CHERWELL School Academy Trust wants to open a brand new free school to deal with increased demand for places across the city.
The Trust will apply to the Government for funding to open a new secondary free school in September 2017 which would take on 120 pupils per year.
The move comes after more than 100 children within the Cherwell School catchment area missed out on a place – with the final place going to a child just 1.4 miles from the school. The furthest home away from the school but in the catchment is about 3.5 miles.
Headteacher Paul James said: “It’s a combination of more and more pupils applying for places and the increasing population in Oxford. There’s a need now across the whole city.
“It made us realise that if we expanded Cherwell by 30 pupils a year as we had planned that wouldn’t meet that need or even the need of our own catchment area.”
Funding for the school’s own £8m expansion plan was turned down by the Department for Education.
Mr James said an expansion of some sort could still be a possibility in the future but that a new Free School was currently the best option.
Discussions with Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council will take place to determine the proposed school’s possible locations.
If successful, it would have a separate headteacher, separate governing board and be on a separate site.
Mr James said: “The new school would benefit from a close working partnership with The Cherwell School and there is an opportunity to share expertise.”
In March, plans for another free school were unveiled by a group of teachers from West London.
The group, calling themselves Powerful Education, also wants to open up a school within the city boundaries.
Mr James said: “I think it’s fair to say there won’t be the need for two schools.
“The Department for Education will have to make a decision and we hope that parents will support our application.
“With our strong record of success and the demand for places we believe parents will recognise that our proposal is the best option.”
Oxford City Free School steering group member Robert Howaston said: “We welcome the news that Cherwell School is leading a bid to open a new free secondary school in Oxford alongside our own proposal.
“It seems they now agree with the case we have been making. Oxford needs a new secondary school and the best route to secure it is via the free schools programme.”
Cherwell School said the proposals also have the backing of all the city’s secondary schools.
Head of Cheney School Jolie Kirby supported the plans.
She said: “City schools enjoy the benefits of close partnership working and I can see how this local addition would further expand our ability to offer the provision parents needs.”
Oxfordshire County Council board member for Education Melinda Tilley said: “I’m very excited about it. It’s a really good idea.
“It will help the demand for school places and also it’s such a good school and if they can expand to more children then fantastic.
“I’ve told them I will support them fully and write to the Secretary of State if necessary.”
DfE spokesman Robert Cooper said: “Free schools are an important part of our plan for education and we welcome all applications from interested groups.
“Cherwell School was unsuccessful in applying for funding under the Condition Improvement Fund as it did not meet the rigorous criteria.
“All unsuccessful applicants are offered feedback.”
What are free schools?
FREE schools are state-funded schools independent of local authorities and funded by the Government on a per-pupil basis.
They are governed by non-profit charitable trusts that sign funding agreements with the Secretary of State. To set up a free school founding groups submit applications to the DfE.
Proposals in areas where schools are most needed are prioritised as well as the educational expertise of those submitting the plan.
If successful the Trust will receive a Project Development Grant to set up the school (roughly £300,000) and then a further £500 for each place created as well as £200,000 for every year.
Between 2010 and 2015, more than 400 free schools were approved for opening in England.
Oxfordshire has three free schools – Tyndale Community School in Cowley, Europa School in Culham, and Heyford Park Free School in Upper Heyford – but Cherwell’s new one would be the first secondary-only school.