DIDCOT’S three new schools will be run by an academy trust or Catholic leaders but not town heads, it has been announced.

A shortlist of four organisations set to run the two primaries and secondary for 1,200 pupils has been revealed.

The schools are to provide 3,800 places for 3,300 homes planned for Great Western Park, off the A4130, by 2026.

But the town’s secondary schools, Didcot Girls’ and St Birinus, are among six other failed bidders to run the schools, to be built in the new estate.

Oxfordshire County Council is considering more detailed bids, with a decision by the end of the month.

The shortlist includes Barnfield Schole Academy Trust, Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth, Glyn Learning Foundation and The GEMS Learning Trust.

In a joint statement Didcot Girls’ head Rachael Warwick and St Birinus head Alwyn Richards said: “While disappointing, it is certainly the case that both existing secondary schools will continue to work closely together in order to provide an outstanding education for the young people of Didcot. This will also entail working in close partnership with other institutions.

“St Birinus and Didcot Girls’ School continue to raise standards and, working together, we are proud to offer the families of Didcot and increasingly outside the town a unique and exceptional educational experience.”

The county council’s cabinet will decide which providers to recommend to the Department for Education, which will make a decision early next year.

County council spokesman Owen Morton said: “The expressions of interest were assessed according to how they would contribute to the raising of education standards and add diversity of choice, and which would best fit the local requirements of Didcot.

“The council received a number of very strong expressions of interest, but as with any process of this nature the above organisations were judged to be the strongest in terms of meeting the specification set out.”

One primary will open by September 2015, a University Technical College for 14 to 19-year-olds the following year and the secondary by 2017.

Oxford and Cherwell Valley College has already been chosen to run the University Technical College.


The frontrunning bidders

The Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth is bidding to run the secondary school and one of the primary schools. The charity covers Hampshire, Berkshire, Dorset, Oxfordshire, the Isle of Wight and the Channel Isles. It says it has a “common vision of the mission and purpose of Catholic education”. Its schools include Our Lady’s Abingdon independent school, St Edmund’s Primary School, in Abingdon, and St Amand’s Primary School, in East Hendred.

Surrey-based Glyn Learning Foundation (GLF Schools) is bidding to run any combination of secondary and primary schools. It is based at Epsom’s Glyn School and sixth form, fourth best in England for GCSEs last year.

Barnfield Schole Academy Trust is bidding to run any combination of secondary and primary schools. It is part of Barnfield Federation, of Hertfordshire, founded to turn Barnfield College into the first college academy sponsor to run two underperforming secondary schools and form a federation.

The GEMS Learning Trust is bidding to run the primary schools. It is part of international GEMS Education Solutions, teaching 142,000 students worldwide.