STAFF at a specialist school for children with autism have left their posts without warning due to a proposed restructure.

Portfield School, run by the charity Autism Wessex, has invited staff to apply for new roles.

They have refused to reveal whether there will be compulsory job losses, how many staff are affected or how many new roles there will be.

And they said the move is not motivated by cost-cutting.

One parent said her son was shocked to discover his teaching assistant was leaving without warning on Friday.

She told the Daily Echo: "The children become very attached to the staff and form a strong bond with them.

"They have small class sizes and spend a lot of time with the teaching assistants. My son was very upset to find out she was leaving."

The parent, who does not wish to be named, added: "I think it is wrong that there was no warning. The children need time to adapt to something like this."

A spokeswoman for the Parley school said a confidential consultation is under way and refused to reveal the numbers of staff involved.

She said: "“Portfield School’s main priority is ensuring the highest standard of happiness, safety and wellbeing of its students and staff. "We understand that news of this process might be unsettling for staff affected, but our long-term aim is to drive up standards, continually improve performance and achieve the best possible outcomes for our students. Due to the confidential nature of the current restructuring, we are unable to make further comment."

In a letter to parents, acting head Jemma Dudgeon said: "A number of new roles have been created to integrate more effectively learning, Positive Behaviour Support and therapies. These senior roles are exclusively available to the individuals involved as career development. "Some members of this group have chosen not to apply for the role or any others within the charity. Therefore, a small number of the group requested to conclude their redundancy consultations early and asked to leave immediately. We accepted their requests."

She said the new roles will be based across a phase, rather than within a specific class.

And she added: "This has not been a hasty decision nor is it taken lightly, it is about the development of new standards and a more positive culture within the school. It is a continued investment in the school and contrary to rumours, there is no element of this process whatsoever which is due to cost cutting.

"The process of consultation is still continuing and is likely to last for another couple of weeks. A number of colleagues have applied for roles and many have been selected for interview for these exciting opportunities. I will communicate the outcomes to you before the end of term. I strongly believe that this is a really positive move forward for the school."