Government commits to new school for Bristol

Following a rigorous application and assessment process, the proposal for Bristol Autism Special School, a new 4 to 16 school for children with autism was today approved by the Department for Education.

The Bristol Autism Free School is proposed by Merchants’ Academy sponsored by the Society of Merchant Venturers and the University of Bristol. The team will now work towards opening in September 2016, catering for 84 children from the ages of 4 to 16 who have a statement for autism. This will bring an increase in the number of places which is crucial as at present demand outstrips provision yet the need is growing dramatically.

Anne Burrell, Principal of Merchants Academy and Chief Executive of the multi-academy trust said:

“This is wonderful for the children and their families who have campaigned for many years for high quality provision without the need for change at the age of 11. We are very excited at the chance to create a new school solely for children with autism and for all the opportunities it will bring. The Free School will cover the full continuum of need and, therefore, the full continuum of provision from highly personalised curriculum to access to mainstream with the partner Academy. There will be choice and variety so students can flourish and make significant progress.”

Chris Curling, Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers said:

“The Merchant Venturers are strongly supportive of plans to create the Bristol Autism Special School. This high quality, dedicated provision will make a significant difference to the lives of young people with autism. Congratulations to Merchants Academy for proposing this much-needed local provision.”

Lynn Robinson, Deputy Registrar, University of Bristol said:

“The University of Bristol is delighted at the announcement of the successful application for the Bristol Autism Free School. This will operate as part of a multi-academy trust which we are very proud to sponsor. This is a great opportunity for the children, their parents and the University of Bristol.”

New Schools Network This positive news for Bristol Autism Free School is part of a wider trend. Research by the New Schools Network, which explored what parents value in a good school and how they think their own school measures up, showed that 81 per cent of parents in the South West would welcome the chance to have a free school in their area and 71 per cent said they would consider sending their child to a free school if one opened locally.

Natalie Evans, Director of New Schools Network, said:

“The application process to set up a free school is incredibly rigorous – as it should be – so it is a testament to Bristol Autism Free School’s hard work that they have been approved to open.

“This latest announcement means the total number of free schools open or approved to open has now exceeded 400 marking an incredible milestone. Free schools are proving increasingly popular with parents and are providing good new schools places to their local communities.”


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