Asbestos-stricken Northfield School in Oxford could close

A “dilapidated” school for children with special needs that was declared unsafe after asbestos was found in a ceiling could close.

Pupils at Northfield School in Oxford have been taught at temporary sites since the main building was deemed “unfit for purpose”. The National Education Union (NEU) said the council “should be looking at rebuilding a purpose-built school”.

Oxfordshire County Council said that was one option being considered.

The main building of the Blackbird Leys school – which teaches 71 boys aged between 11-18 with social, emotional and mental health needs – was declared unsafe in March after a ceiling containing asbestos was damaged.

Pupils in Years 10 and 11 are being taught in temporary classrooms on the school site. Years 6 to 9 have been temporarily relocated to just outside Oxford.

Lucy Butler, the council’s director of children’s services, told an extraordinary cabinet meeting the building was in a “dilapidated state” and “not fit for purpose”.

She said the school now faced two options – either to close or remain open. Said Ms Butler;

“Short-term we have an immediate problem and we have to decide what’s best for the children”

Longer term we’re looking at the needs of all of our special educational needs children and saying, actually we’ve got enough provision in Oxfordshire, do we need to look at rebuilding sites, what is it that we need to do?”

The council said it wants to consult the public to help decide the school’s future.

Stuart Robinson, from the Oxfordshire NEU, said the council should “bite the bullet, get a long-term plan for Northfield and keep it open”.  He added;

“They’ve got a perfectly good site, there’s parts of the building which could be used and they should be looking at rebuilding a purpose-built school to meet the needs of these students.”

Ms Butler said she had commissioned a comprehensive review of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) provision and sufficiency which is due to be completed late summer.