Fortis Trust to Open New Special Educational Needs School in Whitstable, Kent

In a significant development for special education within the region, Fortis Trust is proud to announce its successful bid to the Department for Education to establish a new all-through Special Educational Needs (SEN) Free School in Whitstable, Kent. This initiative is part of the government’s Safety Valve programme aimed at addressing high-needs deficits and ensuring adequate provision for young people with SEND.

Fortis Trust, currently oversees Bradfields Academy and Forward2Employment – both exemplars in their respective categories. Bradfields Academy, renowned for its innovative approach to special education, has consistently received ‘Outstanding’ ratings from Ofsted and caters to over 300 students aged 4-19 with complex learning needs, including MLD and ASD. It is also a beneficiary of the DfE’s Schools Rebuilding programme, poised for expansion to accommodate up to 444 students. Forward2Employment, serving young adults aged 16-25 with SEND, facilitates supported internships to aid transition into permanent employment, emphasising community integration and societal contribution. Forward2Employment has recently received an Ofsted rating of Good in their first full inspection.

The new Whitstable Free School will provide 120 additional specialist places, substantially enhancing local educational infrastructure and support systems for students with special needs. This aligns with the national strategy to increase special education capacity, as articulated by Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Keegan, who underscored the transformative impact of special schools in her recent announcement. She stated:

“Every child deserves the chance to reach their full potential. That’s why we’re opening 200 special schools across the country, ensuring every child receives a best-in-class education.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Laura Trott, further emphasised the government’s commitment:

“Special schools can truly transform children’s lives… We’re creating tens of thousands of special school places since 2010 and today’s announcement takes us one step closer to our commitment of a record 60,000 more places for children with additional needs.”

On receiving the news, Marie Sweetlove-Smyth, Chief Executive of Fortis Trust stated:

“We are eagerly anticipating our collaboration with the Department for Education and Kent County Council to launch this transformative project. At Fortis Trust, we are genuinely delighted to have the chance to empower young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in Whitstable, Kent. The creation of the Whitstable Free School stands as a powerful affirmation of Fortis Trust’s unwavering commitment to creating nurturing educational environments where  all children can flourish and realise their full potential. Our proven track record in providing exceptional education and life-enhancing opportunities serves as a solid foundation. We are excited to bring our expertise and passionate support to Whitstable, enhancing the educational landscape and enriching the lives of its community members.”