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 a preferred option to be approved by Lead Member for Education or Cabinet as appropriate.
- Submit preferred sponsor choice to the Regional Schools Commissioner for decision.
- Proposal developed with provider approved by Regional Schools Commissioner through sharing 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.
A new SEMH/ASD special school in Didcot
The Department for Education (DfE) is working with selected local authorities to establish new schools that fit within the local authorities’ strategies for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and those requiring alternative provision.
Oxfordshire has been approved to seek proposals to establish a new special education free school in Didcot, specialising in provision for pupils with complex social, emotional and mental health needs and/or autism spectrum disorder.
For more information about the county council's plans for the new school please read the educational specification for the school (pdf format, 277Kb)
The selection process is still going on.
Grove and Wantage schools
The Vale Academy Trust has been given provisional approval by the Department for Education to open an all-through (primary and secondary) school as the first phase of new school delivery on Grove Airfield. The current target date for opening is 2023. This is dependent on the progress of the associated housing development. Longer-term, another new primary school will be needed on the Airfield site.
New schools for Bicester
New schools in south west Bicester (Kingsmere development)
The second primary school is currently not due to open until September 2023.
New primary school at Graven Hill, Bicester
A new primary school is planned for the Graven Hill development in Bicester, currently expected to open in 2021.
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 is planned for Witney as part of the West Witney development. The school is currently due to open in September 2021.
River Learning Trust is the sponsor approved in principle. The school will be called Windrush Church of England Primary School.
Further details of the school can be found in the specification below