PUPILS have returned to find sweeping changes at the top of a troubled Basingstoke secondary school in a bid to drive up standards.

From Friday, 1 September, the Bourne Education Trust (BET) took over the running of Everest Community Academy, in Oxford Way, Popley.

A new trust running the school has meant a change in senior staff with principal Nick Price stepping down after three years to be replaced by Alex Russell.

It comes after Academies Enterprise Trust’s (AET) sponsorship status of the schools was re-brokered at the request of the regional school’s commissioners.

BET says it has an ‘unblemished’ track record of helping struggling schools reach their potential and it is hoped the introduction of Mr Russell, who has 13 years of leadership in education and is the trust’s chief executive officer, will get the school out of its ‘requires improvements’ Ofsted status.

A letter from Mr Russell sent to parents said: “We are excited at the opportunities this will bring not only to the trust but to the families of Popley and Basingstoke in general. We have an unblemished track record of rapid school improvement and aim to replicate this to the school.”

The Popley secondary school has had its issues in the past, with the school being graded as ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted during an inspection in Continued on page 2 February 2016, in Mr Price’s first year as principal exclusions tripled and in May 2016, a student was arrested on the premises for using a knife to threaten another student.

Basingstoke MP Maria Miller said the school has lacked the ‘right management’.

She said: “We want to see the highest possible academic standard of excellence for the children of Basingstoke. Bourne has a proven track record of raising the standards at schools, so I look forward to working close with the new heard.

“I believe Everest should be one of the top schools in the area. It is the most modern of our schools and has every resource it needs to be a great school, it just needs the right management to guide it.”

Popley West ward councillor Jane Frankum, who was instrumental in getting the school built, told the Gazette she had reservations about the school going to academy status in the first place in 2011, but hopes this change will be positive.

Cllr Frankum said: “I truly hope this is a change that the children deserve, because education is the foundation for our children’s futures and they deserve the best possible start in life.

“So let’s look forward and focus on making the school the best it possibly be.”

As well as the introduction of Mr Russell, four new assistant headteachers have been brought into the school, along with a new business manager.

Councillor Paul Miller, who is part of the Everest Community management group and a former school governor, said: “I hope the new trust go in with a soft glove rather than trying to run the school with an iron fist.

“You need to give students direction and guidance and they will follow, this is what I hope the Bourne Trust do.”

Some of the grassroots level changes which BET is looking to implement include students standing behind their chair in silence and only sitting when the teacher invites them to at the start of lessons, students can only congregate on the ground floor or outside at break and lunch time and a ‘late gate’ where if students are not on time they must make the time up at the end of the day.

In Mr Russell’s letter it added: “My team will be relentless in striving for the very best for your children but they need to play their part too.”