The school admission policy follows that of the LEA and there are a number of available places in all years at the school. Anyone wishing to join the school should contact the school office for an appointment.
The school has modern facilities and moved into new buildings in March 2007.
The school has improved from a poor starting point since opening in 2003. The number of students achieving 5 or more A* to C grades at GCSE has risen from 20% in 2006 to 49% in 2011. The opening of the separate sixth form centre with The Elizabethan Academy, effectively operating as a sixth form college, has produced A level results above the England average.
Neighbouring Lincolnshire (Gainsborough – fourteen minutes on the train) still has the grammar school system, and attracts a few applicants from east Nottinghamshire, potentially distorting Retford's schools' results.
Retford Oaks has maintained a grading of "satisfactory" in its recent inspections although with several areas classed as good.
The school was established in 2003 with the amalgamation of two of the schools in Retford. His HRH Duke of Kent formally opened the school in October 2008. In September 2009 the school was designated as a specialist sports college with its second subject being Mathematics. In September 2011 the school officially became academy as part of the Diverse Academies Learning Partnership - a collaboration of three academies, Tuxford Academy, National C of E academy and Retford Oaks.
The collaboration with the other schools is enabling Retford Oaks to move rapidly towards its target of "outstanding" by 2014.
The King Edward VI School was on London Road. It was previously known as the King Edward VI Grammar School and the oldest part of the school buildings (opened in August 1857) was designed by Decimus Burton. The Grammar School magazine was called The Retfordian. The school motto was Ex Pulvere Palma. In later years the school’s senior houses were Edward, Foljambe, Gough, and Overend. The junior houses were Bescoby, Darrell, Laycock, and Mason (all named after school benefactors).
The school usually traced its original foundation back to Thomas Gunthorpe of Babworth in 1519 although there are references to a still earlier school in the town. It was refounded around 1551 during the reign of King Edward VI. It subsequently had a chequered history, twice coming close to collapse during the 19th century. The school accepted boarders from at least the 17th century onwards, but the last boarders left in 1938. During the Second World War a number of boys from the Great Yarmouth Grammar School were evacuated to Retford (from 1940–44), and were taught in classrooms at King Edward VI Grammar School.
Headmasters of King Edward VI Grammar School
?1551 Rev. Christopher Say, LL.B., Jesus College, Cambridge
1588 Rev. George Turvyn, MA, MA, Trinity College, Cambridge [or George Turvin]
?1605 Rev Thomas Cooper, MA, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
1628 Rev. Nicholas Dickons, MA, Pembroke College, Cambridge [or Nicholas Dickens]
1638 Thomas Stacey, MA, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
1642 Rev. Thomas Dand, MA, Trinity College, Cambridge
1669 Robert Pinchbeck.
1670 Henry Boawre, MA, St John’s College, Cambridge [or Henry Boare/Henry Bower]
1702 Rev. Thomas Moore, St John’s College, Cambridge
1708 Rev. Henry Stevenson
1748 Rev. Seth Ellis Stevenson, MA, Peterhouse, Cambridge
A diary kept by Seth Ellis Stevenson between 1752-55 survives in Wigan Archives. Another diary from 1760-77 is in Nottingham University Library.
1793 Rev. William Tyre, MA, Pembroke College, Oxford
1801 Rev. William Mould, MA, Peterhouse, Cambridge
1838 Rev. William Henry Trentham, MA, St John’s College, Cambridge
Trentham resigned and died in 1842. From 1842-47 no headmaster was appointed, although the usher, James Holderness, continued to teach a few pupils
1847 Rev. John Henry Brown, MA, Trinity College, Cambridge (later headmaster of Brewood Grammar School, Staffordshire)
Following Brown's departure, no headmaster was appointed between 1850-57. Henry Clarke Mitchinson, the usher and sole remaining teacher, was acting headmaster, but his alleged harshness in corporal punishment led to various complaints and to an eventual court case.
1857 Rev. Jonathan Page Clayton, MA, Caius College, Cambridge
1866 Rev. Edward Swinden Sanderson, MA, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
1870 Rev. Frederick Richard Pentreath, MA, DD, Worcester College, Oxford
1873 Rev. Alfred John Church, MA, Lincoln College, Oxford
1880 Rev. Oliver Carter Cockrem, MA, LLD, Trinity College, Dublin
1886 Rev. Thomas Gough, BSc, FGS, London University
Gough was formerly headmaster of Elmfield College, York. Historian A D Grounds commented that "he may with justice be called the school's second founder".
1919 Charles Roland Skrimshire, MA, Merton College, Oxford
1926 Charles William Pilkington-Rogers, MA, BSc., Queens’ College, Cambridge
1950 John Charles Havelock Gover, MA, Emmanuel College, Cambridge
c1972 Tom Savage
c1978 Michael Allen
After amalgamating with the Sir Frederick Milner Secondary School in 1979, the new establishment was known simply as the King Edward VI School until the eventual second merger into the Oaks School.
Earlier there was also Retford High School for Girls on Pelham Road – a Girls' grammar school.
Before 1979, the former Sir Frederick Milner Secondary School (an all male secondary modern school) was on Pennington Walk, with around 500 boys, in the east of the town. This became part of the King Edward VI School, a voluntary controlled school, and was used as the sixth form site prior to the new Post-16 centre being opened in 2007. The former site will become residential properties. Sir Frederick Milner was the Conservative MP from 1890–1906 for Bassetlaw.
The former Retford Oaks School was on a site towards Ordsall near the former leisure centre, which was the former Ordsall Hall School on Ordsall Road (now the Post-16 Centre). This merged with the King Edward VI School in 2003 forming the current school.
Similar to five other schools in Bassetlaw (two in Worksop and one in Tuxford, Bircotes and The Elizabethan High School in Retford), the school underwent an extensive rebuilding programme under PFI funding. It was not possible to develop the King Edward VI School site as a Post-16 Centre (even though the county council wanted to), because the county council did not own the property so an entirely new site was built on Babworth Road. This site is for ages 11–16. On the former Ordsall Hall site, a new leisure centre was built (nextdoor) in January 2008 and a separate Post-16 (sixth form) Centre was built in September 2007, when the 11–16 site opened as well. Worksop has also had a new sixth form (and leisure centre) built under the same PFI contract.Anthony Barber, Baron Barber of Wentbridge, Chancellor of the Exchequer 1970-4 and Conservative MP for Doncaster from 1951–64 and for Altrincham and Sale West from 1965–74
Wing Commander Edward Barton CBE, electronic engineer and chief signals and radar officer of the RAF Pathfinder Force (commanded by Don Bennett), and helped to develop the Oboe navigation system
John Lumby Bishop, RAF Lightning fighter-pilot in Germany awarded Queen's Commendation; RAF Test Pilot at Farnborough awarded Air Force Cross; Whitehall Ministry of Defence staff officer; part of NAMMA team in Munich Germany responsible for the Tornado aircraft construction & development programme; Commander of Royal Aircraft Establishment Bedford; British Air Attache Berne Switzerland; Director of MILCO Switzerland; Headed the multi-million Inward Investment and Construction of "Marco Island" Nottingham.
John Hedley Brooke, science historian
Dr Michael Clark, Conservative MP for Rochford from 1983–97 and for Rayleigh from 1997–2001
Jon "JS" Clayden, vocalist for British musical group Pitchshifter, founder of PSI Records
Mark Clayden bassist for British musical group Pitchshifter
Doc Cox, TV presenter, notorious musician
Douglas Hay, former President of the Institution of Mining Engineers (merged with the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy in 1998), and Chief Mining Engineer from 1946–9 of the National Coal Board
Cyril Bowdler Henry, oral surgeon
Thomas Henry, founder and former President of the British Association of Oral Surgeons, younger brother of Cyril
Very Rev Richard William Herrick
H. Raymond King, educationist and Headmaster from 1932–63 of Wandsworth School (later comprehensive from 1956), and early proponent of comprehensive schools through his Conference for the Democratic Reconstruction of Education and the English New Education Fellowship
Very Rev Frank Fairbairn Laming
Robert Mellors OBE
Samuel Milner, physicist, Professor of Physics from 1921–40 at the University of Sheffield
Air Marshal Sir Alec Morris CB, Chief Engineer from 1981–3 of the RAF
John Pater CB, civil servant largely responsible for creating the NHS (England and Wales) in 1948, following the National Health Service Act 1946
John Taylor, writer
Sir Lionel Thompson CBE, Deputy Master and Comptroller of the Royal Mint from 1950–7
John Warham, photographer
Joe Wright CMG, UK Ambassador from 1975–8 to Ivory Coast, Upper Volta and Niger
Derek Randall, England cricketer.
John Lumby Bishop, see above entry under King Edward VI Grammar School; John Bishop was two years at "Sir Fred's"