THE Diocese of Oxford has set up a trust to allow church schools to convert to Academies under its umbrella.

The diocese has 281 schools, including 120 in Oxfordshire.

But education director Anne Davey said not all schools were expected to convert – and it was not planning to set itself up as a rival to the local authority.

Mrs Davey, who will be among the directors of the newly-formed Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust, said: “We have no intentions to replicate the functions of a local authority, we are here to work differently but effectively with our schools.”

John Henry Newman School, in Littlemore, Oxford, looks likely to be the first academy in the new trust, with consultation due to come to a close today.

If governors at the school, which recently came out of special measures, decided to go ahead, it would convert in September.

Cumnor Primary School and Wheatley Primary School – the former recently went into special measures and the latter has just been told it no longer requires extra support – are also consulting, with a view to converting in the new year.

Two unnamed high-performing primaries in the county are about to begin consultation and a further three are in early discussions.

Oxfordshire’s only Church of England secondary school, the Marlborough School in Woodstock, is consulting on becoming a stand-alone academy.

Mrs Davey stressed no school would be forced to convert or join the multi-academy trust. She said: “We are offering it to people rather than telling them it is the only way forward.”

She said the diocese was working closely with the Roman Catholic dioceses of Birmingham and Ports- mouth, other multi-academy trusts, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council.

The diocese has been discussing the plans since October.

The Diocesan Board of Education will appoint most trustees, with the rest coming from governors and headteachers of the schools.

Joan Morters, headteacher at Wheatley Primary School said feedback so far was positive.

She said: “There will potentially be quite a lot of schools in the trust so the expertise over the next few years will build quickly and become quite extensive.”

Academies are state-funded schools run independently from local authority control.

They have powers to set staff pay and conditions, the curriculum, term length and school days and manage their own budgets.

Old-style sponsored academies were set up to replace underperforming schools. Sponsors could be anything from religious groups to businesses.

Converter academies are schools which are performing well which have opted out of local authority control and are run by academy trusts.

Funding goes direct to academies from the Government.