Following a successful application process through Nottinghamshire County Council, the Department for Education has announced its in principle approval for Diverse Academies Trust to sponsor a new 160-pupil special free school in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

The new school will be built on the former Ravensdale School site in the town and is expected to open in 2025, providing a specialist learning environment for children and young people aged 7 to 19 with social, emotional and mental health needs.

David Cotton, chief executive officer for Diverse Academies, said: “We are delighted to be confirmed as the sponsor. Together with Yeoman Park and Redgate Primary, Ravensdale will form a hub of special schools in the Mansfield area, providing a vital support network for our communities.

“Our children and young people are at the heart of everything we do. We have an incredibly skilful and caring team of people here at Diverse Academies, who understand the importance of building strong relationships with children, their families and a range of partners, so that each and every child feels secure, confident and able to express themselves.

“It is a real privilege to be able to widen access to much needed specialist education, and we look forward to working with our colleagues at Nottinghamshire County Council and to welcoming pupils to this new, purpose-built school in 2025.”

Cat Thornton, chief education officer at Diverse Academies, added: “Across our special schools, our highly experienced team are able to design a flexible curriculum that can meet the needs of every child and young person – so that each can gain the essential knowledge and skills required for day-to-day life and success into adulthood.

“We take time to understand those in our care – their experiences, their talents and interests, and work hard to ensure that whatever the complexity of need, every child is given the opportunity to thrive and overcome any barriers.

“Together, we believe that we can make a difference to our children and families, and in our communities, by ensuring every child with specialist educational needs or disabilities is enabled to flourish and be ready for their next step.”

Councillor Sam Smith, Cabinet Member for Education and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities at Nottinghamshire County Council said: “It is great news that children and young people in Mansfield with special educational needs and disabilities will soon have access to a learning environment that is best suited to meet their needs.

“Diverse Academies is made up of a team of very experienced and compassionate individuals. I have no doubt that they will be able to successfully provide a much-needed support network for the community and ensure that children and young people in Nottinghamshire receive a good quality of education in order to thrive and reach their full potential.”

Planning permission for the new school was granted in March 2024, with the design and project management led by Arc Partnership – a joint venture between Nottinghamshire County Council and SCAPE. The Ravensdale project is part of a wider programme being delivered by Nottinghamshire County Council to create up to 490 additional specialist school places by 2026 in response to growing demand across the county.

The Ravensdale sponsor announcement follows developments at Yeoman Park Academy in Mansfield, which is also run by Diverse Academies Trust. Yeoman Park was identified as was one of the first 50 to be selected for upgrading as part of the government’s 10-year, multi-wave rebuilding programme for schools, and provides a highly specialised education for children and young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties, including autism and those with developmental and sensory impairments. Construction of the new Yeoman Park building is currently underway and is set to open in 2025, catering for up to 138 pupils.