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Approve free school in Cowley, say council officers
PLANS for a new free school in Oxford have taken a step forward after they were backed by council officers.
Tyndale Community School hopes to open in the former Lord Nuffield Club, in William Morris Close, Cowley, in September this year.
A report for tonight’s meeting of Oxford City Council’s east area planning committee recommends the application, which was submitted by Chapel Street Community Schools Trust, should be approved.
But officers also highlighted the “significant and important concerns” raised by residents over traffic issues and the loss of sports facilities.
They suggested granting permission on condition that pupil numbers are capped and local people are given access to the school’s facilities.
The free school aims to start with 60 reception pupils in two classes and expand by 60 a year until it reaches 420 pupils in 2020.
In their report, the council’s officers suggest the annual increase could be conditional on a traffic assessment being carried out.
Chapel Street chief executive Russell Rook said he was glad the plans had won officer support.
He said: “Our team has been doing everything possible to make sure we have given officers everything they need to make the fullest possible case for the school.
“We have been involved in meetings with the community and are listening to the concerns that normally arise when a building is turning into a school. Now we are working to address those concerns.
“We want this school to be an incredibly productive and positive part of the local community – serving residents as well as local children.”
The trust is currently searching for two teachers – planned to rise to 14 by 2020 – along with support staff, including caterers.
Oxfordshire NUT secretary Gawain Little said his union has serious concerns over the Government’s plans for more free schools, but had been reassured by Tyndale Community School’s proposals.
He said: “One of our major concerns is that schools open where there is no need for them, making it harder for existing schools. But that is not the case here, where there is unquestionably a need for more primary school places.
“I’ve been encouraged by their commitment to employ professional teachers and adapt their premises properly.”
Free schools are directly funded by the Government, rather than local education authorities, and are Ofsted inspected and subject to performance targets.