PROPOSALS to build a new special school in Bradford have seemingly collapsed.

It had been hoped that the new school for pupils with special educational needs would be open by September 2020. But school bosses have now been told that the plans have fallen through after no sponsors showed an interest in opening the much needed facility.

It means Bradford Council will now have to look at other ways of providing much needed SEND places in the district to prevent young people being sent out of Bradford.

In Summer 2017 it was announced that Bradford had secured government 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.

Extra special educational needs places approved

Due to a policy introduced by the Conservative government, Councils are unable to open new schools. If a new school is needed it either has to be a free school, which can be set up by charities, businesses or community groups, or an academy - run by an academy chain.

Because of this, a call was put out for a sponsor to come forward to run the new SEND school. As months passed there was little success, but as of last Summer officers were still confident that the school would go ahead.

Originally the Council had said the school would offer a “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.

At a meeting of the Bradford Schools Forum on Wednesday, members were given disappointing news on the scheme.

When asked about the plans Marium Haque, Deputy Director for Education and Learning at Bradford Council, said: “It has fallen by the wayside.”

She said Bradford may be able to re-apply for another school, but said: “That would be pushing it further and further down the line - years down the line. We need to deal with the need for places now.”

Chair Dianne Richardson said: “I have to express my extreme disappointment at this.”

Mrs Haque replied: “It was down to the lack of sponsorship. A local authority is not allowed to open a free school. We weren’t the only authority to face this situation, there were four others. I know that doesn’t help but misery loves company.”

Dominic Wall, CEO of the Southfield Grange Trust, claimed the original plans for the schools may have been over complicated - and that likely put some sponsors off. He said: “It was a very complicated proposal that needed multi agency funding. I’m not very surprised it wasn’t successful - some of the people who had to put money into it for it to work didn’t know about it. It was too complicated to deliver. Any potential sponsor would want to feel they could deliver the school.”

The Council is in the process of creating 354 SEND places in the district. Because it cannot open a new school, these places are being spread out among existing special schools, which will expand, or through new provisions at mainstream schools.

40 of those spaces will be provided by Oastler School, and the Council has said they will be ready for September. At Wednesday's meeting Trevor Loft, head of Bradford Central PRU, said he had heard "on the ground" that the spaces at Oastler would not be ready in time.

Mrs Haque said the places would be ready for the new school year, but that they knew 40 places was "not enough" and that this was just the first step.

However, some of the places would be provided by Oastler, but at other locations in the district.

She said further places at Oastler would be created as the year went on, with the Council aiming for these extra places to have been created by January.

Letters informing parents of the spaces will be sent out this week.