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 School Organisation and Planning 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 approval for The Gallery Trust to open two new special schools, one in the north of the county and one in the south. Bloxham Grove Academy is expected to open in January 2024, and a further special school in Faringdon is expected to open in 2026.
Grove and Wantage schools
The Vale Academy Trust has been given approval by the Department for Education (DfE) to open an all-through (primary and secondary) school on Grove Airfield called St Johns C of E Academy. The primary phase opened in September 2023 with the secondary phase anticipated to open in September 2025. 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. Further new schools are planned for the development in NW Bicester, but the timescales for these are not confirmed.
Graven Hill Primary School opened in the Graven Hill development, Bicester, in September 2023 and is run by The Warriner MAT
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 (one of which opened in 2023) 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.
Sires Hill Primary Academy opened in September 2023 and is run by Omnia Learning Trust.