At least 30 new schools planned as county council plans meticulously to meet growth in pupil numbers
Around 30 new primary and secondary schools in Oxfordshire are at various stages of being planned as parents of Oxfordshire children are being assured that the county council is meticulously planning in to the future to make sure that there are sufficient school places in the county looking forward to 2022 and beyond
Current projections show an increase in secondary school pupils of 19.3 per cent in coming years and a 5.7 per cent rise in the number of primary school pupils.
The county council has a strong and consistent track record of forward planning that has seen the number of parents receiving their first choice of primary or secondary school at around 90 per cent for many years – consistently above the national average.
Barbara Chillman, Service Manager in Pupil Place Planning at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The birth rate peaked in 2015 and is now declining once more – but it remains higher than the levels experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. However there are other factors to take in to consideration when planning ahead for school numbers – these include migration, rapid growth in house-building and troop movements in a county that has high levels of military employment.
“Each of these factors and others are monitored very carefully – not just at the level of the county as a whole but also in each town and village. It is this method of working that has meant so many parents have been able to receive their first choice of school despite all of the recent changes.
“Our forecasts are updated annually and are based on school census data, population forecasts – which include planned housing development – and recent patterns of parental choice. One of the county council’s over-arching aims as an organisation is to work to ensure every child gets a good start in life and school place planning is a key part of that.”
Changes in recent years to keep up with demand
Forward planning in previous years has seen a number of changes in Oxfordshire that have ensured sufficient pupil numbers are in place at Oxfordshire schools – giving parents their best chance of receiving their first choice.
Since 2013 Oxfordshire has seen the opening of a new SEN school in Oxford, two studio schools and a University Technical College, two all-age schools, a secondary school and five primary schools. These mark the start of a prolonged programme of new schools planned for Oxfordshire.
Future demand and plans to deal with it
Current pupil projections show a 5.7 per cent increase in primary school pupil numbers and for secondary pupil numbers a 19.3 per cent rise is predicted between 2017/18 and 2022/23. Longer term there is expected to be further growth due to the high levels of house building planned.
Schools planned to deal with this are as follows:
- Swan School Oxford (Secondary) – opening 2019
- Whitelands Academy, South West Bicester (Secondary) – opening 2020
- Banbury, Southam Road (Primary) – opening 2020
- Bloxham Grove (Special) School North Oxfordshire (7-19 age) – opening 2020
- Barton, Oxford – (Primary) - opening 2020
- West Witney – (Primary) - opening 2020
- North East Wantage (Primary) – opening 2020
- Graven Hill, Bicester (Primary) – opening 2021
- Grove Airfield (2-16 age) – opening 2022
- South West Bicester – (Primary) – expected opening 2022
- Didcot Valley Park (SEN school) – expected opening 2022
- Didcot Valley Park (Two 2 form entry primary schools) – opening date dependent on housebuilding
- East Carterton (Primary) – opening date dependent on housebuilding
- Salt Way, Banbury (Primary) – opening dependent on housebuilding
- North Abingdon (Primary) opening dependent on housebuilding)
- Didcot North East (Two 2 form entry primary schools) – opening dependent on housebuilding
- South East Bicester (Primary) – opening dependent on housebuilding
- North West Bicester (Two or three more primary schools) – opening dependent on housebuilding
- Grove Airfield – (Primary) – opening dependent on housebuilding
- Didcot North West Valley Park – (Primary) – opening dependent on housebuilding
- Banbury – (Secondary) – opening dependent on housebuilding
- Witney north/east – (Primary) - opening dependent on houebuilding
- Chipping Norton (Primary) – opening dependent on housebuilding
- Eynsham (Two or three primary schools) – opening dependent on housebuilding
- Witney (Secondary) - opening dependent on housebuilding
Further new schools are expected to be needed as a result of the high levels of growth now proposed in Local Plans. Proposals so far consulted on would require further additional new schools in areas such as Woodstock, Abingdon, Harwell, Kingston Bagpuize/Southmoor, Culham, Berinsfield, Chalgrove and Abingdon.
Where schools are required as a result of housing development, the government expects developers to fund their construction, and the county council has a strong track record of securing developer funding.
As of September 2018, 95 per cent of Oxfordshire secondary schools, 42 per cent of primary schools and 44 per cent of special schools are academies. Academies are not accountable to the county council and receive their budget directly from central government.
School places are no longer therefore solely provided by the county council and the council must work with other providers to ensure that the need for school places is met.
School Place Plan
The county council has a legal duty to ensure that the correct number of school places are available. It has not been legally obliged to produce a School Organisation Plan since 2004 – however it continues to do so in an open and transparent way.
Key statistics from the report
- The number of primary pupils on roll at Oxfordshire’s mainstream schools rose by 237 or 0.5 per cent between 2016/17 and 2017/18 continuing the slow-down experienced in recent years. Reception numbers fell by 3.6 per cent
- Year 7 numbers grew by 2.6 per cent continuing the increase in demand for secondary school places as the increased birth rate feeds through.
- Total secondary school pupil numbers are now also growing strongly – by 2.1 per cent between the academic years 2016/17 and 2017/18
- Current pupil projections show a 5.7 per cent increase in primary pupil numbers and for secondary pupils a 19.3 per cent rise is expected between 2017/18 and 2022/23.
Very detailed planning
Barbara Chillman added: “This level of planning is needed to make sure the number of school places is delivered in the right places and in the right numbers. Difficulties do arise and we try our best to respond. We have a dedicated team at the county council to oversee this work and they play a crucial role in looking ahead to future years and updating planning.”