Decision details

Proposal to establish a new 250 place, ‘all-through’ Special Educational Needs & Disability (SEND) School for pupils with Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) at Tiffield St John’s site, Tiffield, West Northamptonshire

Decision Maker: Cabinet

Decision status: For Determination

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: No


RESOLVED: Cabinet;

a)    Noted the current deficit of SEND places that was being experienced across West Northamptonshire and the projected demand for places in coming academic years set out in paragraph 5.10-5.12.

b)    Agreed to the ‘free school presumption’ process being progressed to identify an academy trust to operate the new ‘all-through’ special school.

c)    Delegated responsibility to the Interim Director of Children’s Services, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Children, Families and Education to take any necessary decisions to progress the ‘free school presumption’ process and to confer ‘preferred bidder’ status upon the academy trust that is selected (subject to DfE approval) to operate the new school.

d)    Noted that all matters relating to the capital cost required to deliver the required new school will be subject to further reports to Cabinet once the expenditure required to deliver the new school has been finalised.



The proposal:

·         Helped to ensure that the council was able to fulfil its statutory obligation of providing a sufficiency of SEND places within West Northamptonshire in future academic years;

·         Provided an increased number of SEND places and would help ensure that children with additional needs were able to access education in a provision that is best placed to meet their needs; and

·         Establish a new ‘all-through’ special school, which could be considered a benefit all West Northamptonshire’s mainstream primary and secondary schools as it would reduce the need for mainstream school settings to provide places to children with additional needs where that provision was not best placed to meet very high-level, low incidence needs;



The recommended course of action was the most cost-effective and would reduce pressure on the high needs block (HNB) element of the dedicated schools grant (DSG) via a reduction in the number of children being required to be placed in more expensive out of county and independent provisions to meet their individual needs.



·         Do nothing: this option would result in the failure of WNC fulfilling its statutory obligation of providing a sufficiency of SEND places in West Northamptonshire in future academic years. It would also result in the requirement to utilise places in increasingly distant and more expensive places within the independent sector, which would place a further strain on the HNB of the DSG and revenue general fund home to school transport budget. If WNC cannot demonstrate that it is able to manage its DSG allocation in a balanced position (or have plans to do so) this

would result in intervention by the DfE.

This option would have also prevented WNC from addressing issues relating to the timely provision of places in an appropriate setting for pupils in receipt of an EHC plan. This option was discounted for these reasons.

Ø  Identify alternative site as the prospective location for the proposed new school: Tiffield is located approximately eight miles from Northampton town (from where the majority of the demand for SEND places arises). However, the site has excellent transport links to the south and west of Northampton town, Towcester, Silverstone and Brackley. There is a clear lack of SEND provision that caters to pupils with a primary need of ASC, SLCN or SLD in the former South Northamptonshire area and the Tiffield StJohn’s site would resolve this issue, reducing journey times to and from school for children and young people who reside in the area and also reducing home to school transport costs for WNC.

Ø  Accordingly, the Tiffield site was an appropriate one for the location of the school. It is part of the ‘free school presumption’ process that any LA seeking to establish new school must identify a proposed location for that school as part of the associated ‘school specification’. However, while a location must be identified the location specified is not legally binding and should any bid received as part of the process identify a suitable alternative site for the new school, the process allows for alternative sites to be identified, considered and progressed. As such, although the Tiffield St John’s site has been identified, the process allows for other the school to be located elsewhere if appropriate.

Report author: Chris Kiernan

Publication date: 14/06/2022

Date of decision: 14/06/2022

Decided at meeting: 14/06/2022 - Cabinet

Accompanying Documents: