A SPECIAL school in Oxford has seen a rapid decline in standards, plummeting from Ofsted's best rating to the worst.

Northern House School in Summertown has been rated 'inadequate' in all areas, down from its previous judgement of 'outstanding' in 2016.

The school's future was thrown into doubt in June when the group that runs it, Northern House School Academy Trust, announced it was relinquishing control and looking for a new trust to take it over.

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Ofsted's new report, published on Wednesday after inspection in September, said: "Pupils’ behaviour has got worse over time.

"Leaders blame funding and staffing difficulties - they have not considered what needs to change at the school.

"Many of the problems are due to difficulties with staffing but these have been made worse by poor leadership."

The school in South Parade became an academy under the trust in 2012, but it officially opened as a special school back in 1938.

It had 84 pupils on roll during the inspection, aged between five and 11, all with social, emotional and mental health needs.

Ofsted's report did praise 'kind' staff and said some children are 'very happy and doing well', but inspectors noted the quality of education had 'declined'.

Inspectors said leaders 'bought learning plans off the shelf to help teachers' but that these were not tailored to pupils' needs.

Their report added: "Teachers have found it harder to plan lessons when they do not know who will support them in class.

"Pupils also find this uncertainty very stressful."

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Inspectors also said there had been a 'concerning rise' in the number of incidents when staff had physically restrained pupils to manage behaviour.

Ofsted said the trust did not act quickly enough to check on the school's progress, and when it did, 'decided they did not have the resources to make the required improvements'.

Writing on the school's website, Ian Barker, chief executive of Northern House School Academy Trust , said: "The judgement of this inspection was a disappointment for us, but the issues it raises must be addressed."

Oxford Mail:

David Cameron visiting Northern House School in 2012

He said the report notes was right to note recruitment issues in Oxford, which he described as 'one of the country’s most expensive cities in which to live and work'.

He added: "This has undoubtedly made it difficult to offer the consistently high standards for which the school has been known for so long."

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Mr Barker said the key reason that the trust was seeking a takeover was because the funding model 'simply does not work' for special needs trusts, with schools in different local authorities.

The trust also runs a school in Solihull, rated 'requires improvement', one in Wolverhampton, with the same rating, a primary pupil referral unit in Wolverhampton, rated 'good', and a school in Wokingham, rated 'inadequate'.

Although Ofsted said a new trust has not been assigned to the Summertown school, Mr Barker said talks are ongoing with one and that if all goes to plan, it will take over the school 'in the early months of 2020'.

He wrote: "In the meantime, we will work hard to effect the improvements that Ofsted say are needed.

"In passing on the baton, we would like to emphasise the outstanding quality of education that our pupils have enjoyed in the three years since the school was last inspected in 2016.

"We are confident that pupils will continue to thrive under the guidance of the incoming trust."

He did not name the new trust.