Work to start on Bicester’s new 600-pupil school

Work is set to begin on a brand new 600-pupil school for Bicester as Oxfordshire County Council continues to plan to meet demands for the school places in the county in coming years.

The Whitelands Academy is being built within the Kingsmere Village Community. The 5210 sqm school will have 26-classrooms, special educational needs provision including a garden, a four-court sports hall with changing facilities, external social spaces including allotments, quiet areas with a variety of trees to provide shaded areas in the summer and sports pitches for rugby, hockey and football and a multi-use games area.

Since 2011 more than 6,000 new places have been created in Oxfordshire secondary schools. Further planned changes in the 2020s – including Whitelands and a new all-through school in Grove Airfield – will see the overall number of school places created since 2011 rise to around 8,000.

Entirely new schools have been created at the Space Studio, Banbury, Bicester Technology Studio, Heyford Park Free School, Aureus School, Didcot, UTC Oxfordshire, Harwell near Didcot and the Europa School, Culham. The Swan School in Oxford will open in September 2019 with temporary buildings and permanently in 2020.

Other features at the school include a main hall linked to a drama studio, a dining area with access to a covered seating area, kitchens offices and staff spaces, provision for basketball and netball and parking for cars and cycles

The academy sponsor is The White Horse Federation.

Around 88 per cent of children and their parents received their first choice of school in Oxfordshire in 2019 despite continued rising demand for places. The county is consistently ahead of national averages for first places being awarded.

Planning ahead carefully

Councillor Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Cultural Services, said: “Our school admissions team and school organisation team do an excellent job in assessing population forecast trends and making sure we have the right school provision in place.

“Bicester is a growing town and there has been careful planning to ensure that Whitelands Academy begins its life as a new Oxfordshire school to meet new demand. I am delighted that work has now begun and I am looking forward to the school opening its doors in 2020.

“There have been a large number of school expansions and entirely new schools created in Oxfordshire in recent years and that’s down to the fact we plan ahead so carefully. We are proud of the fact that we do better than the rest of the country in terms of getting parents and their children their first choice of school.”

First class learning

Jason Brown, Director for Kier’s Oxford Office, commented: “We are extremely delighted to be working with Oxfordshire Country Council to deliver Whitelands Academy at Bicester. This new 600 pupil secondary school will open in September 2020 and provide first class learning and sports facilities for pupils in the surrounding Kingsmere community. This award further reinforces Kier’s position as the UK’s leading builder of educational establishments, delivering over 1000 spaces per week.”

Important milestone

Andrew Carrington, Director of Countryside Properties (Bicester) Limited, the developer at Kingsmere, said: ““We are delighted that construction has started on site to build Whitelands Academy. It marks a very important milestone in Kingsmere’s development. The new academy will enhance the education offering we already have at Kingsmere, firmly positioning the development as a top choice for families looking to be within walking distance of good schools. At Countryside, we pride ourselves in developing places where communities can thrive, and education is at the very heart of this.”

Centre of academic excellence

Dr Nicholas Capstick OBE, Chief Executive Officer of The White Horse Federation, said: “As the White Horse Federation, we are proud and deeply excited to be the sponsor of The Whitelands Academy.

"We have great ambitions for the school and relish the opportunity to ensure it becomes a true centre of academic excellence. This school represents our third academy in Bicester and, as with our other schools, we intend to closely involve and consult with both parents and the wider community in the lead up to September 2020 when it will open. Together, we will collaboratively develop an educational offering that meets the present and future needs of Oxfordshire and its wide-ranging communities from all walks of life.“The Whitelands Academy will feature exceptional facilities that support a broad, balanced curriculum and provide the ideal setting for an outstanding education. The learning and social spaces have been specifically designed to engage and enthral the interests and appetites of every learner, ensuring an even richer experience is on tap to the young people of Bicester.”