Cheshire East has been handed a massive boost with the announcement that the Department for Education has approved plans by the National Autistic Society (NAS) to run a specialist free school in Church Lawton, near Alsager.
The school – which will cater for 60 pupils – will help address the need for specialist teaching for children who have conditions within the autistic spectrum continuum.
A recent NAS report found that 30 per cent of parents feel their child’s educational placement is not adequate and 43 per cent of children who are in autism-specific schools had to travel
The planned free schools will prepare pupils for adulthood by offering them opportunities and experiences in their local area, helping them to integrate into their communities.
The possibility of establishing a specialist autism school on the site of the former Church Lawton Primary School was first explored by the Council in 2011.
Council officers then worked to carry out a feasibility assessment and draw up plans for adaption of the site. This work was then passed over to the NAS to help with their bid.
The NAS were also successful in a bid to run a similar free school in Lambeth. This build’s on the NAS’s first free school which is due to open in Reading in September.
Councillor Rachel Bailey, Cabinet member responsible for children and family services, said: “This announcement is excellent news and we are delighted that the National Autistic Society has approval from the Secretary of State to move to the next stage of the process – the pre-opening stage in the creation of an autism-specific free school on the Church Lawton site.
“We have always recognised that there has been a gap in provision for children for conditions within the autistic spectrum continuum.
“A dedicated school will mean that children and young people should no longer have to travel outside of the Borough to receive the education and care that they require.
“Over the coming months we will be working closely with the free school proposers, the National Autistic Society, to make this vision a reality.”
Mark Lever, Chief Executive of The NAS, said: “We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to work with local parents to increase autism-specific education in the UK.
“Autism is a spectrum condition that affects everyone differently, so it is vital that families can choose from a range of schools and access the best education for their children locally.
“This is precisely why the NAS was set up over 50 years ago. Our new free schools will continue this legacy and support more young people with autism to lead the life they choose.”