West London Free School leaders plan ‘academically rigorous’ school in Oxford

West London Free School leaders plan 'academically rigorous' school in Oxford

Two assistant headteachers from Toby Young’s West London Free School are planning a free school in Oxford.

Laura Mathews and Wade Nottingham have confirmed their involvement in Powerful Education, a project intending to open an 11 to 18 free school in Oxford in September 2017 with an intake of 120 pupils.

But doubts have been cast on the project after Oxfordshire County Council said it already had plans to cover an anticipated shortfall of school places raised by Ms Mathews as one of the reasons for the project.

She told Schools Week: “We both felt there was a real need in Oxford for a free school, in terms of the provision requirement – we are offering an academically rigorous curriculum – but also in terms of the huge problem that 40 per cent of places are currently allocated at private schools.

“We have spoken to a chap at the county council and they have said that by 2017 there will be a shortfall in secondary school places that will need to be covered.”

But Oxfordshire County Council spokesperson Paul Smith said: “We’re not expecting any shortfall of places by 2017 – we have plans in place to meet anticipated demand.

“The county council supports the idea of academies or free schools. The only caveat would be to say that we prefer to see free schools located in parts of the county where there is demand to be met and where there will not be a consequent negative impact on existing schools.”

Ms Mathews said the new school, if approved, would not operate “under the umbrella” of the West London Free School or its trust, but that a partnership between the two establishments would be formed.

She said: “We don’t see us as being completely separate from the trust and we would hope there will be a partnership in terms of academic provision.

“We won’t fall under the umbrella of the trust.”