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Government gives go-ahead for new Gamlingay special free school

A new school for children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs has been given the go-ahead.

Education authority Cambridgeshire County Council has been given government approval to establish the 60-place secondary school in Gamlingay, as well as a 210-place multiple needs school in March.

The next stage in the process is to invite multi-academy trusts to apply to run the new schools.

A new special school is coming to Gamlingay
A new special school is coming to Gamlingay

South Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne said: “The approval of this new special free school marks a significant achievement for our community and a triumph for better education opportunities for children with special needs. I want to thank everyone who contributed to this endeavour, from local authorities to dedicated individuals, for their unwavering commitment.

“It is the duty of every government to foster an environment where every child can flourish and reach their full potential. I will be following the upcoming selection process carefully to ensure that the chosen proposer group shares this commitment and is dedicated to creating a nurturing and effective learning environment.”

The Gamlingay school, which will be on the site of the former Gamlingay First School and for children aged 11 to 16, is due to open in September 2025.

There is a particular demand in the Gamlingay area for provision for girls whose SEMH needs result in challenging behaviour. These girls currently either travel out of county, attend an independent school or are educated at home through 1:1 tuition. The new school in Gamlingay will be co-educational.

Cambridgeshire has already invested £60m in creating 150 new special school places at new or existing schools, but more are needed.

The March school is due to open in September 2026 and will cater for 210 children and young people, aged two to 19.

Cllr Bryony Goodliffe, chair of the council’s children and young people’s committee, said: “I am delighted that the government has given us the go-ahead to establish these two much-needed special schools. We are making significant progress in meeting the need for more special school places, but this announcement will enable us to create many more places.

“We now need to find sponsors who can develop innovative, first-rate educational institutions for children and young people in Cambridgeshire with the most complex needs.”

The new school is part of the government’s ongoing efforts to enhance SEND provision nationwide.

The Department for Education received £2.6 billion in high needs capital funding in the 2021 Spending Review, a portion of which will be allocated to establish 60 new special and Alternative Provision (AP) free schools.

Minister for children, families and wellbeing, Claire Coutinho said: “Making sure children with special educational needs and disabilities get a superb education is a priority.

“Earlier this year our Improvement Plan set out systemic reforms to make sure every child and young person gets consistently high-quality support, no matter where in the country they live.

“Today we’re making sure that those reforms are informed by the experiences of real families, up and down the country, and creating the thousands of new places at specialist schools and in staff training courses that are needed to make sure our plan is a success.”

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