PLANS to provide Southampton with a new school for pupils with special educational needs have been unveiled.

A consortium of specialist education investors has acquired part of the former site of St Mary’s Independent School in Bitterne Grove.

The new school - Yarrow Heights - is due to open in September.

As reported in the Daily Echo St Mary's operated for almost a century before being placed into administration last spring.

Speaking at the time Royston Smith, Tory MP for Southampton Itchen, said he hoped it would reopen.

Anne Marie Carrie, chair of Yarrow Heights School and former chief executive of Barnardo’s, highlighted the rising number of school-age children with special educational needs (SEN).

She said: "The number diagnosed with acute SEN in south east England has increased 46% from 2015/16 to 2019/20.

"Most of these children struggle to cope in mainstream school settings. Experts anticipate that the impact of Covid on children’s mental health and wellbeing will also fuel additional growth over the coming years.

“Our leadership team have spent their careers in specialist children’s education.

"Yarrow Heights School is the opportunity to build a centre of excellence to be a new resource for the community."

Head teacher Karen Gaster added: “There are simply not enough high-achieving specialist schools to meet the needs of these young people."

"Yarrow Heights will offer an enhanced curriculum integrating academic and vocational learning with therapy.

"A high staff-to-pupil ratio and dedicated therapy teams will deliver the National Curriculum to achieve externally recognised qualifications, academic, vocational, and life skills."

St Mary's closed in May last year.

In a letter to parents Brother Francis Patterson, representing the governing body, said: "We share your sadness that the school has not found a way to secure its future.

"We feel especially saddened and concerned for our pupils who must now look to alternative schools to continue their education.

"While we all share a deep sadness that this chapter is closing, we take heart from the knowledge that our young people will not forget the lessons they have learned and the values we have taught them.

"We thank you as parents for the incredible support that you have given the school over the years it has been our privilege to serve you."

The new co-ed school will cater for up to 60 pupils aged 7-16.