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free school bid moves a step closer

ByDave Stopher

Oct 24, 2016

Officials at the Education Village Academy Trust (EVAT), Darlington, have submitted proposals to the Department for Education to open a specialist education facility for older students with social, emotional or mental health (SEMH) conditions, in response to a growth in demand across the region.

EVAT employs some of the country’s leading professionals in the education of children with SEMH and other special educational needs.

As well as operating the mainstream Haughton, Springfield and Gurney Pease Academies, EVAT runs Marchbank Free School (for primary pupils) and Beaumont Hill Academy, a special school that incorporates the Stephenson Centre. Both Marchbank and Stephenson are establishments for children with SEMH needs.

The new school, if approved, would provide a core academic education for children and young people aged 11-19 and would also house workshops in which students would receive vocational training in areas such as hairdressing and automotive maintenance.

EVAT is also proposing to increase the number of places at its Beaumont Hill Academy from 248 to 280.

Chief executive of EVAT Mike Butler said: “The demand for school places is growing year on year and we need to ensure that no child who needs a special school place is left on a waiting list.

“Our trust has built up tremendous expertise and an enviable reputation in the field of special needs and we would be delighted to be able to extend our provision to the benefit of more students and the wider community.

“Beyond Darlington, we have received backing from North Yorkshire County Council, Stockton, Redcar and Cleveland and Middlesbrough councils and received an overwhelmingly positive response from parents to both the proposals for the new free school and the expansion of Beaumont Hill Academy.”

The next stage of the application process will be a rigorous interview with the Department for Education, after which the trust will hear whether they have been given the green light to proceed.

EVAT was supported through the application process by national education charity New Schools Network.

Its interim director Sarah Pearson said: “EVAT has worked tirelessly to prepare an application for the Department for Education and we hope they will have the chance to put their plans into action and see their vision of a fantastic new school realised.

“There are now more than 500 free schools open or approved to open across the country and the momentum of the programme continues to increase.

“These schools are proving popular with parents and are providing good new school places where they are needed.”