Government go-ahead for Discovery Special Academy

Pupils, parents and staff are celebrating after being granted permission to open Teesside’s first free school for special educational needs.

Justine Greening MP, the Secretary of State for Education, confirmed the good news on Wednesday 12th April.

Although it is not yet clear where the school will be built, discussions are set to get under way between the Department for Education and Tees Valley Education.

Named the Discovery Special Academy, the free school will provide a specialist educational provision for up to 84 children aged 4-11 with complex and significant learning, communication, physical and medical needs.

Representing Teesside’s largest primary special school, Discovery will help to meet an increasing demand for special needs facilities within the Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland authority areas.

Recent years have seen increasing numbers of children with complex needs catered for within mainstream school or units, with demand for specialist provision outstripping the number of specialist places available.

Katrina Morley, Tees Valley Education's CEO, said: "I'm incredibly happy and immensely proud that Tees Valley Education has been successful in securing an opportunity to provide a bespoke, new academy for local children with learning, communication and physical needs.

"It is the culmination of five years of work, dedication and commitment from Tees Valley Education staff and our partner local authorities, along with other specialist providers, to secure much needed extra capacity for local children and families."

Tees Valley Education was formed in 2012 by the leaders of Pennyman Primary Academy and Brambles Primary Academy – both rated 'outstanding' in their latest Ofsted reports – with the later addition of Dormanstown Primary Academy.

Tees Valley Education worked closely with the special needs departments of both local authorities to prepare the application.

Mrs Morley added: “Special schools in the area are now oversubscribed and there are insufficient places within the special units of mainstream schools such as Pennyman and Dormanstown.

"There is now an urgent need for a stand-alone free school to provide specialist provision to meet our local authority partners’ educational requirements."

Meetings to discuss the next steps are expected to take place in the near future between Tees Valley Education and the Department for Education.

The new website for Discovery Special Academy will be live in the coming weeks.

"It is the culmination of five years of work, dedication and commitment from Tees Valley Education staff and our partner local authorities, along with other specialist providers, to secure much needed extra capacity for local children and families." Katrina Morley, CEO & Executive Head Teacher, Discovery Special Academy