A GROUND-BREAKING £51m academy is dramatically improving students’ exam results and bringing a new sense of pride to local communities, it was claimed yesterday.
Executive director Phil Hearne said the advent of the Northumberland Church of England academy had led to “phenomenal” improvements in GCSE results, a big drop in pupil exclusions and a boost for neighbourhoods in which it is based.
He was speaking as the Duke of Northumberland – who co-sponsors the Ashington-based academy with the church – unveiled a plaque to mark the completion of building work on the massive project.
The two-year-old academy has brought together 10 separate schools and three neighbouring communities in what has been the biggest single new-build contract delivered under the national academies programme. It is the first all-age academy developed on multiple sites in the UK, and is now teaching 2,500 pupils in modern new buildings at five separate sites in Ashington, Lynemouth and Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.
It has been developed over the last six years to improve educational standards in Ashington’s former Hirst High School pyramid, where pupils’ results were below national requirements.
The ceremony yesterday at the main, 1,800-student Josephine Butler Campus in Ashington marked the official hand over of the final new and refurbished school buildings to the academy sponsors and Northumberland County Council.
Mr Hearne, who took over as head of the academy in 2009, said yesterday that the number of pupils gaining five GCSEs at A* to C, including English and Maths, had almost doubled, from 21% to 38%, and the numbers leaving with any five GCSE passes had soared from 53% to 97%.
“Next year we believe every child at the academy will leave with five GCSE passes, which was previously thought impossible here,” she said.
“This project has also been about providing the buildings and facilities for youngsters and staff to work in, and there is a lot of evidence that it raises people’s aspirations.
“There has been a lot of positive reaction from people to the new build here in Ashington.”
The duke said: “I am absolutely certain that this amazing facility will be appreciated by our many young learners for years to come.
“The academy aims to give every learner the support they need to maximise their potential and reach the heights.”
The Josephine Butler Campus is one of three newly-built schools in the academy, along with the Grace Darling campus in Newbiggin and the William Leech campus in Lynemouth.
Rory Wilson, who chairs the academy governors, said: “We now offer all of our learners state-of-the-art facilities in the heart of their communities.”