Closed petition Fund more specialist school places for children with special educational needs

The lack of spaces in specialist schools in parts of the country like the North East is affecting so many vulnerable children and their families. Specialist schools say they’re full, how can the authorities not think something is seriously wrong and insist these children go to mainstream school?

More details

The Government is not funding enough specialist schools provision. It must fix the broken education system and the severe lack of special needs teachers, teaching assistants and schools. These children need our help and the support of a government that understands its duty of care to them. Specialist schools up and down this country are overworked, understaffed and full, and children are unable to receive the education and support they so desperately need and deserve.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

16,972 signatures

Show on a map


Government responded

This response was given on 20 January 2023

The Government is investing £2.6 billion between 2022 and 2025 to support local authorities to deliver new high needs places in mainstream and special schools, as well as other specialist settings.

Read the response in full

The £2.6 billion investment in high needs provision announced in October 2022 represents a significant, transformational investment in new high needs provision, and will help fulfil the government’s 2019 manifesto commitment to deliver additional places for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or who require alternative provision (AP).

As part of this funding commitment, in March 2022, we announced High Needs Provision Capital Allocations amounting to over £1.4 billion of new investment. This funding is to support local authorities (LAs) to deliver new places for academic years 2023/24 and 2024/25 and improve existing provision for children and young people with SEND or who require AP.

This funding follows investment of £300 million in financial year 2021-22 and £365m between 2018 and 2021.

LAs in the North East have received allocations totalling £11.7 million in 2021-22, £25.6 million in 2022-23 and £31.1 million in 2023-24. They also received £12.5 million between 2018 and 2021.

High Needs Provision Capital Allocations for 2021 to 2024 are published at SEND provision capital funding allocations for 2018 to 2021 are published at

Starting from Summer 2023 we will, for the first time, be collecting data from LAs on available capacity in special schools, SEN units and resourced provision, along with corresponding forecasts of demand for these places. This data will help the Department to more effectively support LAs to fulfil their statutory duty to provide sufficient specialist places.

In addition to the direct allocations to LAs, we have committed to delivering up to 60 special and AP free schools. This is in addition to the 90 open special free schools that already exist, including in Darlington, Middlesborough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Sunderland, as well as the 48 special free schools in the pipeline, including a further two schools in the North East.

The 2022 special free school application wave launched in June 2022, and the window for applications from LAs wishing to apply for a new special free school in their area closed on 21 October 2022. We received four applications from LAs based in the North East. These were in: Darlington, Middlesborough, Newcastle-upon Tyne, and South Tyneside. Further details of these applications can be found here:

Applications are now being assessed, with successful LAs due to be announced in early 2023. Following this announcement, we will then invite proposer groups to submit applications to run new special free schools in the successful LA areas.

When it comes to identifying suitable provision for children and young people with SEND, the Children and Families Act 2014 permits a child’s parents or (from age 16) the young person to request that a certain school or other setting be named in their Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

The local authority must secure that the EHCP names the school or other institution specified in the request, unless the school or other institution requested is unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs of the child or young person concerned, or the attendance of the child or young person at the requested school or other institution would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others, or the efficient use of resources. If one of those reasons above applies, the LA must secure that the plan names a school or other institution which the LA thinks would be appropriate for the child or young person, or specifies the type of school or other institution which the local authority thinks would be appropriate for the child or young person.

The number of teachers remains high, with over 465,500 (FTE) working in state-funded schools across the country – over 24,000 more than in 2010. However, we recognise more needs to be done to ensure teaching remains an attractive, high-status profession. Teacher retention is key to ensuring effective teacher supply and quality in all schools, including special schools. We are taking action to support teachers to stay in the profession and thrive. The Department has published a range of resources to help address teacher workload and wellbeing and support schools to introduce flexible working practices, including the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter (, which we are encouraging schools and colleges to sign up to, and the DfE school workload reduction toolkit ( which, developed alongside school leaders, is a helpful resource for schools that we know can enable them to reduce workload and improve staff wellbeing, as shown in the report by the Education Development Trust (

Alongside our continued investment in high needs, the Government remains committed to ensuring a financially sustainable system where resources are effectively targeted to need. We are committed to publishing a full response to the SEND and Alternative Provision (AP) green paper in an improvement plan early in the new year. We will continue to support the system in the immediate term to deliver change and continue to improve the experience and outcomes for children and young people with SEND and those who need AP.

Department for Education

MPs discuss SEND and alternative provision improvement plan

On Monday 6 March the Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, Claire Coutinho MP, made a statement in the House of Commons about the Government's new Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan.

The Minister updated MPs on the Government's progress to improve outcomes for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities or alternative provision in England.

She said the Government will:

  • Develop new national special educational needs and disabilities and alternative provision standards to set out what support should be available.
  • Establish local SEND and AP partnerships.
  • Train thousands more early years special educational needs co-ordinators and 400 more educational psychologists.
  • Invest £2.6 billion by 2025 in new special and alternative provision places, and improve provision.
  • Publish guidance on ensuring effective transitions between all stages of education, and an effective transition into employment and adult services.
  • Invest in supported internships.
  • Expand school and college mental health support teams.

Following the statement the Minister was questioned by MPs.

What are Ministerial statements?

Ministerial statements are a way for Ministers to bring an important matter to the attention of the House.

Get involved in the work of the UK Parliament

Sign up to the Your UK Parliament newsletter for the latest information on how to get involved and make a difference.

Share your experiences: SEND workforce

On Wednesday 22 March, Geraint Davies MP will lead a debate in Parliament on the specialist workforce for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

To inform the debate, he would like to hear about your experiences of accessing SEND specialists. He would also like to hear from anyone who has worked with people with SEND. He may quote your contribution directly during his debate.

Find out more and share your experiences with him by midday on Tuesday 21 March:

Education and health policy are devolved matters, so the UK Government is only responsible for these policy areas in England, but he is interested in hearing from people across the UK.

Videos of the debate, the transcript of what was said in it, and other relevant material will be accessible shortly after the debate on this webpage.

What are Westminster Hall debates?

Westminster Hall is the second Chamber of the House of Commons.

Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local or national issues and receive a response from a government minister. Any MP can take part in a Westminster Hall debate.

Debates in Westminster Hall take place on ‘general debate' motions expressed in neutral terms. These motions are worded ‘That this House has considered [a specific matter]'. This means that Westminster debates don’t end in a vote on a particular action or decision.

SEND provision and funding debated by MPs

On Thursday 11 January, Sir David Davis MP led a Backbench Business debate in Parliament on SEND provision and funding.

Along with other MPs, he spoke about the many people who have signed petitions on the issue.

He also quoted those who had shared their experiences to help inform previous debates on SEND provision and funding.

Watch or read the debate – and see the Government's response – on SEND provision and funding

What are Backbench Business debates?

Backbench Business debates give backbenchers (MPs who aren’t ministers or shadow ministers) an opportunity to secure a debate on a topic of their choice, either in the main House of Commons Chamber or Westminster Hall, the second chamber of the House of Commons.

MPs can make a request for a debate to the Backbench Business Committee, who hears requests and decides which debates to schedule.

Backbench debates can either be general debates (which do not end in a vote) or be on a substantive motion (which calls for an action and can end in a vote). This debate was a debate on a substantive motion.

Interactive explainer: Backbench Business debates

Get involved in the work of the UK Parliament

Sign up to the Your UK Parliament newsletter for the latest information on how to get involved and make a difference.

SEND provision: Government announces investment in Spring Budget

On Wednesday 6 March, the Chancellor announced that the Government would be investing £105 million over the next four years to build 15 new special free schools. He said that this investment will create over 2,000 additional places for children with special educational needs and disabilities across England. The locations of these special free schools will be announced by May 2024.

The investment was announced as part of the Spring Budget.

Get involved in the work of the UK Parliament

Sign up to the Your UK Parliament newsletter for the latest information on how to get involved and make a difference.