Admissions and Catchment area
Will the catchment criteria be different for the first year to take into account the location of the temporary site?
No – the catchment area and admissions for the first year will be the same as for all subsequent years. Where the admissions policy refers to proximity to the school, this means to the final school site in Marston, not the temporary site.
Where can we find admissions and catchment area information?
Admissions criteria and a detailed map of the catchment area are published on the website here: http://theswanschool.org.uk/apply/ . The catchment area for The Swan School mirrors that of The Cherwell School, with some minor additions and expansion. There are no plans to change the catchment area for The Swan School or The Cherwell School in the foreseeable future.
Behaviour expectations and uniform
What are you doing to make sure the uniform is affordable?
We are currently sourcing our uniform supplier and value for money is an essential requirement in how we are approaching this process. More information will follow later in the year.
Has the uniform been finalised yet – eg will the girls get to wear cardigans?
We have not yet finalised the rules for uniform but we will ensure that it is smart, affordable, and practical or a busy school day. More information will be provided at the open evening and on the website thereafter.
Will you be allowed phones in school?
Phones will not be allowed for use during the school day. Students are welcome to bring phones to school, for example to ring parents on the way home, but they must be switched off and be away in lockers or bags between 9am and 4.45pm.
Will there be detention?
Yes, where required – this will take place before or after school. However, because the expectations of the school will be so clear, students will be very clear about how to avoid detention – basically by working hard and following instructions. Integrity will be one of our most important values so we will use a ‘restorative’ approach to behaviour management – rather than just being punished, students will be taught to understand why their behaviour is not acceptable and how to make better choices in future.
Buildings and accommodation
Will there be a school bus?
There is unlikely to be a dedicated school bus for The Swan School, but the site is close to various bus routes, including 13, X13, 14 and 14a.
Will the toilets be gender neutral?
In line with successful modern school design we will provide separate boys’ and girls’ toilet cubicles with an adjacent gender neutral toilet, promoting safe and monitored behaviour in the combined common area. This is an approach that has proven to be very popular with both staff and students in other schools.
How eco-friendly will it be?
The school is set in a beautiful natural site, and this has been very much reflected in the design of the school. The building will meet high standards of efficiency and passive design, with maximising a positive environmental impact being considered at every stage. The landscape design includes substantial replanting of bio-diverse species of trees and hedgerow, as well as incorporating meadow mix green roof areas to encourage insect and wildlife habitat. The finished design shows a higher ecology rating than exists currently. The school is making use of ground source heat-pump technology and whilst solar panels (PVs) are not installed at the initial build stage the roofs are being constructed to allow this in due course.
Will it be a phased opening (when you start in the new buildings will you have access to all or just part of the building)?
Experience in other new-build schools suggests that a phased opening is likely on a project of this size. This means that a restricted area of the school buildings will be used by the school on opening, whilst the remainder of the site is being completed. This is a common approach, and will not disrupt the quality of education provided.
Facilities at the school
What sort of computer equipment will you have?
The Swan School will have up-to-date computers and IT equipment available, including computer suites, high-quality wireless, and wireless devices available for student use.
Can students bring in a laptop or tablet?
We are alert to the role of information technology in education, and at this stage we have no plans to see all pupils equipped with a laptop or similar device, rather we will use school-owned technology in school as fits with lesson requirements. As such, as the school opens students will not be able to bring in laptops. However, if there is a genuine educational reason why they are needed – for example a special education need for an individual which means that a laptop is required, or if required for the sixth-form curriculum in due course – then, of course, this will be allowed.
Is there a swimming pool?
No – unfortunately not! But we are reasonably close to the Ferry Sports Centre, and will aim to use their facilities when appropriate.
Where will students keep their bags etc?
Each student will have access to a locker on site, and will be able to store possessions securely during the school day.
Lessons and the School Day
Will students be able to leave the school grounds?
No – students will not normally be able to leave the school grounds at lunch or break time. An exception will be for sixth-form students, who may need to attend some lessons elsewhere.
What is structured play?
Structured play means that lightly supervised activities are provided at lunchtime, and students may choose which to take part in. Activities will include options to relax and chat to friends, sport and use of the library or computer facilities. It is useful to arrange play in this way, so that all students – including those less confident in sport, for example – feel comfortable taking part in enjoyable activities every day.
What is a family lunch, and can we bring a packed lunch?
A ‘family lunch’ means that all students and members of staff will eat good quality food together. The concept will help teachers and students to get to know each other better, to talk, and to make sure the atmosphere in the school is always happy and positive. Because it is a shared dining experience, packed lunches will not be allowed; instead, staff and students will enjoy a range of nutritious and tasty meal options. There will be religious and vegetarian options on the menu.
What will be in the electives, and can you change them regularly?
Electives will be changed every one or two terms. We don’t know yet exactly what will be on offer, but are planning a variety of exciting options, including sport, drama, music, art, games and hobbies, and languages such as Latin and Greek. We will encourage students to choose a range of electives to broaden their interests and develop their skills in different areas. If a reasonably sized-group of students show interest in an activity which isn’t currently offered, we will look to include it as an elective for future terms. Every attempt will be made to include small group electives where there is sufficient enthusiasm and interest from students.
Why have you decided to go for a longer day?
The longer school day has three main purposes. One is that it will help create more time in the day for sport and the arts – such as drama and music. The second reason is that it will be used to give children time and space to complete independent work – they will have less to do at home, and can complete ‘homework’ in a place where they can get help and support. The third reason is that the extra time can be used for ‘catch-up’ if a child has missed learning because of illness, or if they haven’t understood it yet. This means that all children will learn quickly and deeply, and no-one will be left behind.
All students are expected to remain in school for the longer day. If there is a particular reason why a child has to leave school early – for example involvement in elite sports training – this may be facilitated as appropriate following discussion with the school.
Links with The Cherwell School
Is there a link between The Swan School and The Cherwell School?
The Swan School and The Cherwell School will have strong links, because they are geographically close and are both part of the River Learning Trust. This means that there may be some shared teaching and use of facilities, particularly at sixth-form level. The schools will also work together on teaching, curriculum and assessment to learn from each other and ensure that students receive the best experience possible.
However, it is important to note that The Swan School will very much have its own identity, values and ethos. Students and staff will be proud to attend or work at the school.
Role of Parents / Monitoring Success
When will you get inspected first by Ofsted, and how will we know that the school is doing well?
The first full Ofsted inspection will take place in the school’s third year of opening. Prior to this the DfE sends education advisors to the school to review how well the school is doing. The River Learning Trust also has a school improvement team that will work with the school to secure the highest possible standards and we will be communicating to, as well as consulting with, parents about how the school is doing.
When will the governors be appointed?
Some of the Governors will be appointed in the spring/summer of 2019, with parent and staff governors elected in September 2019.
I want to find out about the experiences of parents who have sent their kids to brand new schools. Can you put us in touch with them?
We are in touch with several recently opened free schools, having visited their premises and talked with staff and students. If there is sufficient interest, we will be happy to put prospective parents in touch with parent organisations at these schools.
Is there a role for founding parents?
A strong sense of partnership between the school and parent/ carers is fundamental to the vision for The Swan School. Therefore, we would be very interested in encouraging and facilitating a PTA group, which has the potential to be particularly influential in the early years of the school.
What are the sports facilities like?
There are plenty of facilities for sport, including a brand new sports hall, football, rugby, athletics and cricket pitches, outdoor table tennis and basketball, and a good quality multi-use games area for netball, hockey and others. They will be used regularly during PE, electives, the extended day and at break/lunchtimes. Students at The Swan School will lead active, healthy lifestyles, with sport playing a big part of this.
Will there be matches against other schools at sport?
Absolutely – regular competitive sport (both in school and with other schools) will be a regular feature of the school.
Teaching and the Curriculum
How are you going to recruit staff? Isn’t it a leap of faith for them to apply?
Being involved in the opening and early years of a brand new school is a fantastic, unique career opportunity for teachers and leaders in schools. We are very confident that the school will attract strong fields of applicants, allowing us to appoint staff of the highest calibre. The experience at other schools in this situation has been that recruitment is not an issue.
Will you make sure that students who are struggling will be looked after?
Absolutely. We believe that each and every student has the potential to achieve and learn quickly and securely. Where students are struggling, our SEND team, alongside the full commitment of the teachers to successful, inclusive classroom practice, will ensure that progress is supported. Another key advantage of the extended day is the ability to help students catch up if they have fallen behind, e.g. through absence or difficulties in grasping learning first time.
Will students have to go to other schools to do less common GCSE subjects?
In a school this size, we will be able to provide a broad range of GCSE options. Where students may be drawn to less commonly provided options, we will take a flexible and positive approach to facilitating this where possible.
What will homework be like?
Homework and independent study will have a key role in helping students to learn quickly and grow good habits of organisation and a disciplined approach to work. Therefore, students should expect regular homework. Some of this can be completed in structured conditions due to the extended day. We guarantee that all homework will be valuable and worthwhile, with no ‘filler’ or pointless activities set.
Will you be sharing teachers with other schools in the early years or will teachers teach non-specialist subjects (ie. a history teacher teaching geography)?
Teachers in the early years may teach more than one subject, but only when we are able to guarantee that their subject knowledge and confidence in delivering the curriculum is excellent. Senior leaders will teach much more than is typical in the early stages, ensuring that students will have ample access to experienced and highly accomplished staff. We will pride ourself on providing the highest quality professional development for staff to help ensure that student are provided with the best possible learning experiences.
What size will the classes be?
Class size will vary by subject. A typical classroom-based subject, such as English, maths, science etc will be approximately 30, with teaching in smaller groups for some practical subjects such as design and technology.
At what point will you have a detailed curriculum?
Detail of curriculum subjects will be made available via the website in the early part of 2019. This will include detail on subjects taught, streaming, homework and class sizes. The curriculum and teaching will be largely traditional, with challenging academic content and high expectations of effort and learning.
The Cherwell School
The Swan School will be a new and different school, separate from The Cherwell School. A partnership between the two schools will develop and can include the sharing of best practice and where appropriate for both schools, sharing sharing staff and resources. The proposals for the Sixth Form are still under review, but some of the A level teaching may involve some lessons being taught at The Cherwell School. The Swan School, like The Cherwell, will also benefit from collaboration with other secondary schools in RLT.
St Nicholas’ Primary School
The access to St Nicholas’ Primary School is not expected to change as part of this programme. Primary and secondary schools being adjacent to one another usually brings educational advantages for both schools. Primary schools in particular should benefit from some access to secondary specialist facilities being so close. We are working with Oxfordshire County Council and the Local Planning Authority to explore suitable access options for the Swan school to minimise impact on its surroundings, including St Nicholas’ Primary school and other local residents. St Nicholas’ Primary School is also benefitting from some new sports facilities as part of the process of designing a masterplan for the three schools involved in this project.
Meadowbrook College which currently occupies the Harlow Centre Site is benefitting from a new building as part of The Swan School programme on the site. The new Meadowbrook College building will be clearly separated from The Swan School with a notable distance and clear boundary between the two buildings and will continue to have its current access route from Raymund Road which will not be used by The Swan School.
Both The Swan School and Galliford Try will be running public consultations and we would love you to come along to these to learn more and to share your views. Details of these will be added to our timeline on a regular basis and send them out to all on our mailing list. If you would like to join our mailing list please fill in the form at the bottom of this site.
We have developed a ‘timeline’ as part of this website. This is the best place to go to find out what will be happening, where and when. It is a mixture of very accurate dates and times which we add as soon as they are available to us and more general dates for the process as it moves forward.
We will send out and updates to this to all on our mailing list. If you would like to join our mailing list please fill in the form at the bottom of this site.
The build project is funded directly to the contractor (Galliford Try) from the ESFA.
The River Learning Trust are provided with a project development grant to support pre-opening activities, the spend of which is monitored by the ESFA. When the school is opened it will be provided with usual school funding to run the school.
Funding for The Swan School cannot be allocated for use by any other RLT school.
Admissions and Catchment
The school will admit 120 pupils in 2019 and 2020, and this will increase to 180 from 2021 onwards, subject to receiving approval from the Regional Schools Commissioner. As such, the school will be designed to accommodate 1,260 pupils (180 in each year group from Year 7 to Year 13, ages 11-18). The distance from the school will be a key factor in the admissions rules.
You can find out more in our Admissions Document
The Swan School catchment area broadly overlays The Cherwell catchment. At present there is no intention to change The Cherwell School’s admissions criteria as a result of The Swan School.
Traffic and Travel
Our students and staff will largely arrive by cycle or walking, supported by public transport and access the site via a new access road off the Marston Ferry Road. We will produce a full travel plan for the school including cycling and pedestrian routes during 2018.
We will add details of these to this website and send them out to all on our mailing list. If you would like to join our mailing list please fill in the form at the bottom of this site.
All planning aspects of Traffic and Travel will be addressed by Galliford Try as part of the planning process.
The Education Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA) have to choose and approve the site for the school. They carried out an extensive search for sites in Oxford and due to a severe lack of sites, it took a long time to identify a suitable site. This is why the school opening had to be delayed from September 2017 to September 2019. The Swan School did not open in temporary accommodation because the ESFA only allow schools to do so in exceptional circumstances, and under certain conditions. In the case of The Swan School, it was decided that it would not be appropriate as there are sufficient spaces in the current school system until the new planned date of opening.
Buildings, Planning and Traffic – Galliford Try
Galliford Try have been chosen by ESFA as the developer of the site and buildings for The Swan School and Meadowbrook College. They are designing the buildings (in consultation with ESFA and The Swan School), managing the planning process (including traffic management) and eventually managing the construction as agreed through the planning process. They will be holding public engagement meetings in early November and will also develop a website to share relevant information.
We will add details of these to this website and send them out to all on our mailing list. If you would like to join our mailing list please fill in the form at the bottom of this site. In the meantime, to find out more about Galliford Try, please visit their website www.gallifordtry.co.uk.