Sheffield and Barnsley: a new special school

The Department for Education has been running a Local Authority Special School free school bid process. 

Sheffield City Council and Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council submitted a joint bid which has been successful.

The new school will offer 200 places for children and young people across Sheffield and Barnsley with complex autism and communication needs. 

A place will not be reliant on having ASD diagnosis, strong evidence of complex communication and interaction need through the EHC process, and being on the pathway for diagnosis will be sufficient.

Children’s learning levels will not be suitable for mainstream education, and they may have learning disabilities as secondary needs. Places will also be provided for children who display traits of, or have a diagnosis of, pathological demand avoidance.


We are now jointly inviting proposals, in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE), from prospective sponsors to run the new special school in our area. If a strong proposal is received that both the local authority and the Secretary of State wish to take forward, the DfE will provide capital funding and start-up grants subject to value for money assessments. 

The specification document is available to download on this page, which gives further information about the new school.

Applications and dates

The deadline for trust applications is 31 August 2023, after which applications will be assessed and strong applicant trusts will be interviewed.

Opening dates for the school are dependent on construction time frames and are not yet confirmed. The current working assumption is September 2026 or 2027.

You can find guidance and application forms on GOV.UK: Set up a free school. Proposers are asked to register their interest first using the pre-application registration form. 

The closing window for this is 16 June 2023. 

We will be holding a virtual engagement event for potential sponsors who are interested in applying to run the new free special school. This will be an opportunity to hear more about our vision for the school and to ask any questions you may have.

This will take place at 10am to 12pm on Wednesday 7 June 2023.

If you would like any further information, please get in touch with us at

Contact Integrated Commissioning Service

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