THE FIRST pupils at a controversial new Oxford secondary school will spend at least a year in temporary classrooms next to Cherwell School's car park.

The initial intake of 120 Year 7 students at the eventual 1,260-pupil Swan School will be taught in cabins on playing fields at Cherwell's south site from September while the Marston school is built.

Paul James, chief executive of the River Learning Trust, which is in charge of both schools, said a delay in getting planning permission could mean the arrangement lasted beyond a year but the trust was 'striving hard' to limit it to 12 months.

Set to replace the Harlow Centre off Marston Ferry Road, the scheme was initially rejected by city councillors in September who cited damage to the Green Belt and road safety concerns, before the decision was called in and reversed last month.

A delay could mean 240 Swan pupils being taught on the Marston Ferry Road playing fields, which were proposed by opponents of the Harlow Centre site as an alternative location.

Mr James said: “We believe that the decision that has been reached is the best possible outcome for the overwhelming majority of concerned parties."

He added the trust was 'delighted' with the location as it was close to the permanent site for The Swan School.

Students will be based in temporary buildings, according to Mr James, because Cherwell does not have adequate space, and he said it would allow the new school to 'fully embed its own identity'.

Mr James said it was 'currently anticipated' that this arrangement will be in place for the duration of The Swan’s first year, adding: "With the planning process having taken longer than we had hoped, we also have plans in place just in case, with the possibility that this could need to extend into the second year before students move across to the new school buildings in Marston.

“Of course, all parties involved in the project will be striving hard for the temporary arrangement to be as short as possible but we will also plan for all eventualities to ensure that we are able to continue to provide an outstanding education for our students.”

The trust head has written to parents of prospective pupils explaining the decision and said more details would shared in the next few weeks.

The Swan School, which will be the first new secondary school built in Oxford since the 1960s, is planned to create much-needed pupil places.

The school’s opponents queried the county council’s claims that the school was needed in Marston and suggested that it should be built elsewhere - in Barton Park or on the Cherwell playing fields.

But there has also been support for the new school, with 1,000 parents signing a petition in favour of the plans following the initial rejection by councillors.

Cherwell headteacher Chris Price, in a letter to parents this week, said plans were in place to limit the impact on his pupils.

He said: "The small area planned for use is currently used after school hours by the school and community for sports clubs and these will be re-provided for elsewhere on the school field.

“As part of The River Learning Trust, we do feel that our school, with its long record of success, should play a supportive role at this moment, otherwise a whole group of young people, who are also part of RLT, are likely to have a very difficult transition to secondary school.

He added: “Our priority is and always will be The Cherwell School’s students and between now and the end of this period we will be working to ensure it is business as usual for them.”

A planning application will now be submitted to Oxford City Council for the temporary buildings.