A CHARITY is to open a residential school in Oxfordshire for some of the most vulnerable children in the county and the south of England.

Action for Children will open Parklands Campus on the 20-acre site of the Spires School, Besselsleigh, which caters for six children with emotional and social difficulties.

The school’s new headmaster said it would offer support and guidance to the county’s secondary schools, advising on how to help unruly pupils change their behaviour.

He said the school could expand to take up to 40 children.

Ray Wilson, a former comprehensive and special school head from Yorkshire, said: “Many of the children will have had disrupted and difficult lives at home, and many will have been in care or looked after.

“We are looking at people who have very difficult and challen-ging backgrounds and obviously that impacts on their learning needs. Quite often they find it difficult or impossible to cope in large secondary schools, and they may have had disrupted education that means they have to catch up.”

The charity, formerly NCH, bought the site in 2009, but is still completing a £750,000 redevelopment of buildings on the site.

When it opens in September, it will take pupils from Spires School and Cotswold Community School, in Ashton Keynes, Swindon, among its first 20 children, aged 11 to 16.

Local authorities, including Oxfordshire County Council, will pay for pupils to be educated at the school, which will take day pupils as well as boarders. Mr Wilson said: “In the past, schools like this have tended to institutionalise young people, but the aim here is to reintegrate them into the mainstream of life.”

The charity runs two other special schools, in Penhurst near Chipping Norton and in Glamorgan, Wales. Both are rated outstanding by education inspectorate Ofsted.

County Hall spokesman Louise Mendonça said: “The county council welcomes the opportunity provided by the school for children and young people with severe and challen-ging behaviour, where the county council provision is not appropriate for their needs.”

l The Oxford Mail last week reported that educational consultant Richard Kennell was bidding to set up the county’s second pupil referral unit for pupils who need intensive support.

The unit would be set up under the Government’s free school drive, which allows communities to set up facilities, and would need ministerial approval.