A NEW term has provided a fresh start for one Poole school.

The new St Aldhelm’s Academy, formerly Rossmore Community College, was officially opened by the Bishop of Sherborne this week.

Now under the joint sponsorship of the Diocese of Salisbury and Bournemouth University, the school has become Poole’s first academy.

Changes are immediately evident, with all pupils sporting smart grey suits.

The 11- to 16-year-old students have been divided into four houses, named after authors with local links.

A rewards-and-fines system has been imposed, with pupils able to accumulate funds for their house through their achievements.

However, bad behaviour is punished by debiting the house account – for example, a £5 fine for smoking.

The shift in approach has been apparent from the very first week, with students tackling personal challenges.

These have ranged from writing and performing a school play to baking a giant cake for the academy’s grand opening.

Cheryl Heron, St Aldhelm’s principal designate, said the fresh approach was needed to transform a failing school.

She said: “The hardest thing is going to be changing the perception.”

And she added: “We are not just changing the name – everything is changing.

“Academies are about meeting the individual needs of each child and we intend to give them that chance.”

Chris Shepperd, director of education for the diocese, said it was a golden opportunity to move the school forward.

“It is a chance to be different and a chance to make a difference,” he added.

Professor John Vinney, vice-chancellor at Bournemouth University, said the academy’s independence would provide a “powerful force for the future”. St Aldhelm’s is now waiting on the outcome of the government’s spending review to discover how much funding they will receive for their planned £21m rebuild.