The National Autistic Society's (NAS) bid to run an autism-specific free school in Reading has been approved by the Department for Education.

The school will open its doors in September 2013 and fill a gap in current educational provision identified by Reading Borough Council. It will have capacity for about 50 pupils with autism between the ages of 5 and 19. The NAS already runs six schools across the UK.

In November 2011, 90% of local parents said they would be interested in there being a school for children with autism in Reading. The NAS worked with local authorities, voluntary groups, schools and parents in Reading, West Berkshire, Wokingham, and Windsor and Maidenhead to prepare the bid.The new school will build partnerships with each pupil’s local school or college, keeping them informed of the pupil’s progress and inviting them to take an active role in their development. Pupils will have the opportunity to attend classes, activities and events at the partner school, if appropriate. The free school curriculum will focus on helping pupils build links within the community and preparing them for adulthood.

Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS, said: “This is great news for Reading and local pupils who have autism. The disability is a spectrum condition that affects everyone differently, so it is vital that families affected by autism can choose from a range of schools and access the best education for their children locally. As the NAS celebrates its 50th birthday, our new free school will continue our legacy of autism education that our founders started and support more young people with autism to lead the life they choose.”