THE body which runs King Alfred's Academy is to apply to open a new secondary school in Grove.

The Vale Academy Trust (VAT) wants to create a 1,000-pupil free school in the village which would take children from two years old up to 16.

As a free school it would be able to set its own curriculum, choose the length of the school day and set its own staff pay and conditions.

The trust said the school could be Church of England, might focus on the sciences or could offer a "forest school program".

The one thing it will not be, if VAT has anything to do with it, is a grammar school.

Trust bosses hope the new school could open to nursery children and year sevens in 2019.

The trust, which plans to submit an application to the Department for Education at the end of this month, said it was forced to tackle the growing shortage of school spaces.

Explaining the plan to a meeting of Grove Parish Council last week, trust executive headteacher Simon Spiers said: "There is a desperate need for new schools in Grove and that need is growing rapidly.

"Anyone who knows the situation in local primary schools knows there is no spare capacity at all.

"I've been watching these figures rise year on year for the past decade and I find the numbers quite frightening."

As well as King Alfred's secondary school in Wantage, The Vale Academy Trust runs six primary schools: Charlton, Millbrook in Grove, St James C of E in East Hanney, St Nicholas C of E in Childrey and Wantage C of E.

The new school would run independently with its own headteacher and a governing body but share back office services with the six other schools.

Grove parish councillor Frank Parnell sought reassurance that the new school would not just be an extension of King Alfred's.

Councillor Bill Evans went further and expressed fears that Mr Spiers was "empire-building" and said: "I am a bit worried that the new school is going to be called King Alfred's North West or something like that."

Mr Spiers replied: "Being part of the trust there are huge benefits on the back office side of things – that still leaves huge scope for a school to have its own ethos.

"There is still so much to be decided, for example would the school be Church of England, how would we get the business community involved, the length of the school day and uniform.

"As Millbrook is different to Wantage C of E, the Grove academy will be different to anything we have got already which is why it is important to get a picture of what it will look like in the coming months."

He also stressed that he wanted the new school to be part of the "Grove community" and said he would expect it to set "aspirational academic targets for everyone following the national curriculum".

He added: "Many schools follow things like the forest school program: we want a really exciting but balanced curriculum.

"We can't ignore a focus on science in our area and we also want to focus on leadership in young people."

Finding a location for the new school would be the responsibility of Department for Education.

If this month's bid to the department is successful, the Government will appoint a civil servant to come and work on the plans locally with VAT.

While most of the details are yet to be decided, the trust said it was passionate about opening an "all-through" school for all ages.

Mr Spiers said there was a "huge need" for more nursery places in the area, particularly for disadvantage children, but he also hit out the "bizarre" barrier between the end of primary school and beginning of secondary, and said his trust wanted to "break it down" by having one "all-through" school on the same site.

However he said there were no plans to have a sixth form on the school and students finishing at the new academy would be invited to join King Alfred's sixth form.

Despite the fact hundreds of homes are being built in Wantage and Grove, no new school has opened in decades.

Oxfordshire County Council has said for years it would open secondary and primary schools on the Grove Airfield when a 2,500-home estate is built there, but the council can only build that school when it gets contributions from the estate developers and building work has not started yet.

Mr Spiers said: "In 2015 there were 2,300 primary school-aged children in this area, that is expected to rise to 3,400 by 2023.

"Secondary pupils are supposed to go from 1,800 to 2,500 in the same time."

King Alfred's Academy, which would ideally like to be taking on 270 pupils each year, took on 334 this year, he said.

Mr Spiers said: "We have agreed that we can't wait any longer.

"There is a massive looming problem and without new school places we are facing large numbers of children having to be transported out of town which would be very unwise.

"The people of Grove need to know what is happening with education in the coming years."

VAT plans to run an exhibition of its plans and ask parents for their feedback at Millbrook Primary School in Grove on Monday, September 26, from 7pm to 8.30pm.