UNCERTAINTY about the opening of Oxford's new Swan School has finally been stamped out after the funding deal was signed.

The 1,260-pupil secondary school can now definitely open in September as planned, as today the Department for Education officially approved the funding agreement.

Until now, parents of the first 120-pupil cohort were still unsure if the place allocated to their child would come to fruition in time. 

The final hurdle was cleared this afternoon when officials signed off on the deal, meaning the River Learning Trust has gained formal government approval to open the school. 

Oxford Mail:

Paul James, CEO of River Learning Trust, holding the agreement today

The free school received planning permission for its site at the Harlow Centre in Marston last autumn.

ALSO READ: Building work starts at Swan School in Marston

In February it was also given permission to run from temporary cabins at The Cherwell School in Summertown for at least a year, while building works are completed on its permanent site.

Work started on the Marston site last month, but the school did not have formal permission to open until the DfE signed a document known as a Funding Agreement.

It means that parents of pupils allocated a place can accept it and turn down the back-up place reserved for their child at another school, in case it fell through. 

The Swan School’s founding headteacher, Kay Wood, said she was delighted the period of uncertainty had come to an end.

Oxford Mail:

Kay Wood. Picture by John Bellars/Orange and Blue

She said: "It is wonderful news. This is a vote of confidence from the DfE in our ability to deliver an exceptional new school for Oxford.

"We were incredibly confident it was going to open, but it is one thing reassuring people, and quite another being able to tell them it is definitely going to happen.

"I understand why people might have had niggling doubts and I understand how frustrating and unsettling this has been.

"We can tell people ‘don’t be concerned’, but we are not the ones having to worry about where our child is going to school.

"Parents should be reassured that the planning for the first year is not just starting now – it is well under way. We have key staff appointed and everything is very much on schedule.

"We are on track to hit the ground running in September, in terms of creating a school that everyone in Oxford can be proud of."

ALSO READ: Meet the deputy head set to join the Swan School

The news has also been welcomed by Oxfordshire County Council

Lucy Butler, the authority's director for children’s services, said: "The county council, the River Learning Trust and parents across Oxford have been awaiting this news so that everyone has certainty as summer approaches.

"We are delighted that the agreement has now been signed and it is all systems go for the Swan to open its doors in September."

In case the Swan School fell through, successful applicants were also given back-up spots at other schools, allocated by the council.

Parents spoke to the Oxford Mail last month of the 'farcical' offers their children faced if the Swan failed, in schools as far as Abingdon and Witney.

READ AGAIN: Some Oxford pupils land school places 13 miles away

Ms Wood said: "We are particularly pleased for the parents who were offered a place at The Swan but were not offered a back-up place at one of their preferred alternatives – and in some cases were allocated a place at a school outside the city."

The Department for Education told the River Learning Trust last week that the funding agreement had been signed 'in principle' - with no assurance as to what that actually meant.

In response to a parliamentary question asked by East Oxford MP Anneliese Dodds yesterday, asking when the deal would be signed off, parliamentary under-secretary of state for education Nadhim Zahawi repeated that the deal had been agreed 'in principal.'

He added: "My officials informed the chief executive of the trust of the Secretary of State’s decision on March 28, and we agreed with the headteacher of the Swan School that these parents could be informed."

This morning Ms Wood emailed Swan School parents reassuring them that the trust did not intend to keep the agreement quiet, rather wait for word that the deal had indeed been signed.

She wrote: "We felt that it was not helpful to let you know this last week. In fact, we felt it might actually be irritating and add to your sense of frustration.

"For some time we have been telling you that the signing of the Funding Agreement is a technical matter and the decision to fund the school was effectively taken a while ago. The DfE's statement did not move this on."