Plans for new special school in Eastleigh move forward as academy trust confirmed

The Department for Education has appointed Solent Academies Trust to manage a new special school in Boorley Green, Eastleigh to be funded through Hampshire County Council’s Children’s Services capital programme and designed and delivered by its Property Services team. The new £17.9 million school is intended to provide accommodation for up to 125 children aged eight to 16 with social, emotional and mental health needs and, subject to planning consent, is due to open in summer 2026

Feb 23 2024

The Government’s current expectation is that every new school will be a free school, known as an academy. This means that once built, the relevant Local Authority transfers the school site and buildings on a lease to an academy sponsor, which will then be responsible for managing the school.

Councillor Steve Forster, Hampshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said: “Like all Local Authorities, we continue to see significant demand for special school places in Hampshire and as a result, a growing use of expensive, independent non-maintained settings. It is vital that we continue to expand special school places across the county not only to help contain these financial pressures but most importantly, to enable more children with special educational needs and disabilities to learn in their local communities and alongside their peers.

“The plans for a new special free school in Eastleigh are an important part of our wider ongoing investment in specialist education provision and we welcome the appointment of Solent Academies Trust to manage the school. With extensive experience of managing special schools, they are an ideal sponsor and we look forward to working closely with them in the coming months and years as we continue to progress these much-needed plans.”

Solent Academies Trust currently provides specialist education for pupils aged two to 19 years old across five high performing special schools; one in Hampshire, one in West Sussex, and three in Portsmouth. Commenting on its appointment as the academy sponsor for the planned new special school in Eastleigh, Sharon Burt, Chief Executive Officer of Solent Academies Trust, said: “We are delighted to have approval to lead the new special free school which is greatly needed for pupils with Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs to remain educated in local provision. The strong track record and specialist expertise across our trust will enable us to ensure that pupils, families and the wider community benefit from this school providing a centre of excellence in SEMH, and most importantly ensuring that pupils are well prepared for life beyond school. We have already started working closely with the local authority and members of the local community, and look forward to providing further updates about our exciting plans through our trust website.”

Andrew Hill, Chair of Trustees at Solent Academies Trust, said: “This is wonderful news for our trust. We are looking forward to having the opportunity to open a brand-new school and build on the experience we have gained in how best to prepare children with SEMH to be successful in their lives. It also fits into our long-term goal of developing the scale of our trust to be able to offer targeted support to a greater number of children with special needs.”

The appointment of Solent Academies Trust comes after the County Council recently outlined its proposed capital programme for Children’s Services from 2024 to 2027. As well as the new special school at Boorley Green, the programme includes plans for a new special free school in Whiteley which, subject to various Department for Education (DfE) and planning approvals, is to be funded by the Government. This follows the County Council’s successful bid for funding from the DfE’s Free Schools programme.

The capital programme also includes plans for eight new mainstream schools, two school expansions, and seven projects to increase special needs provision in existing schools. For full details of the proposed three-year investment programme, visit the County Council’s website.