IT’S been a rollercoaster ride – but now the principal of Everest Community Academy is approaching the end of her journey at the Basingstoke school.

Julie Rose, who has announced that she will be taking early retirement at the end of the academic year, has led the school, in Oxford Way, Popley, through numerous changes since she joined in September 2007.

Despite controversy over the decision to convert the school to an academy, outside of local authority control, in 2011, Ms Rose is adamant that this was the right move.

She told The Gazette: “I have never doubted that decision to convert to an academy. I believe that our success going forward is because of the partnership we have with the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET).”

Ms Rose first joined Everest in 2007 when it was known as John Hunt of Everest School. At the time, a new £27million school was being built, and this opened in January 2008.

In September 2011, the school converted to an academy, sponsored by AET, despite opposition from some people in the local community.

The move followed a difficult year for Everest, when it was listed as one of the worst schools in the country for its GCSE results, with just 17 per cent of pupils gaining five A* to C grades, including English and maths.

Ms Rose promised parents that converting to an academy would improve standards, but in 2012 Everest became one of 195 schools in the country not to reach the Government benchmark for GCSEs, when just 34 per cent of pupils hit the target.

However, last year, 54 per cent of pupils achieved the benchmark, and Ms Rose said she feels she is leaving the school in “a healthy state.”

She added: “We got the best results last year, and are predicted to get even better in the next two to three years. The predictions are good and on an upward trend.

“Our last Ofsted, although the grading was ‘requires improvement’, judged the leadership to be ‘good’. It leaves it in a healthy state. I have, for the last nine months, been working with an Ofsted improvement advisor who is helping us on that journey. We are on that tipping point.”

Since leading Everest, Ms Rose has been living away from her Swanage home during the week, and she said she is looking forward to spending time with her husband.

She added: “I love my horses and I would like to perhaps do some dressage which I haven’t had time to do before.”

The 54-year-old said leading Everest has been “challenging.” She added: “I have loved doing it. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster, but you have to ride the highs and lows and get through it.”

A new principal is set to be appointed after Easter.

Ms Rose said: “The last few months will be emotional but I do feel I’m leaving the school in a stable position for someone. There’s never a good time to leave, but sometimes you have to make decisions for yourself.”

Ms Rose praised her staff and governors, adding: “They are very strong staff, and I think they are well-placed to take the school on to get an ‘outstanding’ grading in the future.”