Parents, representatives from Banbury area schools and members of the Oxfordshire diocese heard of plans for a new free school for the town on Monday night.
Headteacher of the Warriner School, Dr Annabel Kay, led the presentation of the Warriner Multi Academy’s Trust’s (WMAT ) vision for a new Banbury secondary school that would take in its first admissions in 2020.
The proposed new school would be a Church of England secondary - the first in Banbury - and be part of the existing WMAT, which currently consists of five schools, although that could expand to six after Bishop Loveday Primary School expressed interest in joining.
Demand for a new school has been identified due to the expected rise in population and shortage of school places.
Dr Kay said: “The nearest Church of England secondary school is in Woodstock, there is no provision in Banbury. This is about parental choice.”
Currently almost 1,260 primary school children attend CofE schools in Banbury but have no option to continue at a C0fE school on leaving.
The decision to establish the new free school as CofE was one which brought the most number of questions from the public at the end of Monday’s presentation at the Warriner.
Kirsteen Roberts from the Oxfordshire diocese explained to the attendees that designating the school a CofE one would not place any admission criteria upon students and the school would be open to children from all religious and non-religious backgrounds.
The CofE designation would also place no barriers to staff recruitment and the school’s ethos would be of one of highlighting all faiths to give students the knowledge they need to choose a religion to explore further.
One audience member asked if a Cof E designation with no barriers on entry meant that the new school was not offering a choice and would be essentially the same as the Warriner.
Dr Kay explained that it was a choice and the underlying ethos of the free school would be CofE to provide a natural educational option to all those children currently under the tutelage of a CofE primary.
The presentation also outlined the vision for the new school which would initially except four forms of entry with plans to expand to six.
It would work in partnership with Banbury and Bicester College to offer vocational training in addition to focusing on languages and EBacc subjects. It would also build links to employers and create pathways to work via its vocational training and community links.
The next stage in the process will be the submission of the proposal and all evidentiary documents next month.
In May, the Department of Education will hold interviews with the key members of WMAT and partners and is expected to come back with a final decision later this year.
If given the go-ahead then the WMAT will look to employ a head of school in order to create continuity and attract the best teachers available.
The location of the new school has yet to be decided but Oxfordshire County Council has earmarked the Longford Park area as a potential spot. This, however, is close to a number of existing Banbury secondaries and may not have the infrastructure and access to become viable.
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