NORTHUMBERLAND County Council has moved a step closer to having a new special school for secondary age young people who have autism and social, emotional and mental health needs.

On Tuesday, the county council’s cabinet agreed to begin a formal competition for a trust which would run the school, as required by the Department for Education.

After already creating additional school places at Hexham Priory School, the authority submitted a bid last October for an 80-place secondary school as part of the Department for Education’s Special Free School initiative.

Northumberland has seen a 50 per cent increase in the number of children with complex needs since 2013 and the number of children and young people in maintained special schools has also increased by 32 per cent in this period.

The proposed site for the school is on the former Princess Louise First School site in Blyth.