The two technical schools were part of central Rotherham’s tripartite system of secondary education. Students leaving primary school would take the Eleven plus exam. Those who showed strong academic ability would go to either Rotherham Grammar School if they were male or Rotherham Girls’ High School if they were female. Those showing an aptitude for technology would attend one of the Oakwood Technical High Schools. The remainder would attend South Grove Secondary Modern School or Spurley Hey Secondary Modern School. Rotherham was unusual in that it fully implemented the tripartite system; many areas did not build technical schools, making grammar schools or secondary modern schools the only options available.
In 1960, Rotherham scrapped technical schools. Therefore, the Oakwood schools dropped their ‘Technical High’ tags and became known as Oakwood School for Boys and Oakwood School for Girls. The schools were now semi-comprehensive and took students from the immediate area, rather than those with an aptitude for technology from the whole of Rotherham. The top 12% of students, however, still went to the grammar schools.
In the mid-1960s, central Rotherham moved to a fully comprehensive system, with everyone attending their local school, which was now fully mixed in terms of both ability and gender. As a result of this, the Oakwood boys’ and girls’ schools amalgamated and became simply Oakwood School on 1 February 1967. As part of the reforms, the school lost its sixth form to the new Thomas Rotherham College, which occupies the former Rotherham Grammar School’s buildings. There was much controversy about the loss of the sixth form and some staff resigned from the school as a result. Rotherham Girls’ High School also lost its sixth form and became Clifton Comprehensive School. South Grove and Spurley Hey secondary moderns, which were already 11–16 schools, also became comprehensives, though both have since closed.
The school was renamed Oakwood Comprehensive School in 1975. For many years, it had separate uniforms for boys and girls, though a single uniform was introduced in the 1970s.
In 1987, the neighbouring South Grove Comprehensive School closed, which extended Oakwood’s catchment area further towards the town centre.
In 1991, the school shortened its name to become simply Oakwood School again (though the word ‘Comprehensive’ remained in its official title) and introduced a more modern uniform consisting of shirts based on the new school colours of red and blue. A separate long-sleeved black shirt for Year 11s was introduced much later.
The school was awarded Technology College status in 2001 and changed its name to Oakwood Technology College on 1 September of that year. A new Science department, which looked out onto the main road, was completed in 2002.
The school introduced vertical tutorship in September 2005, with forms organised into five houses named after trees: Aspen, Beech, Larch, Rowan and Willow.
At the beginning of the school’s 2012–2013 academic year on 25 June 2012, Oakwood Technology College rebranded itself Oakwood High School. The school’s colours were changed from red and blue to blue and grey. In addition, a new school logo was introduced, dropping the oak tree that had been used for 21 years. A new uniform, consisting of grey (black for Year 11) jumpers/cardigans, white shirts and house ties, was also phased in. From September 2015, a black blazer was added to the uniform.
On 1 December 2013, the school converted to academy status.
Oakwood was used as a filming location for the BBC adaptation of David Walliams’ Billionaire Boy, broadcast on New Year’s Day 2016. The school was used as the set of Ruffington High School, with filming taking place in October 2015. Some of the school’s students and staff played extras.
The school underwent a complete rebuild between January 2015 and July 2016 under the Government’s Priority Schools Building Programme. (The school was previously set to be re-built under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme between 2011 and 2013, but this was abandoned in 2010 when the Government cancelled the entire BSF scheme.) The new three-storey building opened in September 2016.
In preparation for the new building opening, the school switched from six 50 minute lessons a day to four 75 minute lessons a day. The house system was also overhauled, with the number of houses being reduced to four. The new houses are all named after local landmarks: Boston, Hoober, Keppel and Wentworth. As under the old house system, each house has its own tie.
Despite originally being two schools (and therefore having two headteachers) and being open for over 60 years, Oakwood has only ever had five headteachers. The longest-serving headteacher, David Rigby, completed 19 years, while even the shortest-serving headteacher, Frank Dixon, amassed over 14 years. The average tenure of an Oakwood headteacher is a few months over 17 years.