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GM school may bail out neighbour

A FAILING special school which closed after a damning Office for Standards in Education report may be taken over by ahigh-achieving grant-maintained school.

It is the first time a local authority has asked a successful school to rescue a failing neighbour.

Church Farm school, for children with emotional and behavioural problems, in Barnet, north London, was closed in February after inspectors found pupils threatening teachers and vandalising school property.

Their report said pupils hurled chairs across the classroom, destroyed books and shouted racial and sexual abuse at teachers. Even the governors told inspectors that pupils were in control of the school.

The local authority had hoped to reopen Church Farm in September under a new head and management team. But when suitable candidates could not be found, Mill Hill county high, one of the borough's most successful schools, was invited to take over.

If the scheme is approved, Church Farm school will close permanently. A new unit for challenging children will open on the same site as part of Mill Hill county, a technology college five miles away which selects some of its pupils.

The school, which will adopt foundation status in September, plans to run a 32-place unit on the site, which would become its second campus, rented from the local authority on a long-term lease.

Mill Hill county, which is massively over-subscribed and outgrowing its original site, also hopes to use its new campus for some sixth-form studies.

The unit's pupils will be able to join sixth formers for vocational studies and individual students may be integrated in lessons on the main site. Church Farm's original teaching staff were made redundant.

A council spokesman said: "The new project brings many advantages. Those youngsters who can benefit will have the opportunity for inclusion, their self-esteem will be enhanced through being at a high-achieving school. Mill Hill county and the former Church Farm will together provide much better facilities than was ever possible before. Above all there will be the high level of support from the full teaching team at Mill Hill."

Alan Davison, head of Mill Hill, said that the unit would succeed by demanding the same high standards as the mainstream school.

He said: "Our new unit must have the same ethos of achievement as the rest of the school.

"These children obviously have very severe difficulties and our job is to integrate them back into mainstream society."

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