PARENTS will be able to have their say on the future of a special school that has been besieged with problems.

A special cabinet meeting of Oxfordshire County Council on June 4 will consider what should happen to Northfield School in Blackbird Leys.

In a paper published ahead of the meeting, Lucy Butler, the director of children's services, is recommending councillors decide to open an consultation on the school's future with closure or continuing to operate in a piecemeal fashion the only options being considered.

The school, which caters for boys with social, emotional and mental health difficulties, has been deemed 'unfit for purpose' because of its dilapidated state.

Poor attendance and difficulties in attracting and retaining 'quality' leaders have added to the school's woes, according to Ms Butler.

The school's main building has been closed since Easter with half of its 71 pupils being taught at the Hill End Centre in Farmoor and the others making do with portacabins.

If the school does close, pupils would be sent to other special schools, likely to be outside of the county, or in 'private settings.'

A suggested timetable would see the six week consultation start in June with a final decision in September and the school shut by the end of the year.

The council has predicted that closing the school would cost it an extra £1.2million a year, almost doubling the amount of money it spends on providing the pupils' education.

In contrast, keeping it open would cost an extra £97,000 a year.

John Howson, the Liberal Democrats' spokesman for education on the council said it was a 'tragic' situation.

He added: "In the longer term questions will need to be asked about how we got into this state and why something was not done sooner.

"But our priority must be to ensure these 70 vulnerable boys get the highest quality education possible.

"It is very difficult to see what the options are for the parents of these children other than moving away from the area.

"These boys are among some of our most challenging pupils and the more we can do to turn their lives around, the better."

The developments come as the council conducts a full review into its provision for students with special educational needs.

A final report is due in the summer with the future of Northfield dependent on its outcome.