Staff and students at Charter Academy in Southsea have been on a long journey over the past four years.
In 2009, close to being shut, St Luke’s school was converted to Charter Academy, supported by the Ark Schools network.
Now, the school is embarking on a new chapter as it has officially launched its sixth form.
Opening in September next year, it will be the first sixth form centre in the city.
It’s part of a £9m project to transform the school.
The sixth form is now being marketed to prospective students who want to study A-levels at the school.
Naomi Carter, vice principal of Charter Academy says this is a huge step forward.
‘I have been here a long time.
‘It’s going to be a really good opportunity for the kids.
‘The one thing that is sad is that our kids leave and drop out of college. They say it’s not for them and they didn’t know the staff.
‘Some kids need the support they get from school after they leave. They are still children. They need that extra support for them to stay successful. They can then go on to university.
‘We are going to be a small sixth form. We will teach them how to become independent learners.
‘That’s so that when they go to university they aren’t just thrown in at the deep end.’
Eventually, the new sixth form will have 200 students.
The sixth form centre will have good links with universities to help with students’ UCAS preparation.
Students will have the option of studying AS-levels, A-levels and BTECs.
Ms Carter has been at the school for a number of years and has seen things change dramatically.
‘I like working here,’ she said. ‘But when it was St Luke’s the kids didn’t have the same opportunities,’ she says.
‘Becoming an academy has invited us to give the kids a framework to show that this is how we work and it’s given the community a good school.
‘We’ve got really rigorous targets we have to meet. These kids deserve the best.
‘If we hadn’t done this the school would have closed down.’
And she says that opening a sixth form will open doors for students at the school.
‘Having the new building will be a great fresh start. We have turned the school around and this is the next stage.
‘The kids who come here will have a great school and they can progress on to the university of their choice.
‘Seeing the building go up has been fantastic.
‘Seeing the kids benefit from this can only be a good thing.
‘We will have state-of-the-art classrooms. It’s going to be brilliant.’
Principal Dame Sharon Hollows adds: ‘Although we have some extremely good colleges in the borough we felt that we wanted to continue with our students particularly more academically able students.
‘We felt that we wanted to keep them in school so that we could carry on looking after them pastorally and we could keep them in an environment that has fewer students.
‘Although the FE colleges are excellent they are very large institutions and some of our students would prefer a smaller arrangement.’
Dame Sharon joined the school as principal when it was converted to an academy in September 2009.
She says things have changed hugely.
‘It’s ancient history now. St Luke’s school was quite a challenged school where behaviour wasn’t very good at times and standards of academic achievement weren’t very good either.
‘So now Charter is a place where students behave extremely well all of the time.
‘They expect to do well and parents and teachers expect them to do well and they do do really well.
‘Now our students are looking at going onto university and really aspirational careers and contributing enormously to our society.
‘Before, parents had concerns about choosing St Luke’s.
‘They are now choosing Charter because they know the behaviour and academic standards are good and rapidly improving.’
STUDENTS at the school have given their full support to the plans.
Although they are now leaving Charter Academy, they have been promoting the new sixth form over the past few months.
Zarina Molchan, 16, has got a scholarship to study at Portsmouth High School.
She says she has enjoyed her time at the school.
‘I’m very grateful to the school for helping me. They open me up to these opportunities. It’s great that they are being included with the sixth form.
‘They will be starting off small and building up. I would love to see the progress it makes.
‘I joined in Year 8 and I have seen so much progress I couldn’t convey it.
‘It’s such a good school. It’s a real privilege to go here.’
Adam Mills, 15, is going to South Downs College to study a BTEC in Health and Social Care.
He adds: ‘The school here is very good. It pushes the students to try and reach the best of their ability.
‘The staff aim for the special things that they know you are good at and they push you to go in that direction.
‘They help you with the things you struggle with. I have been here at St Luke’s and I have seen it change over the years.
‘At Charter Academy they strive to make you the best of who you are.’
And he says he is pleased the school is now moving in a new direction.
‘It’s good because they are broadening their horizons,’ he says.
ST LUKE’S School was on its last legs when a decision was made in 2009 to convert to academy status.
St Luke’s School was in the city’s most deprived ward.
In November 1992 St Luke’s was at the bottom of the league tables at three per cent GCSE pass rate.
In March 1994 Hampshire County Council was in talks to buy St Luke’s which for the previous two years had sat at the bottom of Hampshire’s league table and had 200 spare places.
In March 1999 the school was placed in special measures and was under threat of closure.
But things have turned around in the past four years. Charter became Portsmouth’s first academy school in September 2009.
In May last year, Ofsted inspectors visited the school and deemed it to be good across the board.
Last year’s results saw 48 per cent of students achieve the gold standards – a further improvement on 39 per cent in 2011.