ONE of Oxford’s leading independent schools is to sponsor three Blackbird Leys primaries.

The Dragon School, in Bardwell Road, will be the lead sponsor in a newly formed multi-academy trust with all three of the estate’s primaries, Orchard Meadow, Windale and Pegasus, set to come under its umbrella.

While there will be no financial investment from the Dragon – former pupils of which include Harry Potter actress Emma Watson, comic Hugh Laurie and poet Sir John Betjeman – the three Leys schools will be able to use the school’s science, art, music and sporting facilities, while Dragon teaching staff will develop initiatives within the new academies.

Dragon School chairman of governors Chris Jones said: “It is a big responsibility and quite a daunting thing to take on but we feel we, together with our partners, can really help to build on what these schools are already achieving.

“We would not claim what we can contribute is based on a close knowledge of those communities, it is based on a commitment that we have to great teaching and great learning.”

Family Links and the educational charity Hamilton Trust will also be co-sponsors and the intention is for the schools to become academies in April 2013.

The Dragon was approached by the Department for Education and the local authority and asked to consider sponsoring an academy.

It has been working with Pegasus for a number of years on various initiatives, along with six other state schools in and around Oxford, and Mr Jones described it as a “natural step” to consider working with the other Leys schools.

The news comes shortly after Windale Primary School was given a glowing Ofsted report and rated “good”.

Both Orchard Meadow and Windale were previously told they would have to become academies after failing to meet Government floor standards at Key Stage 2.

Windale headteacher Maureen Thompson said: “I am disappointed the school is being forced into becoming an academy because very clearly the trends were all upwards, but the decision has been made and we have to work together to move forward so children in our community get the best possible chances.

“One of the most important things is that we work together and help each other, and we have lots of skills we can share.”

In its most recent Ofsted, good and outstanding teaching was highlighted and Mrs Thompson’s drive, determination and motivation of staff were praised.

Orchard Meadow School is currently in special measures, while Pegasus has a good rating.

No-one was yesterday available for comment from either school.

Mr Jones added: “A lot of our enthusiasm for this comes from what has been an enormously productive relationship with Pegasus now over several years.

“It’s not about a bunch of people from the private sector marching in and saying we know how to do this better, it’s about various charities helping schools by setting up a trust and allowing those schools the freedom that being an academy offers them. All those schools have achieved a lot, often under quite difficult circumstances

“It’s our job to try and help them do more, not do it for them.”

  • THE Dragon School was founded by a group of Oxford University dons in 1877 for their own children.

It is a fee-paying independent day and boarding school for four to 13 year olds. Fees cost £8,340 per term for boarding and £5,830 per term for day pupils.

Parents can register their children any time from birth onwards, with preference given to children of staff, former pupils and siblings.

Those joining the school aged six or older need to sit an assessment. There are between 15 and 20 children per class.

  • Windale Primary School opened in 1995. There are 335 pupils on roll, and of those, one in four have special needs. The proportion of those who speak English as an additional language and those eligible for the pupil premium are above national averages.
  • Orchard Meadow Primary School went into special measures in September this year following an inspection in June. The school has 296 pupils, with an above average proportion of those with special needs or disabilities.
  • Pegasus is the largest of the three schools, with 445 pupils. A very high percentage are eligible for free school meals and the proportion of those with special needs and or disabilities is well above average.