Swan School Development

Below is a compilation of information, documents, downloads and links regarding the proposed Swan School in Old Marston and the response to it. We will keep adding more over time as we receive it.

First Contractors Announced September 2017

The ESFA have announced their Selected Panel Member. In other words, the contractor chosen to go to the next stage of the process. The selected contractor is Galliford Try. In a statement issue by them…

Galliford Try, working in partnership with Corde Ltd, are delighted to have been successful in being appointed the Selected Panel Member for the delivery of The Swan School in Oxford for the River Learning Trust.

The project will be delivered through the Galliford Try Building Southern business unit, who have a strong track record of successfully delivering Free School projects via the ESFA Contractors Framework in the South East. Galliford Try will be supported on the project by Corde Ltd, who will be providing a fully integrated design service through their local Oxford office base. Corde brings together the collective expertise of architects ADP, M+E engineers KJ Tait and structural engineers AKS Ward. The company is currently working on a mixed-use development at Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire for the Dorchester Group, and has delivered a number of schools across the region.

The project is now moving into design development, working in collaboration and consultation with Oxford County Council planning department, local stakeholders and River Learning Trust over the coming weeks and months.

We are pleased that progress has been made and that we can move forward into the consultation period. This important stage involves consultation not only on the building, carried out by the contractors, but also on the nature and policies of the school, carried out by River Learning Trust.

We will be announcing consultation details very shortly.

Meeting 26th June


These meetings will cover a range of issues including:

We will also set out our plans for seeking to hear and respond to local needs in creating the education and pastoral plans for the school, how the proposed catchment area and admissions rules will be consulted on and set, and the overall vision for the school.

In the week beginning the 12th June we will publish an extensive list of Frequently Asked Questions as well as providing a weblink by which members of the community can submit questions in advance of the meetings.

We look forward to seeing members of the local community at these meetings.

*Please note that for safeguarding reasons at the 3.30pm meetings you will be required to sign into the schools and bring some form of identification, as children will still be onsite during these times. Please also note that at the 3.30pm meetings there will be no available car parking. Should you have particular access requirements please contact us in advance on office@riverlearningtrust.org

Correspondence with County Council

Dear Stewart Wilson

Many thanks for your prompt reply.

Of course I am aware of the Headington Access project and it will certainly help in some instances, especially replacing the roundabout at Marsh Lane/Cherwell Drive with lights which can control the flow of assymetric traffic in the morning and evening, also for pedestrians and cyclists.
Alas, it cannot do anything about the single -lane Headley Way, Marsh Lane and Marston Ferry Roads.
We accept that we cannot make traffic disappear but what we can do is not to add to the problems with yet more traffic!
Swan School will add more traffic and I don't know how you can mitigate against that.

You have a difficult job to do.

Thanks again. I look forward to hearing from.

Best wishes
John C Batey
Chair. OMPC

Quoting "Wilson, Stewart - E&E" <Stewart.Wilson@Oxfordshire.gov.uk>:

[Hide Quoted Text]

Dear Mr Batey

Thank you for your email of 6th March 2016, which sets out the concerns of Old Marston Parish Council related to the proposed Swan School and the potential traffic and access implications of this.

Firstly, as you may already be aware, in June 2016, the County Council approved highway works, as part of the 'Access to Headington' project, for Headley Way and Cherwell Drive that includes junction upgrades, new and improved cycling routes, additional pedestrian crossings and public transport improvements. These works form part of longer term proposals, as set out in the County Council's Oxford Transport Strategy, to help tackle existing and future transport pressures on the network, including addressing some of the more specific issues raised in your email.

In terms of the proposed Swan School, then I can confirm that to-date highway officers at the County Council have only had very early discussions with the DfE and their transport consultants. Further work and discussion is therefore required with the County Council, as highway authority, before potential transport and highway impacts can be fully understood and considered including identification of any mitigation and access improvements that might be required should a planning application come forward.

As with all developments, the County Council will need to be convinced that a proposal can operate in an acceptable and safe way and that any transport and/or highways impacts are fully appraised and appropriately mitigated against.

Kind regards

Stewart Wilson

Principal Transport Planner - Oxford Locality
Localities, Policies and Programmes

Oxfordshire County Council|County Hall|New Road|Oxford|OX1 1ND
Tel: 07801740354|Email:

Did you know that Oxfordshire County Council has implemented pre-application charging? Find more details here<

Sent: 06 March 2017 16:21
To: Cllr David Nimmo-Smith<mailto:
Cc: Cllr Ian Hudspeth<mailto:
Subject: Proposed Swan School

Dear David,

You will remember that you and other members of Cabinet received an email from Old Marston Parish Council just prior to your decision to
sell the Harlow site to DfE for £1 to enable a new school to be built there.

Firstly, I want to emphasise again the frustration and anger felt by
this community as to the lack of transparency surrounding this
project, with none of the parties involved giving our council the
courtesy of any information whatsoever.

Moving on, we now have to face the implications of how such a school
will impact on our neighbourhoods and the overloaded road system,
which is why I am writing to you.

* It is quite clear that using Raymund Road and the narrow lane to the
Harlow site for access is not only highly impractical but would also
be dangerous because of the entrance to St. Nicholas Primary School
(over 400 pupils) at the junction of the above.

* This leaves the only access point available to be one from Marston
Ferry Road at a point crossing the hedge, a very busy cycle lane and
footpath, at the north end of the primary school field next to the
boundary hedge. This would gain access to the current buildings and
presumably the site of the proposed buildings.

* Marston Ferry Road is on the south-east/north west arterial route
from/to Headington/JR hospital (Headley Way), junctions with Marsh
Lane from A40/Marston Road (Cherwell Drive) and city centre/Banbury
Rd. (Marston Ferry Rd.) with which you will be familiar because of
daily chronic traffic congestion.

* Currently, traffic leaving A40 at Marston interchange queues on the
A40 trunk road (soon to be affected by Barton Park crossing) at peak
morning times (7.00am until ??) and enters Marsh Lane. Most of this
turns left and queues in Headley Way (I have seen this still at a
standstill as late as 11.30am because of full car parks at JR).
Traffic turning right will queue in Cherwell Drive and Marston Ferry
Road because of the effect of Cherwell School entering, when it is
almost possible to walk the length of the road as quick as a vehicle.
I have regularly seen morning traffic backed-up from Banbury Rd. to
Headley Way, preventing right-turning traffic from Marsh Lane (and
thus all of Marsh Lane) moving forward, Marston Rd. and Oxford Rd.
both unable to access the arterial route - and gridlock at JR
roundabout at the SE end.

* These are just some of the effects of routes through Old Marston to
the schools in Headington,the hospital,Cherwell School and the city
centre that happen here every day. And all of this before the Barton
Park development produces more traffic at Marston interchange.

* With the proposed school site on the same road and just a few
hundred yards from Cherwell School, can we now ask what plans and
transport strategy you can present to the people of our community to
deal with the extra traffic and parking produced by 1260 pupils and
'over 100' staff drawn from other parts of Oxford and beyond?
We all wish to know.

We look forward to hearing from you,

Yours sincerely

John C Batey
Chairman. OMPC

Questions Put to CEO of RLT

Below are two questions put to CEO of River Learning Trust by Chairman of Old Marston Parish Council, John Batey, together with replies from the Educational Funding Agency in relation to the proposed Swan School. This is dated Wed. 8th March 2017.

Whether EFA have actually made a decision to accept the Harlow site and/or whether it has been agreed with the County Council:

The HCS is our preferred site following an extensive site search. This approach has been discussed and agreed with OCC as well as the local planning authority. The final decision is still subject to finalising the purchase of the land and securing capital funding, however, as well as securing planning permission to build a new school on the site.


Where we can see plans for the development which are rumoured to be in existence?

We are currently in early conversation with Oxford City Council planning authority on the draft concept design proposals. This is currently in  early draft format and will be shared more widely during public  consultation planning events on the Swan School. The dates for these public events will be confirmed in due course.

Response of City Councillor Mary Clarkson

Dear John,

I¹ve spoken to the planners and my understanding is that the EFA(Education Funding Agency, the developer side of the DfE) have decided on the Harlow site and the County Council have sold the site to them for £1, on the basis that the EFA will spend £25m on building a school there, thus saving the County the expense of building on existing sites, since expansion doesn¹t attract DfE funds. It¹s a very restrictive funding regime and one which obviously doesn¹t result in the best long term decisions. Our planners are now waiting to receive planning applications, which will automatically go the East Area Planning Committee - no need for call-in.Given the scale of the plans I would hope that the EFA will arrange proper public consultation and might even come along to speak to the Parish Council. I¹ve never had to deal with them before so I have no idea how responsive they are to local concerns.

Best wishes


On 23/03/2017 10:31, "chairman@oldmarston-pc.gov.uk"
< chairman@oldmarston-pc.gov.uk> wrote:


Hope you are all well.

Having heard nothing to the contrary, I assume we are still waiting for DFE to decide finally on Harlow site (?)
I hope you can all keep an eye on this at your level and inform us as soon as you hear of any movement towards planning. I have written to
Nimmo-Smith about the serious traffic implications. Had a long, neutral, reply from one of his officers - but at least it is on county's radar now. Incidentally, with a new layout for parish council meetings in the hall, can I ask you all to use the chairs where members of public sit
as there is just enough space (when all present) to seat parish councillors.

Look forward to seeing you all later.

Best wishes
and thanks for all your interest in parish affairs.


Other Information and Links


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Some Correspondence from HMN Forum

 It is true the City Council has not taken an official position  on the Swan School but the utterances of the council's deputy leader Linda Smith does indicate where the council's sympathies lie. Cllr Smith in an unprovoked Twitter attack on April 28 chastised me for opposing the school being located at the Harlow Centre site. As I recall Mary, you joined your colleague in criticising my opposition. Attached is also a Labour leaflet handed out in Headington Hill and Northway expressing support for the school. Oddly, a similar leaflet was not given to the residents of Marston who would be affected by the plans for the school.

The County Council is aware of the opposition of Oxford Conservatives to the school being sited at the Harlow Centre.

The plans I viewed at the recent exhibition (which was supposed to be a public meeting) did nothing to persuade me, or indeed most people there, that the traffic and parking chaos most people are predicting, wouldn't occur.

There should be no fence sitting on this issue. You either say you don't support the current proposal for the Swan School and let the City Council know clearly where you stand or you say you accept the proposal and be accountable to the residents of Marston when the traffic chaos arrives. Had the elected representatives of the people of Marston stood united against these plans in the first place, they would not be moving forward at this point and a better location would have been seriously considered for this school, which, I agree, is needed in the city.

Mark Bhagwandin

    On Friday, 6 July 2018, 00:28:46 BST, Mary Clarkson <p-maryclarkson@forums.e-democracy.org> wrote:  


 Sorry- I pressed send too soon. I meant to say that while the County were glad to see the site sold and get somebody else to solve the problem of shortage of school places, the City Council has not taken a position on this application. Indeed during the pre-application stage our Planning Officers have pressed the developers hard on the design of the building; its relationship to the Green Belt and the access issues.

What evidence have you got, Tony, to support your claim that the City Council want this school built regardless?

Mary Clarkson (Cllr)

Marston Ward

Oxford City Council

[Hide Quoted Text]

On 5 Jul 2018, at 23:46, Mary Clarkson <p-maryclarkson@forums.e-democracy.org> wrote:

I don’t think it’s true to say that both County and City Councils want this school built. Certainly the County sold the site for £1 and are glad that


On 5 Jul 2018, at 15:45, Anthony Greenfield <anthony.j.greenfield@gmail.com> wrote:

                                                PUBLIC MEETING

                                            ST NICHOLAS SCHOOL

                                          MONDAY 9TH JULY 2018

                                            6.30PM FOR 6.45 START

Both of our councils do not act for the good of the residents and people who will be greatly affected by this proposal. Apparently, they already know what is good/best for us regardless of our concerns and comments.

The Swan School has no underpass to separate cyclists/pedestrian from vehicles

driving across one of the countries busiest cycle tracks. Unlike The Cherwell and St Nicholas who did have underpass's incorporated in their design. Health and Safety?

Now, during the planning procedure, is the time to provide an underpass for the Swan, not after incidents have taken place. Wringing of hands after the event will be far too late!

So many have objected to this unprofessional design because they are concerned. Our two councils want this school to be built regardless and hope all the ensuing problems will sort themselves out. WRONG! They have it their power to halt this project until all safety amendments are included and met with.

Cyclists and those affected please unite!

Quite rightly the residence of Carters Estate know that their roads are to be used for access to Meadowbrook College and St Nicholas School and now a dropping off point for The Swan. Ask yourself, would I queue on Marston Ferry Road or nip on to the Carters Estate? There will be parking all day, as not enough parking has been included within all three schools. St Nicholas teachers already park all day. So with a total of 2,150 pupils and staff it is going to be dreadful. So much for dissuading travel by car into City.

In attendance at meeting will be:

Cllr. Mary Clarkson

Cllr. Mick Haines

Cllr. Mark Lygo

PCllr. Duncan Hatfield

Hopefully they will listen and take on board, our concerns about what is to happen

if school is passed in its current proposed form. Mary Clarkson actually sits on the

East Oxford Area planning Committee and she, amongst others, has the power

to halt this development until safety and environmental conditions are

amended fully and met. Don't hold your breathe!

To all of you that care, see you there.

Tony Greenfield

Darren makes good points on how the consultation stages should be used. It appears that genuine safety concerns may be viewed as negative protest rather than intelligent input in the process by our local authorities and other interested parties?

The community, when asked for input, rarely see their views being adopted or even considered. Consultations are then viewed with scepticism and trust is lost. I've seen councillors swap wards at election time once they've burned their bridges with their old electorate.

Our councillors should be able to raise concerns while continuing to support a project, or is this deemed as negative behaviour by the majority party?

Looking at the Swan website, it makes clear the catchment area is not exclusive to Marston, Northway and Barton Park; the intention to cover Oxford. Does this mean local children will lose out like they've done at nearby Cherwell? This will only add to the amount of traffic if parents are having to drive across town to do the school run.

Maybe it's time to change the way consultation is undertaken with local residents and to give local concerns much more weight in the process. Currently it's too difficult for residents to effect meaningful and positive change on these projects.

Pat Hartigan

The Swan school and its proposed site is a very divisive issue in Marston but I disagree Mark  with how you have set up the debate as either you are for it and take responsibility for traffic chaos or against it.  Surely the point of the planning process is that some changes can be made to the plans to ameliorate the traffic problems.  Of course local city councillors have been supportive of the school (whilst recognising the traffic concerns and problems) because every time they talk to any resident in Marston with school aged children they come up against completely DESPERATE parents.   This is not a remotely contentious position for them to take but a realistic one. I cannot emphasise enough how incredibly stressful it is to have this awful situation year after year where children are split up from friendship groups and siblings to be sent all over the city.  This school has got to be built otherwise children will literally have nowhere to go to school  - there is simply no alternative.  

This site,  problematic though it is,  was the preferred site out of many options and therefore it isnt really a realistic expectation that local councillors would have stood united to force the school into a less favourable site further away from the area with the greatest need for school places in Oxford.

Naomi  Wiinnifrith

Marston , Oxford

Naomi is right: the Swan School is a very divisive issue, with an acknowledged need that children in the Marston and Northway area find it hardest of all the children in the city to get a place at a school close to where they live. At the same time, the Harlow Centre site presents huge challenges in terms particularly of traffic congestion and cycle safety as it will involve a road crossing one of the safest and most heavily used cycle tracks in the county. It is precisely to try to reconcile these two issues that I and others spent a lot of time exploring other alternative sites back in 2016. I think Mark Bhagwandin was busy standing in Headington Hill and Northway Ward and fighting the Barton link road at the time so was presumably preoccupied with that. The site which we identified as best placed to meet the needs of children across the whole city (including those in South Oxford who also struggle to find places at nearby schools) was Osney Mead, a site belonging to Oxford University but due to be redeveloped in the next few years. I made the case for this at the County Council’s Cabinet meeting on 21st February 2017 (address attached below). Sadly, all nine Conservative Cabinet members chose to ignore the case I made and went on to sell the Harlow Centre site to the Educational Funding Agency for £1. From that time onwards, it was clear that the case for Osney Mead had been lost and that the only responsible course of action for me as a local councillor was to work with all parties to see whether the Harlow Site could be made to work.

It’s quite clear that there are conflicting opinions about the merits of this application across both the Labour and Conservative parties locally: The County Council has been determined to press ahead regardless but with Conservative Cllr Suzanne Bartington, the County’s Cycling Champion and Mark Bhagwandin expressing concerns. Equally, within the Labour Party some councillors, such as Cllr Linda Smith believe that the problems families face getting into a secondary school of first choice should take priority over increased traffic congestion while others are more worried about whether Marston can cope with the additional traffic and are worried about compromising the safety of cyclists. When she voiced her opinion, she did so in a personal capacity. Just because she is deputy leader of the City Council does not mean that she was speaking for the Labour Group. Since planning is a quasi-judicial process and there is no party line on planning applications, this is not unusual. That is why it isn’t odd that Labour candidates in different wards have a range of opinions on this, since their electorates will have differing opinions too. Mark thinks that there is only one position which a councillor listening to the electorate can take. I disagree. I think that it is perfectly reasonable for a councillor to come down on either side of the debate because the numbers of  residents who feel strongly about this issue are fairly equally divided between the two sides.

Planning procedure is very clear that councillors who sit on planning committees are to approach planning applications with an open mind. Any councillor who has declared themselves in advance of the meeting to be in favour of or against a particular planning application is considered to have fettered their discretion and is therefore debarred from taking part in the decision making. I do not think that Mark understands this. If he did, he would not be accusing me of fence sitting. I would rather wait until all the details are finally discussed in public before making my decision. It might have been very tempting to make opposition or support of the Swan School one of my election pledges. But had I done so, I would have made a promise I would have been unable to keep as I would then have been unable to vote on one of the biggest planning applications in the Marston area for several years.By all means accuse me of fence sitting if I decide to abstain when it comes to the vote, but it would be premature to do so now.

Finally on the Twitter debate with Cllr Linda Smith:  It centred around what the catchment area would be for the Swan School. I joined the debate specifically on the proposed catchment area and challenged Mark on his belated support for the Osney Mead option, fifteen months after the decision had been made.

Mary Clarkson (Cllr)

Sorry- I pressed send too soon. I meant to say that while the County were glad to see the site sold and get somebody else to solve the problem of shortage of school places, the City Council has not taken a position on this application. Indeed during the pre-application stage our Planning Officers have pressed the developers hard on the design of the building; its relationship to the Green Belt and the access issues.

What evidence have you got, Tony, to support your claim that the City Council want this school built regardless?

Mary Clarkson (Cllr)

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