7/11/2023 | Childcare & Education

Appetite for SEND schools continues to rise as demand for places booms, says Christie & Co Mid-Year Review

Today, specialist business property adviser, Christie & Co, has released its Childcare & Education: Mid-Year Review 2023 which analyses the childcare markets so far in 2023, including the SEND schools sector.


According to data from ‘Special educational needs in England 2022/23’, the number of pupils with SEN support increased by 5 per cent from 2022 to 2023, to 1,183,000 and by a total of 19 per cent since 2016. Over the same period, the total pupil population increased by 6 per cent. These increases have led to stark demand for both day and residential SEND schools, says Christie & Co. Suitable properties – including former mainstream schools that have closed and other educational-related use establishments - remain highly sought after as operators expand their services to keep up with the increasing number of referrals they are receiving nationwide.  

There are a number of factors contributing to this growth in demand for SEND places, including an increase in the number of children with an Education, Health and Care plan (ECHP) - according to ‘Special educational needs in England 2022/23’, the percentage of pupils with an EHCP plan rose to 4.3 per cent, from 4 per cent in 2022 - and, increasingly over the past decade or so, the parental perception of associated stigmas being lifted around sending a child to a specialist school. Therefore, the benefits of SEN education are now much better accepted and understood which is, ultimately, in the best interests of the pupils receiving the support. 

While many transactions fly under the radar due to the nature of the sector, a key deal so far this year was Outcomes First Group’s acquisition of Norton College in March 2023. The group purchased two secondary school sites in Worcester and Tewksbury which will join their Acorn Education and Care brand, the UK’s leading provider of specialist education and residential care for children and young people with behavioural, emotional, social, or learning needs. 

The funding landscape 

Christie Finance notes the Bank of England base rate increase by 3.75 per cent in the last 12 months (1.25 per cent in June 2022 to 5 per cent in June 2023) has created unrest amongst buyers and operators alike as the affordability for first-time buyers is reduced and operators are working on lower profit margins due to higher debt service costs. Increased funding into the sector has been long-awaited by childcare providers and parents alike, but it is unclear if the funding will cover rising costs, if it will suffice for operators, and how it will be implemented. 

Richard Green, Director – Valuation Services, Christie & Co, comments, “The market continues to be busy with many SEN operators still being keen to acquire closed primary school sites to meet the ever-growing demand for SEN school places.”  

For the full Childcare & Education: Mid-Year Review 2023 report, visit: https://www.christie.com/childcare-education-mid-year-review-23/  


For further information on this press release, contact: 
Phoebe Burrows, Corporate Communications Manager 
P: 07540 063 598 or E: phoebe.burrows@christie.com 

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