ACADEMY chains are being invited to City Hall today as Bradford Council looks to find a sponsor for a new school for children with special educational needs.

So far efforts to find a sponsor for the school, which would have space for 72 pupils, have been unsuccessful.

Now another “sponsor round” has been started, and the council hopes a sponsor can be found by December.

At a meeting of the Bradford Schools Forum yesterday, members were told that it is hoped that the school could hit its targeted opening date of September 2020.

Last summer it was announced that Bradford had secured funding for a new school for 72 young people, aged ten to 19, with special educational and mental health needs. The plan is for it to be built on the Rhodesway Playing Fields in Lower Grange.

But the Council would need to find a sponsor to run the school - as government policy for new schools prevent local authorities from opening or running new schools themselves.

When the new school funding was announced, the Council said the new facility would offer “holistic, whole life services” based around education, family care and work-life support, and there would also be an on-site, 12-bed residential facility.

However, after the lack of success in finding a sponsor, the Council has had to change its specification, and members of the forum were told it has required a “review” the specification, and this could mean the authority runs some of the services.

The Schools Forum, made up of heads of schools throughout the distirct, were yesterday given an update on efforts to create more SEND spaces in the district.

Recent years have seen an increasing amount of young people in Bradford put on education health care plans, with the number rising from 2,145 in 2014 to 3,299 this year.

To create more spaces, the Council is in the process of re-designating two of the district’s Pupil Referral Units as special schools. Ellar Carr PRU in Thackley and Park Primary PRU in Westy Bowling, which currently both have high levels of students with special educational needs, are due to be re-designated in October 2019.

The forum heard that government failures to fund special educational needs places had left Bradford and other councils struggle to find the places they need. Chair Dianne Richardson pointed out that it seemed like SEND provision wasn’t a priority for government, adding: “Unfortunately for the government Brexit consumes everything.”

The sponsor engagement event will take place in City Hall at 1pm today.