Future of special school in doubt

Penhurst School

Penhurst School

First published in News

THE future of an Oxfordshire special school last night looked in doubt.

Residents in Chipping Norton fear the town’s Penhurst School could close.

And last night charity Action for Children, which runs the school, refused to commit to its future or to comment on rumours that it was under threat of closure.

Spokesman Katie Clarke said: “Action for Children’s primary concern is and always will be the welfare of and support for the young people at Penhurst.”

She would not comment on whether closure was an option being considered or on when a decision on the “long-term strategy” would be made public.

The school, in New Street, provides a residential education for some of the most vulnerable children, with most pupils suffering profound and multiple learning disabilities.

It is rated outstanding by Ofsted, and takes children from all over the UK who are placed there by their local authorities.

It has about 20 pupils aged between five and 19, few of whom are able to communicate verbally or walk unaided.

Chipping Norton town mayor Chris Butterworth said: “We had heard a rumour it might close. It would certainly be unfortunate because we’ve had them here for some time.”

Penhurst has been on the same site since 1904, starting life as an orphanage, and becoming a school for homeless children, then a school for those with physical disabilities in the 1960s. Since the early 1990s it has been a school for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Mr Butterworth described the school as a “recognised part” of Chipping Norton. He added: “We see the children in and around Chippy a lot, they go to church services and they have become an accustomed face.”

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The charity also runs two other schools in Oxfordshire, Parklands Campus in Abingdon, which opened in September 2011 and provides an education for 11 to 19-year-olds with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, and Redwood House, a specialist centre for those aged 19 to 25 on the same site as Penhurst.

Owen Morton of Oxfordshire County Council said: “We have not been notified of potential change at the school, however we feel sure the charity will involve us at the appropriate time.”

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