VULNERABLE pupils are being 'left behind' as special schools become increasingly overstretched, a governor has said.

Damian Haywood, chair of governors at Mabel Prichard special school in Oxford, voiced his concerns in reaction to the revelation about Northern House School in Summertown.

Northern House School Academy Trust is abandoning control of all five schools it oversees, including its 'outstanding' school in Oxford, blaming a 'flawed and volatile' funding system. 

They will all be re-brokered, which means the Department for Education will try to find another trust to take them over.

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County councillor Mr Haywood said he is 'not surprised' to learn that the trust is stepping aside, and said he 'sympathises completely' with the feeling of being 'let down'.

He said: "The money [from central government] just isn't available to support the students, and schools and staff are overwhelmed with work.  

"Teachers I work with talk about firefighting and not being able to offer the correct educational needs for their students. 

"We as governors are being left with impossible choices about what to fund and where the limited resources are best-placed. 

"Students are being left behind, and they deserve better."

ALSO READ: 300 special needs places needed in Oxfordshire by 2022

Oxfordshire County Council has admitted there is an urgent need for special school places in the county, with all special schools playing a crucial role as demand for SEND (special educational needs and disability) provision soars.

One mother of a child who attends 83-pupil Northern House, in South Parade, said parents have been left 'clueless' as to what the re-brokering actually means.

The school, which teaches pupils aged 5-11, opened in 1938 and was taken over by the trust in 2012. 

It was rated 'outstanding' in its last Ofsted in 2016, when inspectors said pupils 'learn exceptionally well and make excellent progress.' 

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.

Oxford Mail:

David Cameron at Northern House School in 2012

The trust has reassured parents that 'we will continue provide an effective education in a safe environment until such time as we pass on the baton.'

Earlier this year the county council made the unpopular decision to take £1.8m from its mainstream education grant to plug gaps in its SEND education budget.

It has predicted an £8 million overspend on SEND education this year, and identified a need for 300 more special school places by 2022.

County councillor John Howson added: "I'm not surprised SEN schools are finding funding difficult - there has been a huge increase in the number of children with EHCPs (education health and care plans).

"There are thousands of children [nationally] waiting for SEND places, and that is seriously worrying."

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In December education secretary Damian Hinds announced an additional £350 million to support children with complex needs and disabilities, on top of £6 billion already provided for the high needs budget this year.

Part of the funding is to help councils provide more special school places. 

He said at the time: "We recognise that the high needs budget faces significant pressures and this additional investment will help local councils to manage those pressures, whilst being able to invest to provide more support."

In 2012 then-Prime Minister David Cameron opened new buildings at Northern House, and said the school 'provides lots of special moments' for children.