Head of ‘best school in the city’ steps down

Dame Sharon Hollows, principal at Charter Academy, who has announced she is stepping down
Dame Sharon Hollows, principal at Charter Academy, who has announced she is stepping down

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The principal of Portsmouth’s highest-performing secondary school has announced her resignation.

Dame Sharon Hollows, principal at Charter Academy on Hyde Park Road, Southsea, will step down from her role of seven years at the end of the academic year.

Dame Sharon took charge in 2009 when the school – previously known as St Luke’s – joined the Ark educational network and became an academy.

The institution’s reputation has since skyrocketed, going from Portsmouth’s worst-performing school to the most improved in the country.

In a letter addressed parents, Dame Sharon wrote: ‘These past few years have been among the most rewarding of my professional career, but I feel that the time is right for me to make a change.

‘Seven years ago, when I became the founding principal of Charter Academy, the challenges we faced were enormous.

‘St Luke’s had among the lowest GCSE results in the country, and was known to be the worst school in Portsmouth.

‘Today, Charter is recognised as the best school in the city, and has been recognised nationally for its turnaround.

‘I’m proud of all that we have accomplished – staff, students and parents all working together.’

Last year, Charter Academy won a national £250,000 award for its effective use of pupil premium funding.

The funding, which comes from central government, is allocated to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and close the gap between them and their peers.

Conservative councillor for Copnor and cabinet member for education on Portsmouth City Council Neill Young praised Charter Academy’s progress under Dame Sharon.

‘There has been a monumental transformation,’ he said. ‘The reputation of St Luke’s was that of a school much in need of improvement.’

‘It’s having great leadership that has taken the school on that amazing journey, and Sharon has to be commended for the hard work that she and her team have shown.’

Dame Sharon has announced that she will continue to work for Ark as an educational consultant, while vice-principal Clive Barnes has been announced as Charter’s interim principal from September.

Chief executive of Ark Lucy Heller said: ‘There are thousands of young people out there who have had their life chances transformed and improved due to Sharon’s tireless efforts at Charter Academy. Students who, without her intervention, may not have had the chance to go on to university and the careers of their choice.’