A NEW £12 million school for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is set to be built on the outskirts of Oxford.

The school will have capacity for 108 pupils and provide a new home for the Orion Academy.

The school will be built on the site of the former Northfield School in Knights Road, Blackbird Leys.

Northfield was found to be inadequate by Ofsted in November 2018, and became an academy in February this year. It was then renamed Orion Academy.

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The current building has struggled with asbestos problems and in 2018, the site was temporarily closed and pupils relocated after an asbestos ceiling was damaged.

Plans for the new facility will allow the Orion Academy to more than double its intake of pupils, which currently range from ages 10-16, and increase staff numbers.

Oxfordshire county councillor Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, cabinet member for education and cultural services, said: “We are really excited to see the plans for the new building with construction due to start shortly and completion scheduled for September 2021.

“This long-awaited scheme will help produce huge educational benefits for children and young people.

Oxford Mail:

“These are encouraging times for SEND provision in the county, with plans well advanced for the construction of a new special school at Bloxham Grove [near Banbury] and a new special school in Didcot.

“This is another exciting project, delivering on our commitment to provide first class education for the county’s children and young people.”

The announcement from the county council comes after the SEND revenue budget was cut by £47,000 on Tuesday.

Council documents say that saving will be achieved by ‘releasing unused SEND strategy reserves and using existing internal capacity to forecast SEND sufficiency needs’.

However, the new school is a capital cost therefore separate from the revenue budget.

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The main contractor for the project will be Morgan Sindall Construction and will be divided into two phases.

The first phase, which started recently, involves the building of the main single-storey building. This will comprise of 14 general classrooms.

A space in the middle of the school called The Bridge will act as a therapeutic base and social area.

This phase is scheduled to be completed in time for the new school term in 2021.

Oxford Mail:

Teaching will continue in the current building while the new school is built on an adjacent plot.

Following the completion of this phase, the school will transfer into the new building, with the old school then demolished.

In its place, an all-weather pitch, multi-use games area (MUGA) tarmac court and a grass pitch with running track will be laid. This will be completed in early 2022.

The Orion Academy is one of six SEND schools in Oxfordshire run by The Gallery Trust.