THE council is ‘disappointed’ with Northern House Trust’s decision to pull out of running its academy school for special educational needs (SEND) children in Wokingham.

On Tuesday (June 17), the Trust announced it would “step aside” from all of its UK SEND schools after a “funding crisis” left it unable to manage the establishments.

Ofsted rated Northern House School “inadequate” in November 2018 after inspectors saw a child on the roof during their visit.

Councillors have since expressed worries about the school and the news comes at a time when Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) is desperately trying to increase the number of spaces for children at SEND schools in the borough.

As reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), the authority currently has 113 special educational needs children placed in schools in Wokingham borough.

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.

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In response to the Trust’s decision, Cllr UllaKarin Clark, executive member for children’s services, said: “I am very disappointed with the decision of the Trust, I do understand some of the challenges that they have faced, but our interests will be in the future for our children.

“We will do all we can to keep parents, carers and children informed about what is happening and will clearly involve them in future decisions about their care and education.”

A council spokesperson also told the LDRS the authority would ensure all affected children have their educational needs met and that it would be in contact with the Department for Education about arrangements for a new Trust to take over.

A parent of a child attending Northern House claimed the academy was “like a prison” but other parents have got in touch with the LDRS to defend the establishment.

One parent said: “My son has been at the school since October 2018. It was the best thing we did for him. He has been attending full-time, only had one exclusion (prior to that he was excluded weekly), he has lost the aggression and violent outbreaks – this is down to the fantastic teachers that the school has.

“They are so committed to the pupils and take a lot from them but yet they are still there working with them on a daily basis.”

Another added: “My son attends Northern House School full time after many unsuccessful attempts to settle into education mainstream schooling. Now at Northern House school full time he is happy, settled and enjoying school and is now well on his journey in education.

“I find the new Head(teacher) to be very hard working in improving the school while achieving what is best for all of the children. The staff are dedicated to ensuring the safety of our children which is not always an easy task given some of the needs the children have.”

An Ofsted report from April indicated the “positive change” a new headteacher had had since joining in September 2018, but added: “Currently, the school is solely reliant on the headteacher’s expertise to effect positive change.”

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But the watchdog’s October 2018 report, ranked the school as being ‘inadequate’, claiming pupils were “at risk of harm” as the school’s staff failed to control their unsafe behaviour.