What to expect from SEND Free Schools Wave 3

PAG Staff2023, free schools, SEND

What to expect from SEND Free Schools Wave 3

In late 2022, Local Authorities (LAs) were invited to apply to establish special free schools in their areas. This marked the third wave of the SEND free schools application process, which aims to create a more inclusive education system across the UK since 2014.

The Department for Education has still not revealed the selected LAs to open new free schools catering specifically to children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. However, it is expected that the successful candidates will be announced early this year.

If you are a trust or Local Authority interested in opening a SEND free school, here is what you can expect from the process:

DfE announcement of successful Local Authorities

The DfE's announcement of successful Local Authorities is a crucial step in the SEND Wave 3 application process. Once the list of selected Local Authorities is published, trusts can submit bids to manage the opening and running of these new schools.

If you would like to know first the successful LAs, stay tuned for an announcement from PAG and Create:Schools and make sure you follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Even if an LA is not selected, unfortunately, the need for SEND provision in the area still remains. Nevertheless, there are alternative routes for meeting this need, such as expanding existing provision, establishing resource based or specialist units, or running a free school presumption LA competition.

If a LA is successful, congratulations! You can start preparing your bid to open and manage the new SEND school. This process can be complex and time-consuming, but with the right guidance and support, you can increase your chances of success.

No matter the outcomes of the DfE’s selection for SEND Wave 3, PAG can assist you in adding new value to special provision in your area. If you would like to know how you can benefit from our unparalleled experience in free schools consultancy, get in touch with our team of experts here.

SEND Free Schools Presumption Process

Local Authorities will invite proposer groups and trusts to apply to open the school if the DfE gives its approval. Local councils will next evaluate the bids with assistance from the DfE. This process will run similarly to a Local Authority Competition.

1. Checking the specifications

After the announcement, LAs will publish the details of the proposed special school, including:

  • Speciality (e.g., SMH, Severe Learning Difficulties, Autistic Spectrum Disorder)

  • Age Group

  • Site

  • Submission Requirements

  • Deadline

Pay close attention to the specifications since LAs may include their own criteria in addition to those from the DfE.

2. Writing your bid

Writing your application is the most crucial step to opening a new free school under the SEND Wave 3. Your bid should fulfil the requirements of the local authority, exhibit a tangible capacity to offer high-quality education, and demonstrate an awareness of the local community. Both the LA and the DfE will be involved in the assessment process. This means you must present a solid case for two audiences, which requires a thorough preparation process.

It is always helpful to seek the assistance of an expert free school bid writer. PAG has a market-leading reputation for producing successful free school bids across all age groups, phases, and school types. With a success rate of more than 90% in terms of bid submissions progressing to interviews, PAG can help you navigate the complex application process with confidence.

3. The interview

If your application is shortlisted, you will likely receive an invitation to attend an interview, which marks the final stage of the assessment process. Typically, interviews entail creating a brief presentation and responding to inquiries that stem from your written application.

The interview is a great opportunity to make your project stand out and engage with the people who originally commissioned the school. If successful, congratulations! The next step is opening the new SEND free school!

If you’re thinking of taking the central wave route to open a SEND free school, PAG is the DfE’s supplier of free school support and advice through Create: Schools, offering bespoke support for central wave applications free of charge, including free school bid reviews and mock interview support.

If you have any questions about free school bid writing, local authority competitions or becoming an academy sponsor, please get in touch by contacting us at hello@premieradvisory.co.uk, or completing our contact form here.