A NEW free school catering for vulnerable children could be open in New Milton next year.

A bid to create Eaglewood Free School, which would accom-modate around 70 children who struggle to succeed in main-stream schools, will be submitted to the Department for Education within weeks.

The bid is being led by The Arnewood School and is supported by three other secondary schools and eight primary schools in the New Forest and Christchurch area.

Arnewood has already been running a successful pilot initiative which has seen attendance levels and academic progress rise for vulnerable children.

Hampshire County Council has identified New Milton as an area of need for such a school.

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 prov-ision.

“This can include children from troubled families or young people with certain health or behavioural needs and for whom being taught in large numbers or large schools is just not suitable.

“Hampshire County Council has estimated that around 100 young people in our area are currently missing out on their education because of this – and we all want to do something about it.

“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 would provide a personalised curriculum for 70 students between the ages of seven and 16.

Several possible sites for the new school are currently being explored but it is hoped the school will be sited in New Milton.

If the bid is successful, government funding will be provided for the setting up of the school.