A BASINGSTOKE secondary school is bidding to set up a sixth form – but the plan has already come under fire. 

Everest Community Academy is applying to the Secretary of State for Education to start a sixth form at the school, in Oxford Way, Popley.

The school, which is part of the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) charitable trust, began a public consultation last October, expressing its intent to expand the academy and open a sixth form in September next year.

Julie Rose, principal at the school, said: “We have received significant response in favour of a sixth form. Our key stakeholders have also shown overwhelming support for the proposal, including academy sponsor AET.”

Several other AET schools also run sixth forms, including Millbrook Academy, in Gloucester, which “requires improvement” and Sandown Bay Academy, on the Isle of Wight, which is “inadequate”, according to Ofsted.

Ms Rose, who retires at the end of the school year, said the vision for the sixth form is to “offer students high-quality teaching and a curriculum that will enable them to aspire to higher education and professional career opportunities. The sixth form will be a catalyst to further raise the aspiration and achievement of students.”

A document prepared for the consultation, stated that a unique selling point of the sixth form would be “narrow curriculum with depth of quality.” The school plans to attract 150 students to the sixth form by 2017.

The document states: “No other secondary school currently offers sixth form provision in the local area.”

However, the plans have been criticised by the leaders of two Basingstoke colleges, who claim there is no need for a sixth form at Everest, as the town is already well provided for.

Ali Foss, principal at Queen Mary’s College, has sent a formal objection to the Department for Education.

She said: “I want to work with all the schools, including Everest, to raise aspirations, but I don’t believe this proposal does anything to help with that.

“We have got solid provision, and Everest students do very well here and they aren’t going to add anything we haven’t already got. We have all the services here to support them.”

Anthony Bravo, principal at BCoT, said: “Basingstoke is already very well served for post-16 options – provision is either good or outstanding and covers a very broad range of vocational and academic subjects. We feel this is reflected in the higher than average number of pupils going on into post-16 education in the town already.

“We enjoy a good working relationship with our colleagues at Everest Community Academy, and hope this will continue as they welcome their new head shortly.”

Both QMC and BCoT are graded as “good” by Ofsted, while Everest is currently graded as “requires improvement.”

Councillor Keith Mans, executive lead member for children’s services at Hampshire County Council, said: “The county council has not identified a need for more sixth form provision in the Basingstoke area which is already well-served by the established good and outstanding sixth forms in Basingstoke, Alton, Winchester and Farnborough. However, we recognise the academy’s right to consider such a proposal.”

Everest has submitted its sixth form proposal to the Education Funding Agency for consideration, and a decision is expected within the next few months.