30 May 2024

New free school for pupils with special educational needs set to open in Autumn 2023

Plans to create a new free school in the south of Wiltshire for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities are ongoing with the school currently forecast to be open in autumn 2023.

The new free special school called SAIL Academy will provide 150 places for children and young people with autistic spectrum conditions (ASC) and for those with social and emotional and mental health needs (SEMH).

It will be managed by Reach South Academy Trust and delivered by the Department of Education (DfE).

The former University Technical College (UTC) site in Salisbury is the preferred place for the new school. An autumn 2022 opening was initially considered for the school, however, due to Covid-19 issues and other prevalent programme risks such as labour and material resource issues, a more realistic forecast opening date is autumn 2023.

Wiltshire Council is working closely with both Reach South and the Department for Education to ensure that SAIL Academy is able to be open to students from that point. Meanwhile, work is ongoing with families to ensure pupils can access places in current schools for the next school year.

Jon Hamp, Reach South Director for Individual Needs at Reach South, said, “I am extremely proud of the work that we are doing to get this new school off the ground. Our hope is that this new school will create a sense of positivity and possibility – something that we all need right now.

“This will be a great project for Salisbury – and it will be a great school of which we can all be proud. We are working closely together with our colleagues in Wiltshire Council and the Department for Education to bring our exciting vision to reality, and look forward to being able to open our doors in September 2023“.

Dean Ashton, Chief Executive of Reach South Academy Trust said, “Everyone at Reach South is committed to meeting children’s needs. We are proud to be able to open SAIL in Salisbury and look forward to a strong working partnership in the county”.

A DfE spokesperson said: “The Department always endeavour to minimise the amount of time that any project spends in pre-opening. This includes working with trusts to carefully balance the priority of opening on the preferred date against all the elements that must be in place to ensure a free school is successful when it opens.

We will work with partners over forthcoming months to finalise indicative timescales for the school opening date and continue to prioritise the needs of the children to deliver them the educational opportunities and support they deserve”.

Cllr Jane Davies, Cabinet Member for SEND at Wiltshire Council commented, “We have a wider long term plan to ensure we have sufficient places across Wiltshire for children and young people with SEND. We are working closely with our partners on this important work for the south to ensure we can have the school opened and ready for learners with SEND. We will provide regular updates so that we can make sure that information and developments are known about at the earliest opportunity“.

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Written by
Beth Doherty
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Written by Beth Doherty