A planning application to deliver a new secondary school for Oxford has been submitted to Oxford City Council. If approved, the plans will address the recognised significant shortfall in secondary places in the city from September 2019. This is part of the Government’s plan to deliver new schools where they are needed most.
The planning application sets out a masterplan for the redevelopment of the Harlow Centre site in Marston, where St Nicholas’ Primary School and Meadowbrook College are currently located. This will provide a new government-funded secondary school for Oxford, The Swan School, as well as a new state-of-the-art building for Meadowbrook College and new outdoor sports and play facilities for St Nicholas’ Primary School.
The planning application represents a significant step towards delivering much-needed new secondary school places in Oxford, a move which has been welcomed by parents in Marston and Headington. In the current academic year, these neighbourhoods fared worst in terms of students achieving their first choice of secondary school place, according to recent figures released by Oxfordshire County Council.
The submitted plans are the culmination of several months of joint working between Galliford Try, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and planners at Oxford City Council. The end result is a masterplan that addresses feedback from the local community, discussions with planning officers and design guidance from the Oxford Design Review Panel.
Graham Wilson, Senior Design Manager at Galliford Try, said “The Harlow Centre site and context requires a thorough and considered developed design and we and the ESFA recognised the importance of responding positively and decisively to the aspirations of Oxford City Council’s officers and the local community before submitting the masterplan.”
“By taking this collaborative approach, our aim is to streamline the planning process and deliver this much-needed school as soon as possible.”
The new secondary school will be operated by the River Learning Trust. Paul James, from the Trust, said: :“A great deal of thought and work has gone into preparing the designs and plans for The Swan School and we are delighted that the planning application process is under way. We are very much looking forward to opening what will be an excellent new secondary school and to welcoming our first cohort of students in September 2019.”
“We are, of course, conscious that timescales in planning are difficult to predict and that as a result our new school building may not be quite ready in September 2019. We are putting contingency plans in place to provide temporary accommodation, before students move across to what will be a fantastic new learning environment.”
In addition to the new secondary school, the masterplan also includes a new building for Meadowbrook College. The school, which provides a safe learning environment for young people who have struggled in mainstream education, currently operates from the aging Harlow Centre building on site and recently won plaudits from Ofsted for the “tireless” efforts of its specialist staff.
Headteacher at Meadowbrook College, Nicola Partridge, said “We are excited at the prospect of our young people having a brand new, bespoke building which will enable us to further enhance our existing excellent provision”.
St Nicholas’ Primary School will also be given enhanced all-weather outdoor play and education facilities in exchange for land to create a dedicated new road access to the new school. This will ensure that access to The Swan School does not have a negative impact on residents living in neighbouring streets.
Paula Philips, Headteacher at St Nicholas’ Primary School said: “It is great that all parties are working so well together in this process. We are keen to do our very best for all children in the area and we are hopeful about the future possible opportunities for further collaboration and development across the schools.”