THE new principal of a Basingstoke secondary school, which has been through a turbulent time, is focusing on making it part of the community again.

Nick Price started his new role at Everest Community Academy this month, having led The Costello School as acting headteacher since January.

He said: “Everest has just started to reconnect with the community. There’s a real buzz among the staff to make everything right.”

There was some local criticism when Everest – which was built with £27million of public money – became an academy, run by Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), in 2011 and was taken out of Hampshire County Council control.

Mr Price said he hopes to reconnect with the community, adding: “There’s quite a bit of sadness that the school was taken away. I want to be connected with the junior school and connected with the community, so there’s a feeling that this is their school.”

Another challenge is that Everest suffered a marked decline in its GCSE results this year, with just 38 per cent of pupils hitting the Government benchmark for A-C grades, including English and maths.

Mr Price is confident that things will improve. He said: “This time next year, we will come back to school after a much better set of exam results.

“The children will be really proud of the school and the parents will be too, and that’s the most important thing.”

While results matter, Mr Price is keen to point out that the school is not an “exam factory”.

He added: “I want to do the right thing for the whole person.”

Mr Price, who has taught maths, hopes to change the “culture” that exists within Everest.

He said: “The thing I’m most concerned about is to demonstrate to the children that we believe in them, and we believe in them so much that we will sell the school in a positive way. If I don’t get that sorted out, the rest is pointless.”

AET recently came under fire from education watchdog Ofsted.

Mr Price, who was deputy head at Costello for 10 years, said: “The sense I get from AET is they recognise where they have grown too quickly, and they are looking to put things right.”

Asked why he applied for the job at Everest, Mr Price said: “I genuinely thought that if ever a school could make a difference in the community, this is it.”

He added: “I think every school is a big challenge because it’s a massive responsibility to get the best out of every child. I think there are things that have worked against Everest, and things we need to put behind us.”

Earlier this year, Everest applied to the Secretary of State for Education to set up a sixth form at the school – plans which were criticised by the leaders of both Basingstoke further education colleges.

Mr Price said this idea has now been shelved, but he is open to working in partnership with the colleges to make use of Everest’s building.

Looking forward to the job ahead, Mr Price said: “The staff here are hard-working and are keen to make things brilliant for the children. I feel really lucky to have come to a school that has such fantastic facilities but also such a strong group of staff.

“People love the school and want to make it work, and make it a school that everyone is proud of.”