Cheshire East Special Free School for pupils with Social, Emotional and  Mental Health needs (SEMH) – Middlewich

Information for applicant groups applying to  open new Special Free School in Cheshire East.

In March 2023, the Department for Education (DfE) confirmed that Cheshire East Council had been successful in its bid to secure government backing for two new schools for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

The successful bids mean that the Department for Education will fund and build two new special schools, one being located in Middlewich and the other located in Congleton. The two schools will create a total of 120 places for children and young people from five to 19 years old.

Establishing these additional SEN provisions for Cheshire East are really exciting and adds considerably to our commitment to increase specialist SEN provisions across the borough to provide a wide range of SEN pathways to meet the needs of our young people.

The new schools will support children and young people requiring an education, health and care plan (EHCP). These additional special school places will enable children and young people to remain within Cheshire East and avoid the need to travel long distance to go to school.

School 1 will be located at the site of Cledford House in Middlewich and will provide 60 places for children and young people with social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH).  Currently around 25 percent of children with an EHCP have this need.

To align with formal process, as outlined by the DfE, the next stage will be for the Local Authority to publish the school specification with contextual information. This will provide interested trusts with an overview of the new school required by Cheshire East Council. Please find below a PDF version of this specification.

The table below gives a brief overview of the next stages as per the guidance provided by the DfE:-

Timeline of Actions
 Date  Actions
28 April 2023 Local Authorities publish School Specification (Contextual Information)
9 May 2023 DfE publish the ‘How to Apply’ Guidance and school specifications on GOV.UK with link to LA local contextual information and opens pre-registrations and application window
After 9 May - date to be confirmed Cheshire East Council to hold engagement events with prospective trusts.
16 June 2023 DfE Pre-registration window for interested trusts closes.
31 August 2023 DfE Application window closes
End October 2023 Assessment of Trust applications ends
November - December 2023 Trust interviews
January 2024 DfE Announce successful Trusts


Government guidance states that the final decision to open any free school depends on the Secretary of State formally entering into a funding agreement with the chosen academy trust.

For your information please find below links to  the Cheshire East SEND Strategy and the Cheshire East SEN Sufficiency Statement. Please note that these documents are currently in the process of being refreshed. 

Page last reviewed: 27 April 2023