A Gateshead college has seen “unprecedented interest” from families of primary school children after it joined a leading academy trust.

An estimated 700 people attended Grace College for its Year 6 open evening, more than double the usual number with demand prompting senior staff to host three separate presentations to ensure all families were able to hear about new developments.

The Emmanuel Schools Foundation (ESF) took the former Joseph Swan Academy, in Gateshead, into its multi academy trust at Easter.

A new name – Grace College – and phased new uniform were among the initial changes with investment in the site also under way. Further improvements in IT infrastructure and hardware, learning spaces, shared meeting and independent study spaces, restaurant and sports facilities are further improvements made across the site.

The academy has been fully subscribed for Year 7 in recent years amid a shortage of places across Gateshead, but the interest for next September’s intake still surprised staff.

New principal Mark Hall said the fact that Grace College was now part of the ESF trust, and a sister school of the outstanding Emmanuel College, was likely to be a key factor in prompting interested Year 6 students and their families to visit.

He said: “We are delighted with the unprecedented level of interest. Teachers who have been here for a number of years tell me they have never seen so many people come to a Year 6 open evening, which is very exciting for everyone here. Each department invited students to stay on after school to set up an interesting and inspiring lesson to showcase our full curriculum and classrooms were buzzing all evening.

“We are building on the strengths of the academy and enhancing those further with improvements in facilities, recruiting outstanding teachers and re-structuring our senior management team to bring about rapid school improvement. We explained our character-first ethos and the many opportunities students will have here to prospective families.”

Parents were told that the name Grace College reflected the school’s fresh start and the values of patience, generosity, inclusivity, courteousness and goodwill of a school for the whole community, as well as pointing to the Christian ethos that unites all ESF schools.

Mr Hall added: “Being part of a successful family of schools, including Emmanuel College which has been outstanding for its entire history, has many benefits and learning opportunities for our young people. and career development pathways for staff.

“It also means that parents in Gateshead are very well served for secondary education, which will have a positive impact on the whole borough. Grace Collegemust be deeply connected to the community to ensure it grows to be one of the best in our region. To achieve this, parents, students and teachers must work together.”

Sir Joseph Wilson Swan, physicist, chemist and developer of the early electric lightbulb, after whom the academy was named, will continue to be recognised at the college, including being honoured in the naming of the new science block.