Leigh Academies Trust to open brand new SEN free school in Swanley

Leigh Academies Trust logo

It is announced today that Leigh Academies Trust (LAT) has been successful in its recent bid to the Department for Education to open a brand new all-through SEN free school in Swanley, Kent. LAT already runs two special schools in Kent – Milestone and Snowfields. Both are judged outstanding in all areas by Ofsted. 

Milestone has been part of LAT since 2012 and has been judged outstanding by Ofsted three times in a row. Snowfields opened as a SEN free school in 2020 and now operates across two sites in Bearsted and Cranbrook. A third campus will open in Minster on the Isle of Sheppey in September 2025 with £2.5m capital funding from Kent County Council. Leigh Academy Swanley (LAS), which is the new school’s working title, will be the third special school in the Trust and will open in September 2026.

LAS will be LAT’s 34th school in total, all of which are based in the South-East of England: Kent, Medway, Bexley and Greenwich. Nearly 40% are judged outstanding by Ofsted and all are at least good. It will continue LAT’s highly inclusive and innovative approach to education which has been benefiting parents and communities in our region since the Trust started in Dartford in 2008.

In her announcement, the Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Keegan, said:

“Special schools can truly transform children’s lives, enabling pupils with special education needs and disabilities to thrive in environments that meet their needs.

“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.

“I know how hard it can be for families trying to navigate the SEND system, and the creation of more brilliant special schools is just one part of our plan to make sure every family and every child get the right support, in the right place at the right time.”  

On receiving the news, Simon Beamish, Chief Executive of Leigh Academies Trust, added,

“We are delighted to be amongst one of seven multi-academy trusts in England to be approved to open a brand new SEN free school today. We have a strong track record of opening successful start-up schools, having done so on seven occasions already.

“LAT is firmly committed to making sure that children with special education needs and disabilities receive the best education possible. Our existing special schools (Milestone and Snowfields) and in time Leigh Academy Swanley, are bastions of excellence for special needs in their communities. Not only do they provide excellent education and care for their own children, but they also have a profoundly positive impact across the sector.

“We can’t wait to get started with implementing our plans for LAS and will keep all stakeholders fully updated with progress as we do.”