PUPILS and staff from Everest Community Academy have thanked outgoing principal Julie Rose at a farewell party.

Around 70 past and present students, teachers and governors from the school gathered to say goodbye to the 54-year-old.

As reported by The Gazette in March, Ms Rose announced that she would be taking early retirement from her role at the school, in Oxford Way, Popley at the end of the academic year, following seven years at the helm.

Ms Rose first joined Everest in 2007 when it was known as the John Hunt of Everest School and she oversaw the creation of a new £27million school which opened in January 2008.

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

Ms Rose made the decision to take an early retirement to spend more time with her husband at their home in Swanage and enjoy her hobbies.

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

She said leading Everest had been a challenge, adding: “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.”

Referring to the school’s future, she added: “There is a very strong staff, and I think they are well-placed to take the school on to get an ‘outstanding’ grading in the future.”

Ms Rose is yet to hear if Everest’s bid to set up a sixth form at the school has been a success.

As previously reported in The Gazette, Everest has applied to the Secretary of State for Education to start a sixth form at the school in September next year – plans which were criticised by the leaders of both Basingstoke colleges, who believe the town is already well provided for.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We are still considering the application from Everest Community Academy and a decision will be made in due course.”