HOUSING growth in the county is expected to soften the blow as three of the counties major army barracks are set to close.

More than 200 pupils could be forced to leave their Oxfordshire schools as St David's Barrack in Bicester, Vauxhall Barracks in Didcot and Dalton Barracks in Abingdon are shut.

School heads say the saving grace is the hundreds of homes that are being built in the county that will bring in new families and help fill that gap.

Oxfordshire County council cabinet member for education Steve Harrod said: "It is very difficult to predict the impacts of these changes with any accuracy, and the proposed closures are of course more than 10 years away.

"However, there is a small number of schools with relatively high proportions of service family children, which, in the immediate aftermath of base closures might expect to see substantial drops in pupil numbers – unless other factors lead to a growth in the school age population to compensate."

Towns have been left saddened by the government move announced earlier this month to sell off the three army bases to help make cuts of up to £140m by 2040.

The closures in Oxfordshire will not take affect until 2028 and 2029 and school head say new housing will help combat the drop in pupils.

Nearly half of the 378-pupils at Five Acres Primary School headteacher in Ambrosden, near Bicester, are children from service families of 1 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps.

Headteacher Darrell Wood said: "In September 2015 we entered 107 new children across all age groups as the new regiment moved in to St David's Barracks from Germany.

"Then another 30 children between April and July and roughly about 20 children this September as the army staggered the move.

"Service children form about half of our school, so it is quite a significant number.

"But any closures are quite some way into the future and we get great information through our close links with the MoD about any planned development in the army."

The headteacher said thanks to these close links there has been no need for a 'knee-jerk reaction' and they will continue to work together over the next 12 years.

He added: "Although St David’s is closing there is likely to be more families in this area than there are now as I think they are expanding the DEMS regiment at St David's Barracks.

"Bicester is also such a growth town with lots of new homes being built so there will also be a lot of civilian changes in the area also."

Teachers have also said the loss of pupil premium, as much as £300 per pupil, will be counteracted by the expected influx of new students over the next ten years.

About 52 service children are at Larkmead School in Abingdon, headteacher Chris Harris said: "We have always had good relationship with the barracks in that sense it will be quite sad to no longer work with them.

"Planning is a little way off and by 2029 a lot will have changed in terms of the Local Plan with another 900 homes in the area.

"In that sense the demographic will have changed and you probably won’t notice as much, although that is not to say it isn’t significant but you have to view it in light of the local plan."