A NEW £9.5M special school building could replace another which the county council wanted to close earlier this year.

Northfield School, in Blackbird Leys, could be housed in a new complex as part of a £15m county council drive to invest money in special needs provision.

At Easter, the county council shut the Knights Road school temporarily after asbestos was found and it was deemed unsafe.

It then was due to start a consultation on whether to permanently close the school and spent £400,000 to making it usable in the short-term.

During that time, nearly 3,500 people signed a petition urging the council to keep the school open.

The county council’s education bosses have now decided on a long-term plan to replace the school by building another next to it. The former school building would then be demolished.

Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, the county council’s cabinet member for education and cultural services, said: “We want pupils in the right provision at the right place with a local first approach to ensure children’s needs are at the core of planning.”

The council said it hopes to increase the intake at the boys-only school to 100 after the rebuild, and that it could be open by September 2021, if the cabinet agrees to measures next Tuesday.

Currently it can accept about 78 pupils between the ages of 11 to 18, but only 51 are on the roll.

Mrs Lindsay-Gale added: “Everybody at the council is very much aware that it has been a difficult period for Northfield School and at one stage the council was considering closure.

“The future of the school would not only be secured if my cabinet colleagues decide to go along with the recommendations of officers at our meeting, but it would enable the school to expand and become a real focal point for special educational needs throughout Oxfordshire.”

There are currently 14 special schools across Oxfordshire. The county council said it wants to build two more. Both would be free schools. One would be in Bloxham Grove in North Oxfordshire – due to open in 2020 – and the other in Didcot could open in 2023, depending on funding.

The council said it was key more special schools are built to cope with a 77 per cent increase for education and health care needs assessments since 2013.

As part of the council's new £15m special needs strategy, about 300 special school places will be needed by 2022.

On top of that, another 100 children at special schools will need to be given special plans in mainstream schools across the county.

The council estimates it will overspend on special needs education provision by more than £6m in the current financial year.

A day placement at a school for a child with social emotional and mental health needs costs about £53,000 per year.

A day placement for a child diagnosed with autism costs about £77,000 a year.