The Trust in charge of a Wokingham academy school slammed for failing to keep special educational needs (SEND) children safe is set to “step aside” from running the establishment.

Ofsted rated Northern House School “inadequate” in November 2018 and a series of inspections since have shown few signs of progress.

Read more: SEND school slow to make progress

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, a parent of a child attending Northern House, who wished to remain anonymous, said the school was “like a prison”.

She added: “I’m not a happy parent. I don’t like what’s been going on there and I think things need to change drastically.

“It’s a bit like a prison. People get exasperated by the environment. 

“Sometimes children come out worse than how they started - it’s just gone totally wrong this year.”

When Ofsted visited in October 2018 assessors saw a child on the roof of the school building.

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The watchdog’s report ranked the school as being ‘inadequate’ in all four categories it was assessed on.

Pupils were said to be at risk of harm as the school’s staff failed to control their unsafe behaviour.

In a letter sent to parents on Tuesday, June 18, the Trust’s chair William Powlett Smith announced the “unsettling news”, which will mean the Department for Education finds new academy trusts to run all of the Northern House schools across the country.

A statement read: “You may have read in newspapers or seen on television items about the funding crisis in special needs schools.

“The funding system, over which we as a Trust have no control, does not provide enough funding and it is not reliable. It just doesn’t work for a small Trust like ourselves whose schools are dedicated to pupils with special needs.

“At a meeting of the Board of Trustees on Friday 14 June 2019, we decided to begin discussions with the Department for Education to re-broker all our schools.

“I know this may be unsettling news but we are working hard to ensure we maintain the high quality of care and education that your child receives.”

This news comes at an awkward time for Wokingham Borough Council, which cannot intervene in supporting the running of the school despite its problems.

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The authority currently has 113 special educational needs children placed in schools in Wokingham borough and losing any in-borough spaces would represent a significant blow to WBC’s finances, as out-of-borough placement costs contributed to a £2.1 million overspend in SEND provisions last year.

Jim Leivers, Assistant Director for Learning, Achievement and Partnerships at WBC, said: “We are desperately clear it’s a resource we can’t lose. Northern House is a critical piece of the jigsaw.”

Councillors learned of the Trust’s decisions after discussing the failings at Northern House school at a meeting on Tuesday, June 17.

Members raised a number of concerns about the school after an Ofsted report from April suggested “aspects of the school’s safeguarding procedures remain ineffective”.

Liberal Democrats Cllr Prue Bray said: “They’re not doing their basic safeguarding stuff and they’re not realising, which is even worse.

“This isn’t getting any better.''

Labour Cllr Andy Croy claimed the children at the school were being “stitched up” by the Trust and rules meaning the Council could not support them.

The news comes after representatives from the Regional Schools Commissioner suggested the School could be transferred to a new trust if it did not improve.

Wokingham Borough Council has been contacted for comment.