THE first free school for children with special educational needs in Teesside has been approved by the Government.

It is not yet clear where the Discovery Special Academy will be built, but discussions will soon be underway between the Department for Education and Tees Valley Education after the secretary of state Justine Greening MP approved the plans last week.

The free school will provide specialist educational provision for up to 84 children, aged four to 11, who have complex and significant learning, communication, physical and mental needs.

Discovery will be Teesside’s largest special primary school and will plug the gap during an increasing demand for special needs in the Middlesbrough and Redcar local 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 executive head teacher, 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”.

Formed in 2012, Tees Valley Education is a group of three primary academies – Pennyman, Brambles and Dormanstown – catering for nearly 1,000 children including 110 in specialist units.

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.

Pennyman, in particular, has established a track record for delivering outstanding educational care and pastoral support to children and families of children with a range of special educational needs. Tees Valley Education worked with the special needs departments of both local authorities to prepare the application. Meetings will be held soon to decide the next steps.