A NEWLY-formed school in Berkeley run by a Christian educational trust is going from strength to strength as it doubles its number of students in just over a year while performing well in its first set of exams.
The Focus School: Berkeley Campus is based at what was the Vale of Berkeley College site, which closed in July 2011.
It was sold to the trust by Gloucestershire County Council , and started educating around 60 pupils between the ages of seven and 18 at the start of term in September, 2012.
Now numbers have swelled to 184 children, which are taught standard subjects such as maths, science and English but also art and design, music, IT, design and technology and food and textiles.
The school also provides video links to other Focus Trust schools around the country so students can be taught a wider variety of subjects, not currently available under the one roof.
The trust, originally based in Brislington, Bristol is a network of affiliated independent schools that provides an education alongside Christian teachings.
But trustee Russell Freeman was keen to stress that the religious element of the school did not dominate their education, and that teachers were chosen on ability rather than religious beliefs.
“We ask them to respect our ethos but in terms of teacher selection we do not make any kind of discrimination,” he said.
“The school has a Christian ethos but we make it a specific point that we are not exclusive.”
Around 20 members are employed at the school, including art and design teacher Dave Beer who has seen his small class of six GCSE students all earn either A or A* grades in the subject in their recent results.
“It’s good because you get them at the start of school and can check their progress all the way through. You can focus on them individually,” he said.
“We have done very well considering we have just moved into a new building.”
There was talk at the time of the trust’s move to Berkeley that the body would apply for “free school status”, meaning local children would be able to join the school.
But when asked by the Gazette when the school would apply for the status, trustee Russell Freeman, said there were no plans at this early stage.
“We’re still at the settling stage. We haven’t got any immediate plans to expand,” he said.
Sharing the tour with the Gazette was Stroud MP Neil Carmichael, who also gave a talk to the students about his life as a member of parliament and encouraged them all to get involved in politics at an early stage.
Speaking to the Gazette, he said: “I think it is a well organised and well equipped school for providing the students with a good education.
“The school will help provide spaces because we need sufficient spaces for parents to be able to choose the school there children go to."