A NEW Church of England primary school is set to open in Witney.

The free school, which will be located on the 1,000-home West Witney development, will be run by the River Learning Trust (RLT), in partnership with the Diocese of Oxford.

It will take on 45 pupils each year from Reception upwards and have an eventual capacity of 315 children up to Year 6, plus 39 full-time nursery places.

The cost and name of the school is unconfirmed, but Paul James, chief executive of the RLT, revealed it was unlikely to have Witney in the title.

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The town currently has two Church of England schools and Mr James revealed the trust felt the time was right to add another.

He said: “As educationalists, the opportunity to start a new school is a real privilege as we are able to learn from and apply best practice in a way that often takes a little more time to achieve in an established school.

“Three key strands for our new school will be a rich and engaging curriculum, being a fully inclusive school, and being at the heart of the new community that will grow around this school.

“We have a great working relationship with the local authority and the Diocese of Oxford and, having looked at the spread of the type of primary schools in Witney, we felt this was a fantastic opportunity to work with it on providing another Church of England school for the town."


Paul James, chief executive of the River Learning Trust. 

A primary school was included in the original application for the 1,000-home site in 2012, along with provision for possible secondary education.

Outline planning permission for permanent school buildings has been granted, while there is space to develop the site further.

The school is currently set to open in September 2020.

At the moment it is planned to be 1.5 form entry, which equates to a class of 30 pupils and another half-class of 15 children each year, but this could grow to two-form entry if required.

Admissions will not be faith-based and will help meet demand for school places on the West Witney site, plus 257 homes being built on an adjoining development on land near Downs Road.

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These are among an anticipated 4,702 new homes set to be built in the Witney sub-area, which includes the town and nearby villages, between 2011 and 2031.

Several multi-academy trusts applied to run the new school, but RLT was chosen as the sponsor and it will work alongside the Diocese.

The trust runs about 20 primary and secondary schools across Oxfordshire, including Madley Brook, Tower Hill and Witney Community primary schools in Witney.

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Barbara Chillman, pupil place planning service manager at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We recommended RLT as the sponsor due to the high quality of school provision they already deliver, both in and beyond Witney, and because of the trust’s experience of operating specialist resource provision for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, which is a component of this new school."

Jo Duckles, spokesperson for the Diocese of Oxford, said the organisation was looking forward to helping RLT deliver the first Church of England school in the west of Witney.

She said: “It will be an inclusive school at the heart of the community and will be outward looking, aiming to deliver an excellent education for all.”