Opening a sixth form the next leg of journey for Portsmouth school

(l-r) Principal of Charter Academy Dame Sharon Hollows with pupils Sadie White, Tyler Pitt and head of sixth form, Lucy Owoh. Picture: Allan Hutchings (141872-142)
(l-r) Principal of Charter Academy Dame Sharon Hollows with pupils Sadie White, Tyler Pitt and head of sixth form, Lucy Owoh. Picture: Allan Hutchings (141872-142)
The Highfield Campus at the University of Southampton, which is home to the George Thomas Building. Picture: Geograph

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It’s gone from being one of the worst schools in the city to the second most improved in the country.

Now, staff at Charter Academy are getting ready to open Portsmouth’s first sixth form.

The school opened as an academy in September 2009, after closing as St Luke’s the previous month following a consistently poor run of results.

Since then, it has been on an upward journey.

Last year, 68 per cent of its students achieved the gold standard of five or more A*-C grades at GCSE including English and maths.

That’s a 44 per cent rise on the 24 per cent figure achieved in 2010.

And this September will see the new sixth form open to students.

Dame Sharon Hollows, principal of Charter Academy says all the plans are going smoothly ahead of the big opening.

‘Everything is on track. We are really looking forward to being in a new building.

‘Great buildings don’t make great schools but they help great schools to be even greater.’

The sixth form will be aiming to send students to Russell Group universities – the best in the country.

Dame Sharon adds having the chance to study A-levels at the school will be of a huge benefit to both current pupils and those in surrounding schools.

‘It means that we can continue to educate children until they are 18,’ she says.

‘We aren’t leaving anything unfinished.

‘We can continue to get children ready for the best university courses and jobs.

‘We have been working with some outstanding further education colleges.

‘We aren’t competing with them because there are some courses that we can’t deliver.

‘We are a traditional sixth form.’

James Lovell is the sixth form network lead for Ark schools, which runs Charter.

He says: ‘It’s very consistent with what’s happening across other parts of the Ark network.

‘It’s one of four schools opening a sixth form this September. There will be 11 around the Ark network.

‘They are all seeking to offer students a very academic experience to reach the upper tiered universities.

‘A lot of students will appreciate that they are in the security of a school environment where they are known as individuals and get a different kind of support.’

There will be a maximum of 100 students in each year group. Students will have the option of studying AS-levels, A-levels and BTECs, with traditional subjects on offer.

The sixth form centre will have good links with universities to help with students’ UCAS preparation.

Dame Sharon added: ‘It’s the next leg of the journey.

‘We are in a position where we have some outstanding students in the system. Our children are behaving beautifully. They are responsible for their own behaviour and learning.

‘They are ready to apply the knowledge that they have gained from Years 7 to 11. The children have done so well.

‘We have recruited some new teachers with sixth form experience. Some of our existing staff have sixth form experience.

‘We know that they are the best teachers we can get. Our children deserve the best.’

Lucy Owoh is the head of sixth form.

She joined the school in September from Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, East London.

She says: ‘I was part of the first group of teachers that started at the sixth form there. I have learnt a lot from the 10 years I have been there. They are skills that I am looking forward to employing there.

‘It’s a very successful sixth form and I have no doubt that this will be too.

‘I feel honoured to be trusted by Dame Sharon to carry out this role.

‘What’s been fantastic for me is I’m lucky that I started in September before the new sixth form opened because it allows me to get to know the students. I can work better for them.

‘A large portion of them I will know now.’

Classes at Charter Academy will be fairly small in order to allow more one-to-one tuition.

‘The aim is to keep the numbers low because the whole ethos is about a personalised curriculum and personalised teaching so we don’t have classes that are too large,’ Miss Owoh adds.

‘Students could get lost within the classroom.

‘We want the system where there’s one-to-one tuition to maximise students’ learning and outcomes.

‘That’s one of the things that the students who are coming here have expressed – getting lost in a large college and not being given the support to make that transition from Year 11 to Year 12 can be difficult. It does lead to drop-outs.

‘We do want to continue with that support mechanism for our students and give them time to find themselves within sixth form teaching.’

Dame Sharon adds: ‘I’m a strong believer that one of the routes to success is to know the individual and meet the individual’s needs.

‘It will be very different to the rest of the school. The dress code will be the same as the staff.

‘The students will have access to the same areas of the site as the staff.

‘They will be able to eat lunch at the same time as the staff.’

Each student in the sixth form will be provided with an iPad to help them with their learning.

Now, Dame Sharon says she looking forward to the next big step forward for the school.

‘I’m excited about it. We are looking forward to working with the students in a completely different way and delivering what we need.

‘I’m looking forward to seeing them achieving even greater success.’