they will launch an expression of interest process in the summer 2018 for local authorities that would like to commission a special or alternative provision free school to benefit their area. Where expressions of interest are approved, the DfE will invite applications in successful areas in early 2019, to approve around 30 new schools.

In November 2017  the DfE piloted a new process for opening special schools.  As part of this process the DfE offered all local authorities the opportunity to submit a specification for a special free school to open in their area, by completing an ‘expression of interest’ (EOI). 

This expression of interest form required the local authority (LA) to specify: 

  • the SEN designations the school would cater to
  • the age-range (including whether a nursery was required)
  • the number of places they would commission
  • the top-up funding they would pay for each place
  • whether residential provision was required
  • where the school should be located

In addition, local authorities were required to include data showing that a special school to meet the specifications was needed in the area and to provide a site for the school.   The Department for Education assessed these expressions of interest and approved 19 specifications in principle.   Successful local authorities then published their specification and invited interested proposers to complete an application form to bid to run the school meeting the agreed specification.  The applications were assessed and approved jointly by the Department for Education and the relevant local authority.  It was announced in March 2018 that 14 special schools were approved to open through this process.

While details of the process for special and AP schools is due to be announced in summer 2018,  any live special competitions arising meanwhile will be listed on this page. 

Live competitions

Portsmouth -  deadline 4th October 2018

NSN support

New Schools Network supports groups applying to open special and alternative provision free schools . If you are interested in applying for a live competition, please contact us on info@newschoolsnetwork.org or call 02075379208 .