VULNERABLE children in Hampshire could be attending a new purpose- built school by next year.

Plans for a free school for youngsters who are not engaging with mainstream education are being submitted to the Department for Education in a bid led by The Arnewood School in New Milton.

According to those behind the bid, the New Milton area has been identified as having one of the greatest needs for a school that provides special provision for children who struggle to succeed in mainstream schools.

As a result a number of sites are being explored in the area that might be able to accommodate the new school, to be called Eaglewood Free School, should it be given the funding by Whitehall.

It is hoped the new school will be able to take in 70 pupils aged from 7 to 16.

The Arnewood School, judged outstanding by Ofsted, has already been running a successful pilot for vulnerable children for more than a year. Children’s rates of attendance and academic progress have already well exceeded targets.

The bid to create a permanent new school is already supported by three other local secondary schools and eight primary schools.

Local faith groups, business groups, and youth and community focussed charities have also formally expressed their support.

Principal designate of Eaglewood, Dr Mike Horswell, said: “This is a bid that has the collective support of many local schools to help meet a desperate need in our area.

“There are a growing number of children who are missing out on education because their needs are so specific they cannot be met through normal mainstream provision.

“Our pilot project has shown that providing a small, nurturing education environment is more suitable for these children, ensures they come to school and helps them reach their full potential.”

The school says it will offer a personalised curriculum that engages and motivates students.

The bid will be submitted to the Department for Education in May, with an opening date scheduled for 2015.