THE principal of Oxford’s new academy has pledged to create the city’s best school as an £8m revamp plan was also unveiled.

Oxford Spires Academy opened yesterday in the buildings of the former Oxford Community School, with pupils wearing new purple uniforms told to expect higher standards and stricter discipline.

Principal Sue Croft said within five years she wanted 70 per cent of pupils to be getting five A* to C grades including English and maths at GCSE, compared to 35 per cent in 2009 and 23 per cent in 2008.

She said the Department for Education had confirmed the new 1,050-pupil academy would receive £8m for refurbishment and the construction of a new science block and inclusion unit, with building work starting soon.

In the school’s opening assembly, Mrs Croft told pupils: “This is the first day of your new career at Oxford Spires Academy.

“Today and every day you must reach out to be the best that you can be. It is a new school and a fresh start.”

Staff told pupils there would be a strict school uniform policy and a zero-tolerance approach to ill-discipline, including expelling children who disrupted lessons. Mobile phones and MP3 players would be confiscated and hoodies and caps were banned, pupils were told.

Year Seven pupil Abdi Hassan, 11, said: “Before, everyone used to say the school was rubbish and they did not want to go there, but the principal says she can change that.

“It is a lot stricter, and that is a good thing.”

Yesterday, pupils who had failed to dress correctly for their first day at the new school were banned from attending assembly and were given after-school detentions.

Mrs Croft said: “Parents have been hugely supportive. When we met one-to-one about the uniform, I expected some of them to balk at it.

“Some of the students were not keen, but actually the parents were.

“One or two students have not got it right today, and we will be keeping them behind after school.

“Those parents are angry, but you have to take on battles and win them, and it’s a very small number.”

Children at the new academy are divided into four houses: Bannister, Earheart, Seacole and Tolkein.

Year 11 pupils will apply to become house captains and prefects, while children across the school will compete in inter-house tournaments in sport, performing arts and academic subejcts.

The school will also offer new extra-curricular activities after school and during lunch times, including gardening, archaeology and forensics.

Oxford Spires Academy is being sponsored by the CfBT Education Trust, which runs schools in more than 40 countries, supported by Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford & Cherwell Valley College.

Peers and North Oxfordshire are the county’s other academies, while plans are afoot to transform King Alfred’s in Wantage.

Sir Roger Bannister and National Foundation for Educational Research president Sir Jim Rose will formally open the school on Thursday, January 20, at 4pm.

Mrs Croft said: “There is no question that we want to be a beacon school for the CfBT Trust and the best school in Oxford.

“Today is such an exciting day. We will now see what all the hard work last term and working through the weekends have been about.”