Campaign for a new Special Needs School in South Essex

In July 2023, in the House of Commons during Education Questions, Mark launched his campaign for a new Special Needs school in South Essex, in which he said the following to the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan MP:

“One particularly challenging area for teachers is Special needs education. There are many who want to work in that field, but in Essex, our special needs schools are unfortunately already full to bursting. That is why today I am launching a campaign for a new special needs school in South Essex. I have met the Schools Minister in advance who was very helpful.

Will the Secretary of State and the Schools Minister work with myself and Essex County Council to try and get us the additional Special needs places that parents and special needs children so desperately need.”

In a positive response to Mark’s question, the Secretary of State replied:

“I absolutely agree with my Rt Hon Friend, and this is something that we have already announced, we will invest £2.6 billion into more Special needs schools and many Honorable members are getting more special educational needs schools in their area.

We would of course be very happy to work with him and Essex County Council to make sure that they have the right provision in Essex for all those children who have additional needs. An Essex County Council Cabinet document dated the 20th of June 2023 emphasised the need for more Special needs places in the County.

It stated that “a consistently high number of pupils with SEND cannot have their needs met in Essex schools and are subsequently educated in independent schools at high cost to both the High Needs Block of the Essex Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) and ECC budgets.”

Explaining the background to the campaign, Mark said:

“I am now being approached, as part of my constituency casework, by an increasing number of parents who simply cannot find a Special Needs school place for their children. For instance, I was told anecdotally, that at Glenwood special school a couple of months ago, they had 28 appeals for admittance outstanding.

Having now discussed this with the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb MP and the Cabinet Member for Education and lifelong learning at Essex County Council, Cllr Tony Ball, I have concluded that the time has come to launch a formal campaign to try and create a new Special school in Essex. I very much hope this campaign will enjoy the support of local people, particularly those who are affected by the Special Needs issue. I hope to have some more to say about this in the very near future.” 

Since this time, Mark is delighted that after months of hard work, Essex County Council (ECC) has announced the commencement of a formal consultation, on its plans to build a new special educational needs (SEN) school, for 100 plus pupils, at a site at Rawreth Lane, on the edge of Rayleigh.

dMark pictured with Councillor Andrew Sheldon and Councillor Tony Ball, Essex County Council, Mark Francois MP and William Wood, Associate Director of Planning, Vistry Major Projects, at the new proposed site.

The school will be a "through-school" (catering for pupils from the ages of 3 to 18 inclusive) and will be operated by an existing educational trust – subject to a competitive process. It is intended to start construction later this year or early in 2025. This schedule, which is subject to planning permission, is in order to allow the new school to open its doors for its first special needs pupils, during the 2025-26 academic year.

 As part of this campaign, Mark has spoken multiple times in the Commons about the issue, whilst also meeting with the Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing (including special needs) David Johnston MP. Alongside this, more locally, I have also been working closely with ECC’s Education Team, led by Cllr Tony Ball, the Cabinet Member for Education and Clare Kershaw, Director of Education at ECC to make this prospect a reality.

I am therefore delighted that this project has now finally taken off the runway. This exciting new school should finally help expand the much-needed capacity of SEN education in South Essex, which I do hope will bring a real benefit for parents, and children with special needs, alike.

Finally, the consultation exercise, designed to seek views and comments from local residents, potential users of the school and other interested parties, including on a name for the new institution, will now run until midnight on Friday 5th April. Anyone wishing to contribute to the consultation is strongly encouraged to make their views known, via:

The more opinions we receive, the merrier!