AN ACADEMY trust has announced it is cutting ties with an Oxford special school, throwing its future into uncertainty.

Northern House School Academy Trust has revealed that it is relinquishing control of all five schools it manages, including its 'outstanding' school in South Parade, Summertown.

They will all be re-brokered, which means the Department for Education will try to find another trust or trusts to take them over, but this is often a lengthy process that sees schools 'in limbo' until new management is secured.

The trust has blamed the 'flawed and volatile' funding sytem for its decision, fuelling concerns about a crisis in SEND (special educational needs and disability) funding. 

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A statement on the trust's website, attributed to chairman William Powlett Smith, said: "As an academy trust we have historically been able to maintain healthy cash reserves. However, over a year ago we highlighted concerns in relation to funding directly to the Department for Education and have also been engaging with local authorities. 

"These discussions have not identified any likelihood of change in the short term to a flawed funding system that delivers an inadequate and unreliable, often volatile, funding stream which is unworkable within a SEN trust that is dedicated to SEMH [social, emotional and mental health] pupils.

"To deliver the pupil outcomes that our children deserve, the academy trust has to invest continually in its staff and infrastructure to deliver not only the academic results expected but also the necessary social outcomes to prepare our pupils for adult life – this is possible only with adequate funding."

The Summertown school, which teaches about 80 pupils aged 5-11, was rated 'outstanding' in its last Ofsted in 2016.

It dates back to 1938 and was taken over by the trust in 2012.

Northern House School in Wokingham is rated 'inadequate' while its schools in Solihull and Wolverhampton are rated 'requires improvement.'

Mr Powlett Smith statement's added: "All of these schools, prior to sponsored conversion, were in crisis, with some having experienced extensive periods of closure and regular police presence – time, care and investment were key.

"Northern House School Academy Trust has worked tirelessly to improve the outcomes for some of the nation’s most disadvantaged pupils."

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The decision to re-broker was made at a meeting of the board of trustees on Friday, and the process to find new trusts will begin immediately. 

The statement added: "We have informed the relevant local authorities with whom we continue to work - we do not expect their own pressures and priorities in relation to the High Needs Funding Block to permit any resolution to reduce the funding crisis.

"As each of our schools finds a new ‘home’, Northern House School Academy Trust will step aside."

The board said the decision has 'not been taken lightly' but said funding issues 'put at risk our capacity to deliver [pupils'] entitlements and secure continuous improvement in pupil outcomes.'

Mr Powlett Smith thanked staff for their commitment, adding: "Parents and carers should also be reassured that we will continue to provide an effective education in a safe environment until such time as we pass on the baton."