THE Charity Commission has launched an inquiry into the school at the centre of shocking sex abuse allegations.

The regulator has launched its investigation after commission bosses said they had “serious concerns” about the way the allegations were being handled at Stanbridge Earls School near Romsey.

The commission has the power to freeze the school’s accounts and suspend its trustees or teaching staff, including headteacher Peter Trythall.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said the special school near Romsey could face closure unless “rapid progress” is made.

Allegations of abuse were made by two former pupils, with the Special Educational and Needs and Disability Tribunal hearing that a teenager had been groomed with explicit texts and was then sexually abused by another pupil.

The tribunal severely criticised the school, saying its failure to act on the allegations was “beyond the tribunal’s comprehension” while Mr Trythall’s conduct “bordered on contempt for statutory duties”.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has also confirmed that school nurse Melanie Bavington is under investigation.

The DfE has since rejected the school’s action plan prepared in the wake of the tribunal, and warned the facility it could be closed.

Although the police are in the middle of a major criminal investigation, the Charity Commission is responsible for governance at the school, which has charitable status.

The commission will investigate the administration, governance and management of the school by its trustees, including whether they have fulfilled or are capable of fulfilling their legal duties and responsibilities and in particular their ability to put together an action plan acceptable to the DfE.

Investigators will also look into the consequences for the school should an acceptable report not materialise.

The commission has not yet opened an inquiry into the school, but a spokesman said it was “urgently assessing” issues at Stanbridge Earls.

If the school’s trustees are found to have failed in their duties, the commission can impose various regulatory actions, including freezing its accounts, suspending trustees and employees, appointing new trustees and even appointing an interim manager to take over.

A spokesman for the commission said: “The Commission will consider whether any remedial action to remedy the situation is necessary.”

Romsey and Southampton North MP Caroline Nokes said investigators should bear in mind the children studying at the school for their exams.

She said: “I’m very conscious that there are 193 children at that school and a significant number of them will be taking GCSEs and A-levels in the next few weeks, and for the sake of those children I think it is imperative that there is a period of calm.

“Those children have had to work phenomenally hard to be in a position to site their exams and for their sake I think there needs to be a period of stability.

“Obviously the safeguarding of those children is an absolutely essential priority.

“I know the school are taking the situation very seriously indeed and they are working alongside a number of agencies and the DfE to make sure their action plan can be accepted.”