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Purple Oaks Academy

Purple Oaks Academy provides 100 places for students with a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or Severe Learning Difficulties with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) naming Purple Oaks Academy as the appropriate provision. 

Academy details 

Purple Oaks Academy provides 100 places for students aged 3-18 with a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or Severe Learning Difficulties with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) naming Purple Oaks Academy as the appropriate provision.

The academy caters for a wide range of abilities, from students who are able to function academically at their chronological age level or above, to those who are working at levels.

The academy includes two outdoor courtyards created from a ‘figure of eight’ design where younger and older children can play safely, a large secure grass sports pitch and dedicated ‘multi use games area’. The academy also benefits from 14 class bases and additional space for science, music, art, food technology and breakout spaces.

The academy will provide education for 50 students from Reception Year to Year 7 in the first year, moving to full capacity of 100 students by 2022.

Director of Children Services Northamptonshire: Lesley Hagger


2017:  50 places for Reception to Year 7

2018:  64 places for Nursery to Year 8

2019:  72 places for Nursery to Year 9

2020:  80 places for Nursery to Year 10

2021:  88 places for Nursery to Year 11

2022: 94 places for Nursery to Year 12

2023: 100 places for Nursery to Year 13


Appeal arrangements where a referring agent wishes to question a decision about admission. 

The SEN and disability; 0-25 years, Code off Practice entitles parents to appeal to the SEN and Disability Tribunal if the LA refused to name the academy in the EHCP or the school refuses to offer a place.


The DfE directly funds Free Schools. Free Special Schools negotiate additional funding from the LA commissioning an academy place.


Transport is provided and funded for the LA if students meet their criteria.


Project Overview 

Why and how did the Academy come about?

New Free School Project – Purple Oaks Academy

This project was initiated by Northamptonshire County Council who identified the need for additional Special School places within Northampton and they had also identified a piece of land for the Academy to be built on which was next to the Trust’s Green Oaks Primary School, which included a Designated Special Provision catering for 30 pupils with ASD

Greenwood Academies Trust submitted a Free School Bid to the DfE to open a Special Free School in Northampton to cater for 100 pupils with a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or Severe Learning Difficulties and in conjunction with Northamptonshire County Council, evidenced the shortage of places in the area and also engaged with local parents and the local community.

Following a pre-qualification period and an interview process at the DfE, it was confirmed that Greenwood Academies Trust had won the bid to open this Special Free School.

Due to the Trust’s in-house expertise, we were able to plan the curriculum and design the building to match, procure the relevant resources, provide a sustainable staffing structure, recruit the staff required, including a Principal to lead the Academy, provide our own IT infrastructure, provide a robust financial plan, utilise the advice of our Catering Operations Manager to design the catering facilities as well as project managing everything that was needed to set up and open the new Free School.

A full marketing plan was developed to raise awareness of the new Free School to help recruit high quality staff and increase the pupil recruitment.

Gleeds were appointed to manage the programme and provide technical advice and the contractor, G F Tomlinson, was appointed through the EfA regional framework.

This was a 12 month build and was completed and handed over on 8 December 2017. The pupils commenced in the new building on 4 January 2018.

The Trust now has 3 special schools to compliment the mainstream provision, one of which has just been judged ‘outstanding’ in all areas by Ofsted

Value of Building:



“The vision of the Greenwood Academies Trust was to enhance the potential Purple Oaks Academy has to make a difference to the local community. The success of this project was only possible through the collaborative approach adopted by the Trust.  By fostering a partnering relationship from the outset, we have produced one of the most successful ESFA Framework projects  and I hope we get the opportunity to work together again on future projects.” - Ian Dalby, Contracts Manager - G F Tomlinson.

“Visiting Purple Oaks Academy and seeing how well the school has been received by the pupils and staff is one of the reasons why we’re proud to deliver new education facilities." - Andy Sewards, Managing Director for G F Tomlinson

“The official opening of the academy has been a great celebration of the fantastic new facilities we have at Purple Oaks Academy."During the process of opening the new academy it has been useful to draw upon the centralized resources of a large and established trust e.g. the established HR procedures and the experienced finance team who have ensured we have successfully navigated all of the purchases required when opening our academy and achieved the highest possible outcome in our financial audit. This was also true of the support available around safeguarding and ensuring appropriate training is in place." - Sarah Martin, Principal - Purple Oaks Academy

Official opening  

To celebrate the new £5 million facility, guests were invited to donate a non-fiction book to grow the library and its resources. G F Tomlinson has donated the entire science and technology section of the library. The specially designed library will be used daily by students to enhance their learning and also as a relaxing space during their free time. The additional resources will really help to engage students and broaden the reading material available to them.

Guests also took a tour of the new facilities and heard from staff how student behaviour and attendance has improved since the children moved into the new academy buildings.

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