Marchbank Free School

Marchbank Free School opened in September 2013 and is a full time educational provision for primary aged children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD) and associated needs. Marchbank is situated in Darlington serving both Darlington and the surrounding area.

The carefully planned environment and engaging, personalised curriculum on offer at Marchbank Free School is also in some instances conducive to meeting the needs of children who display some autistic spectrum (ASD) type behaviours or even have a diagnosis of ASD with associated difficulties in managing their emotions or behaviours.

We have a plan to reach our capacity of 30 places by 2016/17 and continue to work with commissioners from across the region to explore demand. To date we have children placed from Darlington, Durham, Stockton and North Yorkshire and continue to keep in touch with colleagues from all of the authorities within our area.

In addition to offering full time provision for children with statements of SEN or Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) we offer places to children on our Intervention Places which are full time for one term and aimed at providing comprehensive assessment to children failing to thrive in the mainstream environment directly due to behavioural issues.


A place within the highly structured, supportive Marchbank environment will provide both a qualified assessment route of that individual, but also avoid further prolonging the application of strategies and resources which are producing no demonstrable outcomes.

Our school site is a red brick Grade II listed building at Mowden Hall in Darlington which lends itself perfectly to our ethos of creating a nurturing homely environment where the children can feel safe and secure and develop a sense of belonging.

Food is a central theme to our ethos; school meals are prepared from fresh on site each day using locally sourced good quality produce. Children and staff help to prepare the dining room, set the tables and serve the meal with everyone sitting together to enjoy the social aspects of sharing a home cooked meal. Children eat breakfast together on arrival at school and a snack is provided mid-morning.

We have raised vegetable beds to allow the children to work alongside adults to grow their own food which is used in the school kitchen or in cookery lessons in school. We also have our own hens which provide us with lovely eggs.

The magnificent mature grounds provide opportunities for outdoor learning across all curriculum areas and the established wooded area provides the perfect environment for our weekly forest school lessons.

It is common for children with BESD to underperform when compared to their mainstream peers in achieving expected developmental stages.  The Marchbank environment and curriculum allows children to revisit those developmental areas that have not been secured and offers them the experiences necessary to move through the stages which are so important in building the foundations necessary for future development and learning.

Marchbank 2

Marchbank therefore gradually, and through a carefully planned development, merges the creativity, pictorial and artistic elements of an approach used in Steiner education with a highly structured approach to learning literacy and numeracy skills to create an innovative, exciting and creative curriculum.

Our vision is to provide an environment where primary children with BESD can access an education that aims to develop the whole child in a healthy and balanced manner addressing their physical, emotional and intellectual capabilities through a developmentally appropriate curriculum.

We warmly welcome requests for further information.




Yours sincerely,

Mandy Southwick


Marchbank Free School