The 2011 Education Act says that all new schools are expected to be academies, including special types of academies such as free schools, university technical colleges (UTCs) and studio schools. This means that they are not run by Oxfordshire County Council (OCC), but by independent multi-academy trusts.
These trusts can be set up by a wide range of organisations, including religious groups, educational specialists, employers, charities and community groups. Existing academies can apply to run new schools. In some cases, instead of opening new schools, additional places can be provided by expanding existing schools.
The county council will not run new schools but has two roles in their creation.
- Planning for and securing sufficient school places: the county council is responsible for negotiating sites and funding for new schools.
- Deciding who will run the schools: the new schools could be run by organisations which already run schools in the area – for example, local outstanding academies or the church dioceses – or by organisations new to Oxfordshire. The county council recommends a preferred sponsor but the final decision is taken by the Secretary of State for Education.
Interested in opening a new school
Organisations interested in opening a new school in Oxfordshire are welcome to contact our academies team for information and advice.
The government has provided guidance on a bidding and selection process to choose which organisation(s) will run the new schools. In Oxfordshire, the process for new schools is:
- Undertake a public consultation to identify the academy model to be implemented.
- Invite initial expressions of interest in running the school.
- Assess expressions of interest and then invite detailed bids from three or fewer providers to show clear plans of how they will contribute to the raising of education standards, add diversity of choice and which best fits the local requirements and meets the needs of those within groups offered specific protection under s149 Equality Act 2010.
- Assess bids against criteria and rank in order of preference. Agree on a preferred option to be approved by the Lead Member for Education.
- Submit preferred sponsor choice to the Regional Schools Commissioner for decision.
- The proposal is developed with a provider approved by the Regional Schools Commissioner through sharing the vision of community, county and sponsor.
The Secretary of State will only consider entering into a funding agreement with an approved sponsor. (The DfE's approved sponsor list can be accessed from the education.gov.uk website )
Potential proposers who are not already known to the DfE are advised to contact the DfE at the earliest opportunity, and certainly before submitting a formal process to the county council.
New SEMH/ASD special schools
The Department for Education (DfE) has granted provisional approval for the Gallery Trust to open two new special schools, one in the north of the county and one in the south.
Grove and Wantage schools
The Vale Academy Trust has been given provisional approval by the Department for Education to open an all-through St Johns C of E (primary and secondary) school as the first phase of new St Johns C of E school delivery on Grove Airfield. The current target date for opening the primary phase is 2023, and for the secondary phase, 2024. Longer-term, another new primary school will be needed on the Airfield site.
New schools for Bicester
A number of new schools will be needed to serve Bicester’s housing and population growth. A new primary school opened in 2018 and a new secondary school opened in 2020.
The next new primary school for Bicester is planned for the Graven Hill development and is currently expected to open in September 2023.
The Warriner MAT is the sponsor approved in principle.
Further details of the school can be found in the specification below:
New primary school for Witney
A new primary school to serve the West Witney development opened in September 2021, sponsored by the River Learning Trust. The school is called Windrush Church of England Primary School.
New schools for Didcot
Oxfordshire County Council is planning additional school capacity strategically across Didcot to meet the needs of the recent and planned housing growth. This includes a number of new schools:
- Two new primary schools, a secondary school, and a University Technical College opened between 2015 and 2018 in the Great Western Park development to the west of Didcot.
- North East Didcot is planned to include two new primary schools and a secondary school.
- Up to three primary schools and a special school are included in plans for further development to the west of Didcot.
The next new primary school for NE Didcot is Sires Hill Primary Academy with the school expected to open in September 2023.
Omnia Learning Trust is the sponsor approved in principle.
Details of the new school are set out in this specification (pdf format, 855Kb)