THE Burgate School's popular sixth form centre is set to expand as building work commences in the summer on an £1.6 million annexe, which will allow student numbers to increase to 290 when it opens in September 2008.

The school, which celebrates its golden jubilee this year, learned that it had secured the necessary financing to go ahead with the project at the beginning of this term.

Most of the funding has come from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Learning Skills Council, with a small percentage provided by the school itself.

The 740-square metre annexe, which will be built alongside the existing sixth form building, will include a 100-seat lecture theatre, two ICT suites, a purpose-built photographic studio and dark room facility, a media studies classroom and editing suite, and four general-purpose classrooms.

Architect John Albery, of Avenues Ltd. in Woodfalls, is also looking carefully into the costs and effectiveness of incorporating solar panels and other energy efficient systems into the new building.

The September 2006 intake of sixth formers bought current student numbers at the school up to 230, with the number expected to increase to 260 in September of this year and rise to 290 the following year.

Deputy headteacher David Pover said he was confident the the school would reach its pupil target.

"We have looked at the pattern of increase from our feeder schools - more and more students are entering 16-19 education," he said.

"We're very excited that this will allow us to have specialist purpose-built resources for our student cohort."

He said that the construction work, which is currently out to tender, should not be disruptive to students currently studying at the sixth form centre.

The centre was added to the school in 1995 and it was extended in 2000.