PARENTS who saw their dyslexic children "blossom" at a specialist school have won a campaign to keep them there for crucial GCSE years.

For the first time in its decades-old history, The Unicorn School in Abingdon will offer the qualifications to its pupils, who have dyslexia, dyspraxia and similar learning difficulties.

Andrew Day, who became headteacher last year after governors agreed to make the move, said: "There was parental pressure from one of the year eight classes.

"They approached the governors about having experienced their children failing outside of the school.

"Some children just need to be taught in a certain way for them to be able to fulfill their potential. We try to identify and teach to their strengths while shoring up their weaknesses."

Most of the children, some of whom will start the programme a year earlier than peers at mainstream schools, have difficulty with reading, writing and coordination.

They will take GCSEs in core subjects of double English, maths and double science, plus optional subjects of food tech, art, short-form ICT.

They must study RE but can choose whether to be examined in it.

Sandra Davis, who lives in Didcot, said she was dreading the day her 14-year-old daughter Ana had to return to mainstream education to do her GCSEs.

She said: "She came to the school a few years ago and there was a profound improvement within months. They give such attention and support. You get one-to-one support and small classes, it's a very nurturing environment.

"A lot of them struggled at other schools and were kept back. Ana was in a small class but they weren't equipped to cope with her.

"It was marked how quickly she responded to the specialist teaching. One of the biggest things has been her feelings about herself. Ana was suddenly looking forward to school.

"Having learning difficulties is no joke. To be at a school where you are understood makes all the difference. They are not stupid or backward or lazy, they just need help in a different way.

"We were kicking ourselves for not doing it earlier. To see her blossom like she did made us so happy - she is a different child. She loves school now. Her class is like a family, their teacher treats them like her own children. It is a lovely warm atmosphere."

She said it was a "relief" to learn that the school was extending its arm into GSCEs, a programme which officially starts in September.

Mr Day added: "We are being inundated with interest from parents and local schools whose children are struggling in those environments."

The school in Marcham Road, which teaches 69 pupils from year three onwards, is independent and fee-paying.